Political Situation in Syria - Security Council Open VTC

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18-May-2020 01:47:18
Reversion to ‘all-out fighting’ in Syria must be averted at all costs, Special Envoy tells Security Council.

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Too many “fleeting opportunities” have been lost to turn dynamics in Syria towards a political path, the Special Envoy told the Security Council in an 18 May videoconference meeting*, as he urged international parties and Syrians alike to take advantage of “some calm” in the near decade of fighting to build trust and unlock progress.

“I believe that Russian-American dialogue has a key role to play here,” Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen said. “I encourage them to pursue it.” Building trust between international stakeholders and with Syrians through reciprocal measures is essential. States that discuss Syria in the Astana and “small group” formats are key players too, he assured, as is the Council.

Ultimately, parties must unify around a process led and owned by Syrians, facilitated by the United Nations, guided by resolution 2254 (2015) and meeting the aspirations of all Syrians in a manner that restores sovereignty, he said.

Updating on his activities, he said he had engaged widely among Syrians and heard their concerns about the economy, the fate of detainees and missing persons, and about a political process that has not delivered improvements to their lives. There is a widespread sense that international competition is more prominent than cooperation. “I share these concerns,” he said.

To be sure, progress has been made in Russian-Turkish cooperation in the north-west, pursuant to their March agreement that brought relative calm to Idlib, he said. But mutual attempts at cross-line offensives — most notably by wa-Harid al-Mu’minin — punctuated this calm. An attack that killed several Syrian soldiers prompted strikes on Idlib, as well as rocket fire at Hmeimim Air Base in Latakia.

Meanwhile, he said mutual shelling persists, along with improvised device attacks around Afrin and the north-east. Targeted killings, military build-up and clashes continue in the south-west amid reports of airstrikes by Israel in Deir-ez-Zor and Aleppo and indications of a resurgence of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) in the eastern desert. “We must at all costs avoid reversion to the all-out fighting,” he said. Syria’s instability reverberates as far as Libya, with Syrian fighters recruited and sent to fight on both sides of that conflict.

He urged key players to work together so that significant calm in many areas is sustained and expanded into a nationwide ceasefire. The presence of listed terrorist groups only underlines the need for a cooperative approach in countering them — one that ensures stability, protects civilians and fully respects international humanitarian law.

On the COVID-19 pandemic, he said Syria has not experienced mass outbreaks to date. Of the 64 reported cases, 58 are in Government-controlled areas and 6 are in the north-east. There are currently no reported cases in the north-west. Calling for full and unimpeded humanitarian access — through all modalities, including scaled-up cross-line and cross-border access — he drew attention to public assurances by relevant States that their sanctions relating to Syria neither ban the flow of humanitarian supplies nor target medicine and medical devices.

More broadly, he said he is awaiting news on detainees, abductees and missing persons, stressing that large-scale and unilateral releases — and more meaningful actions on missing persons — have never been more needed. Damascus and all other Syrian parties must step up their efforts.

“We know that the crisis in Syria will not be resolved by a new constitution alone,” he said. “But if the Constitutional Committee could work seriously, it could build trust, make an important contribution to a political settlement, and be a door-opener.”

For his part, he said he is ready to convene a third session of the Small Body of the Constitutional Committee in Geneva as soon as global travel conditions allow, having recently offered a briefing to its civil society members. He noted that parliamentary elections have been postponed as a precautionary measure amid the coronavirus pandemic. However, as these elections would be under the current constitutional framework, the United Nations is not specifically mandated — nor has it been requested — to engage on them.

His office is working towards free and fair elections — pursuant to a new Constitution and the political process outlined in resolution 2254 (2015) —administered under United Nations supervision in accordance with the highest standards of accountability and transparency and inclusive of all eligible Syrians, including the diaspora.

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