Syria: all our efforts must be focused on relaunching a comprehensive political solution [fr]
Statement by Mr. François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
Security Council – 16 November 2018
At the outset, I wish to thank the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General, Mr. Staffan de Mistura, for his very detailed and informative briefing. On my own behalf and on behalf of France, I would like to once again commend his work and reiterate our full support for his tireless efforts.
We have again reached a moment of truth in Syria. On 27 October in Istanbul, the Heads of State and Government of France, Germany, Russia and Turkey underlined their commitment to a lasting ceasefire in Syria. That truce offers a narrow window of opportunity that we must seize in order to generate real political momentum. At this key moment, all our efforts must now be focused on relaunching a comprehensive political solution to the Syrian crisis. The establishment of the constitutional committee by the end of December should be the first step, and we hope it will be a catalyst. In other words, the creation of the committee could and should be the turning point that we have long sought — the first step towards real political momentum. The establishment of the committee by the end of December, at the latest, is therefore our main priority today.
Of course, there are differences among us, but everyone around this table has called for the holding of the first meeting of the constitutional committee by the end of the year. France, Turkey, Russia and Germany expressed that idea clearly in a statement on 27 October in the communiqué adopted in Istanbul. On 27 September here in New York, the members of the small group on Syria also called for such a meeting. I know that Russia is also mobilized to implement the outcome of the Sochi Congress, adopted in January. We must now all give shape to that shared objective by honouring our commitments.
It is important to note that the establishment and functioning of the committee are not in dispute. The rules of composition were set forth in the Sochi communiqué within the framework set by resolution 2254 (2015). The Special Envoy has full authority to convene the constitutional committee immediately. The United Nations also has the power to appoint the list of committee members from civil society. There is no ambiguity in that regard. The Special Envoy therefore has our full support in moving forward independently and without external pressure. In that context, all the conditions are now in place for the Special Envoy to issue invitations to the 150 members of the committee as soon as possible, so that an initial meeting of the constitutional committee can be held in December, in line with the Istanbul summit declaration.
It is the responsibility of the United Nations to ensure that the final composition of the committee is balanced, lest it lack all legitimacy. We will keep a close watch. No one — neither the regime, the Astana guarantors nor the opposition — has veto rights over the composition of the third list. The argument put forward by Damascus about respect for its sovereignty should fool no one and cannot be used as a pretext to violate its obligations and commitments. Resolution 2254 (2015), which we adopted unanimously, has set a legitimate framework for action that we must all follow. The commitment made in Sochi is part of that framework. All of us — including the authorities in Damascus — have an interest in abiding by the framework, as it is the only way to achieve lasting peace.
Let us make no mistake — if the process fails, it will be due to those who sought to derail the rules established by the international community and undermine the legitimacy of United Nations mediation. In that case — that is, if the committee were unable to meet — we would expect the Special Envoy to clearly and publicly attribute responsibilities.Although its establishment is crucial, the constitutional committee is only a tool. After seven years of war, there is no trust between the parties and little trust among international actors. It is therefore necessary to agree on clear parameters that can be shared by all. Those parameters exist. They were reaffirmed in Istanbul and I will recall them here: first, a durable ceasefire; secondly, the protection of populations through free and unhindered access to humanitarian assistance throughout Syria, as well as the definitive destruction of the Syrian chemical arsenals; thirdly, a constitutional process and free and impartial elections, monitored by the United Nations, that ensure the participation of all Syrians in Syria and beyond its borders, including refugees and internally displaced persons; fourthly, the adoption of essential confidence-building measures, in particular on the fate of detainees; and fifthly, the establishment of political conditions for the voluntary and safe return of refugees and displaced persons, including protection against political persecution and arbitrary arrests.
Those parameters must guide the Council in the coming months and create a safe and neutral environment that will make a political solution credible. Together with the members of the small group on Syria, we will firmly support the Special Envoy and his successor to achieve a political solution based on those principles.
In conclusion, Syria must rebuild itself politically to regain stability. It will also have to rebuild itself as a society. That is also why we remain fully committed to pursuing the important fight against impunity, so that the Syrian people can one day enjoy justice and lasting peace once again. In that regard, we welcome the recent decisions of the national courts and the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Those Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes under International Law Committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011. In the case of France, we especially welcome the issuance of three arrest warrants by the French judicial system against Ali Mamlouk, Jamil Al-Hassan and Abdel Salam Mahmoud — three senior officials of the Syrian repressive apparatus and accomplices in crimes against humanity in connection with the Caesar files, including the mass use of torture by the Syrian regime. We will never compromise on issues of impunity. Only under such conditions can Syria rebuild economically, because any other construction would be built on sand.