8475th Security Council Meeting: Situation in Middle East

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28-Feb-2019 02:05:31
Encouraged by opening of humanitarian corridor in Rukban, Special Envoy on Syria says constitutional committee could pave way for genuine negotiations at 8375th meeting.

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Opening a door to peace in Syria hinges on creating a constitutional committee that can forge ways to advance the political process with a view to ending the eight-year-long conflict, the new Special Envoy of the Secretary‑General for that country told the Security Council today.

Sharing a plan to move along a path to peace amid the current volatile situation on the ground, Special Envoy Geir Pedersen said his team would focus on maintaining direct and effective communication with the Government and stakeholders, strengthening international support and working on ways to alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people. After recent discussions, he said he sensed a wide acceptance among parties of convening a credible and balanced constitutional committee as soon as possible, which can be “a door‑opener to a deeper dialogue and genuine negotiations”.

Despite a shared sense that battlefield developments might be winding down, he said the conflict is far from over and the challenges of winning peace are staggering in scale and complexity. Large tracts of territory remain outside Government hands, half of the population is displaced and 11.7 million need humanitarian aid. While commending achievements in opening a humanitarian corridor in Rukban and the release of detainees, he said several challenges must be urgently addressed to avoid violence escalating and spilling over the borders. While intensive diplomacy is under way, more must be done about the situation in the north-east.

“We are not starting from scratch,” he said, summarizing meetings with the Government of Syria, which reaffirmed an agreement to sustained dialogue based on provisions outlined in resolution 2254 (2015), and frank, practical and constructive engagements with a range of stakeholders. “Syrians have every capacity to live in peace and a political settlement is plainly needed if we are to see real and genuine reconciliation. There is no military solution and the true victors will be those who can move beyond slogans and paint a hopeful picture of what Syria could look like in 10 years — a picture that all Syrians can support, even if the road towards it will be long and hard.”

However, several challenges must be urgently addressed to avoid renewed escalations of violence that could spill over the borders, he said, noting that intensive diplomacy is under way, but more is needed regarding the future situation in the north-east. “I believe a way forward is needed that ensures the unity and territorial integrity of Syria,” he said. Welcoming the recent Sochi Summit’s fresh impetus to fully implement the Idlib Memorandum, he urged stakeholders to continue to focus on this leading up to the next Astana meeting. For its part, the global community must ensure that international norms against chemical weapons use are respected. In addition, the growing risk of further confrontations between Israel and Iran in Syria should not be overlooked.

Council members, welcoming the new Special Envoy, raised several concerns, among them the need to address the humanitarian situation, release detainees, uphold the Russian-Turkish ceasefire in Idlib and forge a united path among themselves.

Delegates supported the timely creation of a constitutional committee as a way to further advance peace talks. Belgium’s representative said forming such a Syrian-owned, Syrian-led committee facilitated by the United Nations can potentially open the door to other aspects of the political process. However, to be effective, he said the committee must have a credible, inclusive membership, and any agreement on its composition must also address procedures and working methods.

Speakers also emphasized the need to work in tandem towards common goals, with Kuwait’s delegate pointing out a lack of progress in implementing resolutions. “The conflict has continued, and this hampers the legitimacy of the Council.”

Similarly, South Africa’s delegate called on the Council to unite towards the full implementation of resolution 2254 (2015) as the road map for a long-term solution. The United States representative explained that his Government remains determined to implement the text, a process being stalled by the Russian Federation.

Meanwhile, the Russian Federation’s delegate insisted that the Astana process, led by Iran, Turkey and his country, was making strides and that rebuilding trust is the best way forward. Others emphasized a need for women’s full participation in an inclusive political process.

In a similar vein, Germany’s representative, noting his country is among the largest contributors of humanitarian aid in Syria, said “we will only participate in a reconstruction if there is a credible and inclusive process with a political transition under way”.

The representative of Syria said some Council members asked for preconditions instead of just encouraging the Special Envoy’s efforts. “Syrians, and Syrians alone, must decide on their future without any external interference,” he said, expressing his Government’s readiness to cooperate with the Special Envoy on a Syrian-led political process. “This political process is in Syria’s interest.”

Stressing the need to end the foreign presence in Syria and to ensure sovereignty, he said that any political process that does not take this into account will be unsuccessful. Removing the illegitimate presence of forces from Turkey, United Kingdom and the United States is also critical, he said, calling on the international community to support efforts by Syria and its allies in combating the remnants of terrorist groups.

Also speaking today were representatives of France, Côte d’Ivoire, Dominican Republic, China, Indonesia, Poland, Peru, United Kingdom and Equatorial Guinea.

The meeting began at 10:30 a.m. and ended at 12:35 p.m.

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