Syria: We must prevent at all costs a resumption of hostilities in the north-east [fr]
Statement by Mr. Nicolas de Rivière, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
Security Council - 22 November 2019
I thank Mr. Geir Pedersen for being with us today on the eve of the second meeting of the Constitutional Committee in Geneva, as well as Ms. Al Hallak for her intervention.
There is an urgent need to silence the guns everywhere in Syria in order to create the conditions conducive to a political settlement. We must prevent at all costs a resumption of hostilities in the north-east that would be disastrous on the humanitarian level and would only benefit Da’esh, to the detriment of our collective security. Our priority is therefore to remain united in the fight against Da’esh and to preserve the hard-won progress made by the Coalition. Da’esh continues to pose a major threat. It retains significant action capabilities, as evidenced by the resurgence of asymmetric attacks on the ground. France is pleased that the members of the International Coalition against Da’esh have reaffirmed their determination to pursuing their engagement in Syria and Iraq, including by maintaining a military presence in the north-east. France will continue to assume all its responsibilities against Da’esh.
The sharp deterioration of the situation in the north-west since late October is another source of concern. France condemns the ongoing indiscriminate strikes by the regime and its allies in Idlib, in violation of international humanitarian law. In particular, I condemn the strike of 20 November against a camp for internally displaced persons near the Turkish border, as well as those against medical facilities, some of which are supported by the European Union and France.
The fight against terrorism is a priority for my country, but it cannot be waged at the expense of respect for international humanitarian law. The protection of civilians, including humanitarian and medical personnel, and civilian infrastructure is an obligation on all. We also condemn the repression of peaceful civilian demonstrations by the Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham group. In this context, it is necessary to reaffirm the full and complete restoration of the ceasefire on Idlib in order to join forces against the terrorist groups listed by the United Nations.
I wish to reaffirm France’s full support for the efforts of the Special Envoy to reach a political settlement in accordance with resolution 2254 (2015). I congratulate him on the holding of the first meeting of the Constitutional Committee, which is a positive step. We hope that the second meeting of the drafting committee, to be held on Monday in Geneva, will bring progress towards giving Syria a new constitution. In order to move in that direction, it is important that all members of the Committee, particularly the delegation of the regime, engage in good faith in the discussions and resort to disingenuous procrastination. We will remain vigilant with regard to any manoeuvre aimed at hindering the discussions and ask the Special Envoy to report to the Council in a transparent manner.
The Constitutional Committee is not an end in itself and represents only a first step. It is necessary to make parallel progress on the implementation of all the elements of resolution 2254 (2015), as the Ministers of the small group reaffirmed on 14 November in Washington, D.C. This involves working on confidence-building measures, especially with respect to detainees. It also requires creating a safe and neutral environment for the holding of credible elections under the supervision of the United Nations, in which all Syrians, including refugees and internally displaced persons, must participate.
Without progress in that direction, the positions of France and the European Union on reconstruction and sanctions will remain unchanged. That should in no way prevent those who believe that the conditions for reconstruction have already been met, and who are eager to begin forthwith and on a large scale, from financing that reconstruction and from rebuilding that which they, to a large extent, helped to destroy. It is also an illusion to imagine that the dignified, safe and voluntary return of refugees is possible without a comprehensive agreement, including real political and security guarantees and ensuring full and unhindered United Nations access to observe and support that return on the ground.
I would like to conclude by reiterating my call to all who have influence on the regime to bring pressure to bear so that it genuinely engages in the political process. We must all do our part in order to make progress towards peace