The situation in the Middle East - Security Council, 9004th meeting
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The situation in the Middle East - Security Council, 9004th meeting

The committee tasked with drafting a new Syrian constitution resumed its difficult deliberations this week, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy told the Security Council today, calling for urgent compromise to pave a peaceful path forward as the country marks 11 years of gruesome conflict.

Geir O. Pedersen, Special Envoy for Syria, said he was briefing the 15‑member Council on the penultimate day of the seventh session of the Small Body of the Syrian Constitutional Committee. Recalling that the conflict marked the grim milestone of 11 years of conflict this month, he appealed to the members of that Committee to “work this week with the sense of seriousness and spirit of compromise that the situation demands”.

Noting that deliberations have not been easy, he said the members are expected to submit revisions to reflect the content of those discussions, which will begin to be considered on 25 March. While significant differences exist between the parties’ positions, he said it remains possible to find and build on common points, if the will exists to do so. Serious attempts should be made by all delegations to begin to narrow differences, he said, calling for efforts that explore compromise as a way to build public trust and confidence in the process — “something sorely lacking among the Syrians at present”.

Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, noting that March marks 11 years of war in Syria, said such devastation “finds few parallels” in recent history. More than 350,000 people have been killed, nearly 14 million have been displaced and basic services are destroyed. Meanwhile, civilians continue to be killed and injured along front-line areas in the country’s north-west and north-east. Stressing that some 14.6 million people require humanitarian aid — more than at any time since the start of the conflict — he added that the war in Ukraine is causing global food and energy prices to spike at a time when 12 million Syrians are considered food insecure.

Calling for accelerated humanitarian funding, as well as full access to those in need “wherever they are” in Syria, he pressed the Council to maintain its consensus on the upcoming renewal of the cross-border aid delivery authorization which allows assistance to flow into Syria from across the Turkish border. Meanwhile, his office continues to work with all parties to reinvigorate cross‑line aid to the country’s north-west — meaning, aid sent from within Syria. “Now, more than ever, we need action to show the people of Syria that they are not forgotten,” he said.

Also briefing the Council was Hossam Zaki, Assistant Secretary General of the League of Arab States, who noted that Syrians will not be immune from the global impact of the worsening conflict in Ukraine. Citing the impact of the Syrian crisis on the broader region — especially countries hosting many refugees, such as Lebanon and Jordan — he stressed that support for internally displaced persons and refugees is a shared responsibility for all the world’s nations. Against that backdrop, the League’s Council of Foreign Ministers recently expressed its concern over the deteriorating humanitarian situation and rising violence in Syria, while urging international donors to disburse their pledges to the country in line with previous commitments.

As Council members took the floor, many expressed support for the Constitutional Committee’s work but remained divided on its trajectory. Some speakers underscored the urgency of completing the process in a timely manner, while others warned against imposing artificial deadlines. Meanwhile, delegates remained sharply divided over the necessity of Syria’s cross-border aid‑delivery mechanism, with several speakers stressing that it should be phased out in favour of cross-line assistance sent from within Syrian territory.

The representative of the United States, noting that some in the Council wish to “move on” from the Syrian conflict, emphasized that the conflict is not over and to stop addressing it regularly would be a mistake. He praised the work of the Constitutional Committee and urged it to engage in good faith. On the humanitarian front, he said relying solely on cross-line aid deliveries from within Syria and eliminating the cross-border mechanism, as some parties wish to do, would be a “risky endeavour” given the former’s insufficient capacity and the Assad regime’s history of attacking civilians.

Striking a similar tone, Albania’s representative said the Assad regime has “disfigured Syria into a dystopian wasteland of endless suffering and cruelty”. Calling for the full implementation of resolution 2254 (2015) — which must be the Council’s “absolute priority” — she said the Constitutional Committee has mainly produced disappointment due to the lack of engagement by the Assad regime. Absent constant pressure from the Security Council, and any deadlines, she warned that it risks becoming a smokescreen for further inaction.

The representative of Kenya, who also spoke on behalf of Gabon and Ghana, said Syrian people require international support as they struggle to regain their footing under the most difficult of circumstances. Advocating for innovative solutions, he stressed that all political initiatives should be inclusive and consider the voices of the widest spectrum of Syrian society — including women, youth, minority groups and civil society. He also advocated for maintaining the cross-border aid mechanism, complemented by cross-line aid, while urging all actors to support economic recovery measures as a component of the longer-term peace needed in Syria.

China’s delegate, echoing calls for the Committee’s members to make good use of their current opportunity, rejected the ongoing imposition of devastating unilateral coercive sanctions in Syria and called for their lifting. Voicing his country’s opposition to the imposition of any political conditions on international reconstruction efforts, he said more efforts are needed to increase the frequency of cross-line aid deliveries and to ensure that Syria’s oil revenues are not plundered by foreign actors.

The representative of Syria, meanwhile, said this month marks not only the eleventh anniversary of his country’s war, but also of the aggression committed against it by several foreign States via terrorist proxies. Those countries claim “concern” about Syria and frequently issue calls to “stop the violence”, despite being the ones who are fuelling it. Also decrying their imposition of sanctions and obstruction of recovery projects — which could help build a safer and more resilient Syria — he warned against any foreign interference in the work of the Constitutional Committee or attempts to impose predetermined outcomes or artificial timelines.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Norway, Russian Federation, France, United Kingdom, Mexico, Ireland, Brazil, India, United Arab Emirates, Turkey and Iran.

The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 12:02 p.m.