The situation in the Middle East (Syria) - Security Council, 8866th meeting
The situation in the Middle East (Syria).
While Welcoming Forthcoming Constitutional Committee Meeting, Delegates Worry Ongoing Hostilities Could Derail Political Process, Urge Ceasefire With military front lines still largely frozen, the time is ripe to push for a political process that can help end the decade‑long war in Syria, the Secretary‑General’s Special Envoy for that country told the Security Council today, as speakers hailed news that negotiations aimed at crafting a fresh constitution look set to resume after an eight‑month hiatus. Geir O. Pedersen, briefing the Council on his recent meetings with the Government of Syria, the opposition Syrian Negotiations Commission and others, said that trust is clearly low, but common interests do exist and there is every reason to try now to build more effective political efforts to resolve a conflict which, according to a report by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on 24 September, has left more than 350,000 confirmed dead. He announced that, after eight months of facilitation efforts, and pending the confirmation of logistics, the sixth session of the Small Drafting Body of the Constitutional Committee — bringing together delegates appointed by the Government, opposition and civil society — will convene in Geneva from 18 October. “I am convinced that Geneva can be the place where Syrians committed to durable peace can begin to work with each other in a constructive manner,” he said. On the security situation, he said that while broad conflict lines remain largely frozen, violence persists in several areas, including air strikes near Damascus attributed to Israel. Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) and other listed terrorist groups are also operating throughout Syria. The Special Envoy said he expects the situation in Idlib to be a topic for discussion when the Presidents of Turkey and the Russian Federation meet on 29 September. Rouba Mhaissen, Founder and Director of Sawa for Development and Aid, also briefed the Council, saying that so long as Syrians — either in the country or living as refugees abroad — lack their human rights, and so long as a fair political settlement has not been reached, Syria must remain on the international agenda. While women make up 28 percent of the Constitutional Committee, their everyday contributions at the community level remain unseen and their demands unheard in the peace process, she added. Emphasizing that a successful political settlement requires building local resilience, she said that now is the time for societal structures to reflect the shifts in gender dynamics that are emerging every day at the community level. A growing grass‑roots approach to crafting healthy communities shows promise in strengthening the unity of the Syrian people and healing a decade of divisions and trauma. She went on to say that peace in Syria will require the Council to shift from its fixation on great power politics towards dynamic engagement with conflict‑affected communities. “Put Syrians at the forefront of your strategies. Speak to us, don’t only speak about us or in our name,” she said. In the ensuing debate, Council members hailed news of the forthcoming Constitutional Committee meeting, but feared that ongoing hostilities could derail the political process. Many speakers urged respect for a nationwide ceasefire. Several renewed calls for an end to sanctions and the large‑scale release of detainees, emphasizing that the latter can help forge trust on all sides. The Russian Federation’s representative said the political process must be Syrian‑owned and Syrian‑led, with no intervention from abroad, no artificial timelines and neutral United Nations mediation. Establishing long‑term peace and security is only possible by fully restoring Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, ending the illegitimate foreign presence and the definitive routing of terrorists, he added. The representative of the United States said that, while nothing can be done to bring back to life those who have been killed in the conflict, President Bashar al‑Assad’s regime in Damascus could end the suffering of the 149,000 people believed to be detained or who are missing. He called on all parties to abide by the terms of the September ceasefire, while noting a resurgence of violence in the north‑west Governorate of Idlib. France’s representative said that resolution 2254 (2015) remains the common road map for all Council members regarding Syria. Ahead of the upcoming Constitutional Committee meeting, he urged the regime’s representatives to participate in good faith. He added that his country’s positions on the lifting of sanctions, normalization and reconstruction remain unchanged. India’s representative said that, nearly two years after the Constitutional Committee was established, external influence remains the major impeding factor hampering the progress on the political track. “We call on all external actors to desist from adversely influencing the parties concerned.” He also warned that ISIL and Hayat Tahrir al‑Sham have gained in strength in Syria. That is a cause for serious concern that must be fully recognized and acted upon, he said. Tunisia’s representative also expressed concern about an uptick in violence on the ground, which in turn increased humanitarian challenges. Stressing the need to bring about a lasting ceasefire, he said the current arrangements in Syria are only for the short term and do not provide a long‑term solution to terrorism. A political solution is key to the stability of the region, he added. Syria’s representative, stressing the importance of a Syrian‑owned and Syrian‑led political process, said his Government has facilitated the launch of the Constitutional Committee’s work. Going forward, the Special Envoy must act in an impartial and neutral manner. He called on those countries which have used the Council to create disruptions in Syria to learn from “their failed and senseless wars over the past years”. He also called for the immediate withdrawal of United States military forces from the north‑east and Turkish forces from the north‑west, and stressed the importance of an immediate lifting of unilateral coercive measures imposed by Washington, D.C. and the European Union. Also speaking today were representatives of China, Norway, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Viet Nam, Mexico, United Kingdom, Niger, Estonia, Kenya, Ireland, Turkey and Iran. The meeting began at 10:04 a.m. and ended at 11:51 a.m.