Syria, Political Situation - Security Council Open VTC

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29-Apr-2020 01:44:23
Special Envoy calls for nationwide ceasefire in Syria, stressing importance of sustained calm, access to anti-COVID-19 equipment, resources.

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Foreign States Supporting Terrorist Groups, Damascus Representative Says, Warning that Government Will Deal with ‘Aggression’

The Special Envoy for Syria called for a nationwide ceasefire leading to sustained calm and enabling access to the equipment and resources needed to combat COVID-19, as he briefed the Security Council on efforts to forge a political settlement to the nine-year conflict, during a 29 April videoconference meeting*.

“Let me appeal to you to preserve this common purpose,” Special Envoy Geir Pedersen said, emphasizing that, in order to advance progress on the political track, he has maintained active channels with the Syrian parties and spoken with the foreign ministers of the Russian Federation, Turkey and Iran as well as senior officials of the United States, European Union and League of Arab States.

To be sure, there has been significant calm in many parts of Syria, he said, adding that with no all-out offensives or further displacements since early March, Russian-Turkish arrangements in the north-west are yielding progress. Urging all relevant parties to address internationally proscribed terrorist groups in a “cooperative and targeted manner”, he said ceasefire arrangements between the Russian Federation, Turkey and the United States in the north-east also continue to hold.

However, “this is an uneasy and fragile calm in both north-west and north-east Syria”, he cautioned, citing the 28 April bombing which reportedly killed more than 40 people in Afrin, worrisome security conditions in the south, a resurgence of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) activities in central and eastern Syria, and reports of Israeli air strikes in rural Homs and Damascus.

On COVID-19, he said the Government has taken greater steps to combat the virus, as have the Syrian coalition and other de-facto authorities, while donors have provided material and financial support. Nonetheless, the risk of a major outbreak is there, he warned. In the coming weeks, increased testing and treatment capacity will be needed, as will the sharing of information among all parties. Syria faces various challenges that can hamstring a response — the lack of health professionals, medical equipment and supplies, among them. Health infrastructure is degraded or destroyed in many areas after nine years of conflict.

Calling for full, sustained and unimpeded humanitarian access, using all modalities — including scaled-up cross-line and cross-border access — he said the United Nations has directly engaged concerned States so that all humanitarian exemptions to sanctions remain available and are fully used to tackle COVID-19.

On the economic front, he said Syria faces extremely grave conditions, with price increases and shortages among the worsening trends. Measures rightly taken by authorities to combat COVID-19 have — as in all countries — also had an economic impact, he pointed out. Urging large-scale and unilateral releases of detainees and abductees, he also called for more meaningful actions on missing persons to stem the spread of the virus.

Non-governmental medical organizations are doing their utmost to raise awareness and support local communities, he continued, recalling that he recently spoke with the Women’s Advisory Board, which has met virtually each week since the COVID-19 risk emerged. In their discussions, the Board expressed support for a nation-wide ceasefire, support for medical staff and provision of supplies and access throughout the country, he said, adding that the Board also emphasized that women are at the forefront of community efforts to prevent the spread, and that nothing should stand in the way of advancing the political process.

In that context, he said, the co-chairs of the Constitutional Committee have agreed on its next session, clarifying that agreement on national foundations and principles is not a precondition for moving on to other items in subsequent sessions. He pointed out that he is in regular contact with the co-chairs on how to resume meetings in Geneva — and similarly in touch with the Committee’s civil society members. All members will continue to explore whether any preparatory work can take place, he said, urging them to be “seriously preparing for renewed work”.

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