Middle East (Syria) - Security Council Open VTC

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19-Aug-2020 01:59:09
Constructive international diplomacy needed to support long-delayed meeting of Syria’s Constitutional Committee, Special Envoy tells Security Council.

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Members Call for Nationwide Ceasefire, Release of Political Prisoners, while Urging Meaningful Action on Missing Persons

Preparations are well under way to convene the Small Body of the Syrian‑owned and Syrian-led Constitutional Committee in Geneva on 24 August, but ending the conflict in the country also requires constructive diplomacy among key international players, the senior United Nations negotiator facilitating peace negotiations told the Security Council during a 19 August video conference meeting.

Geir O. Pedersen, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria, expressed hope that forthcoming opportunities for direct contacts among key players will enable them to deepen their conversations and bridge the often‑significant gaps between their stated positions. “I see ample scope for key internationals players to make a difference, working together and with Syrians, step by step, on a range of issues critical to realizing my mandate”, as set out in resolution 2254 (2015).

He went on to cite the release of detainees and abductees, and clarifying the fate of missing persons; creating a safe environment for the return of refugees; a new Constitution and free, fair and inclusive elections under United Nations supervision; addressing the presence of the five foreign armies inside Syria; and fully restoring the country’s sovereignty, unity, independence and territorial integrity. “There are also other issues where there remains ample room for constructive diplomacy, such as sanctions and working towards Syria’s economic recovery and prosperity,” he added. For now, the focus should be on supporting the members of the Constitutional Committee to deepen their work and build some confidence for a political route out of the conflict in Syria, he emphasized, pointing out that the conflict is now in its tenth year.

He went on to note that the Committee brings together the Government of Syria, the opposition Syrian Negotiations Commission and the Middle Third List representing Syrian experts, civil society, independents, tribal leaders and women, and said its work has been on hiatus for nine months due to differences over its agenda and COVID-19 restrictions. Encouraging its members to come to Geneva ready to engage “in earnest and on the substance”, based on the agenda agreed by the two Co-Chairs and without preconditions, he stressed: “This is important because millions of Syrians continue to face immense suffering and do not have the luxury of time to await a political breakthrough of some kind.”

Highlighting both the collapse of the Syrian economy and the rising number of COVID-19 cases across the country, including within camps for internally displaced persons, he asked for the Council’s continued support in terms of humanitarian access to those in need of relief, and sustaining sanctions waivers to ensure access to food and essential medical supplies. He went on to reiterate the need for a complete and immediate nationwide ceasefire — as called for in resolution 2254 (2015) — to enable an all-out effort to combat the pandemic.

Summarizing the security situation, he said that calm in the north-west, the result of efforts by the Russian Federation and Turkey, continues largely to hold. However, there have been reports over the past month of sustained attacks, including the targeting of a joint Russian-Turkish patrol with an improvised explosive device. Urging the Russian Federation and Turkey to contain all escalatory incidents and dynamics, restore calm and continue their cooperation, he stressed that all relevant actors must also ensure that actions directed at Council-listed terrorist groups are effective, targeted and in line with international humanitarian law.

Meanwhile, attacks by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) continue to grow in frequency and impact, he noted. As for north-eastern Syria, ongoing skirmishes and security incidents in and around Tell Abiad and Ras al-Ain resulted in civilian casualties; an attack on 18 August against Russian Federation troops in Deir-ez-Zor left a Russian general dead and two officers injured; and there were reports earlier this week of an altercation between Syrian Government and United States forces. In the south-west, he added, geopolitical tensions remain acute, with Israel saying it has carried out air strikes on military targets in the vicinity of the Syrian Golan Heights.

The 150-member Constitutional Committee, established in September 2019, has met only twice, most recently from 25 to 29 November 2019. Its Small Body, comprising 45 members, bears primary responsibility for drafting a fresh Constitution.

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