Syria: in Geneva we hope to see discussions on transition
Syria - Remarks to the press by François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations - 22 February 2017
Three messages on Syria:
First of all, with respect to the situation on the ground. As is the case before each new round of negotiations, the Syrian regime is increasing its military operations, which, of course, we condemn. In the last few days, not only the bombardments by the regime have increased, not only has the ceasefire been badly threatened, but in the last few days we have observed a resurgence of indiscriminate attacks, including deliberate targeting of medical facilities and personnel, by the Syrian regime and its allies on the ground (in Deraa, in Idlib, in Homs, in the Ghouta of course and in the Damascus area). These attacks may amount to war crimes and should not remain unpunished. So that´s my first point with respect to the situation on the ground.
Second point, in relation with the first: the humanitarian situation remains dire, to say the least, as humanitarian access remains more than limited. Only 3 convoys out of 21 requests have been allowed since January - 3 out of 21. And a fourth one has been blocked in a sector of Homs hold by the Syrian regime in the last days. This situation is more than unacceptable, it is simply shameful and this is a clear violation of several resolutions of the Security Council.
Now number three, with respect to the political equation and in relation with my two first points: before the political talks resume in Geneva, we urge all actors involved in the monitoring of the ceasefire to take concrete and immediate measures to prevent the Syrian regime from further violating the ceasefire. As a guarantor of the truce, the Russian government has demanded that the Assad regime immediately stops all bombardments today. This is a good step, a positive step, and we hope to see improvements of the situation in the coming hours. The viability of the ceasefire and the free, unimpeded access of humanitarian assistance are key to the credibility of the whole process, to the credibility and effectiveness of the political discussions that will start tomorrow.
So in Geneva we hope to see discussions engage on the core topics of transition, as prescribed by Resolution 2254. We hope that the delegations of the regime and the opposition, the last one led by the HCN, will be able to engage in direct talks in the coming days. We recall our full support to the Special Envoy to lead negotiations, and we trust him, following the roadmap of Resolution 2254 and the Geneva communiqué.
So in a nutshell: we have a clear roadmap, we have a talented negotiator, we have a strong international backing : to get out of it a positive outcome in Geneva, much will depend on whether Moscow will be willing and able to pressure the regime so it respects the ceasefire and enters into real negotiations. This is, I believe, one of the keys to a success in Geneva.
Q: About Russia´s request to Syrian government to stop the bombardment, do you think there should be a support by the Security Council in a form of a statement or any other form to this request?
We will see how the discussions occur at the table of the Council. And again, as you heard me, we think that the pressure by Russia is positive, constructive, this is what needs to be done - and increased. Both as a guarantor of the truce and as having a key leverage on the Syrian regime, Russia has a special responsibility, I would say, and to a large extent a key to the outcome in Geneva.
Q: What makes these talks on Syria in Geneva any different from the others that all failed?
It’s a fair question again, but as I said, we have, I believe, the building blocks - even if it is very difficult - for potential progress in Geneva. We have a clear roadmap: the resolution I was referring to, plus the Geneva communiqué, that everybody accepts at the table. We have a very talented negotiator and mediator, Staffan De Mistura, whom we trust and whom we fully support, all heartedly support. So we have all the ingredients, so to speak, of what needs to be done. Now much will depend, again, on whether the key players, and to start with Moscow, will be able and willing to pressure the regime sufficiently, so that it respects the ceasefire, allows the humanitarian access and starts a real process of discussion in Geneva.
Q: To what extent are women involved in this round of talks? My understanding is that there aren´t any women.
It´s a good question because each time I have a conversation with my friend Staffan this is something that we mention together. And he would say it much better than I can say it myself, of course, but Staffan is really willing to involve women, at the best he can, in the discussions. And I am sure that in his next report to the Security Council, after the talks, that is one of the points that I will ask him; I´m sure some of the colleagues will ask him. And he is really genuinely committed to this.
Q: What are the obstacles? Because, in Astana, women were told they couldn´t come.
Astana is something else, but our position is really to make sure that the UN is front and centering the process and, with respect to the UN, with respect to Staffan De Mistura, he is genuinely committed to having a role of women very important at the table.
Q: Do you see any hope for accountability on chemical weapons, on bombing convoys, on torture, and the whole list of the Damascus crimes? Who is going to do it?
Of course. Accountability is not a luxury, accountability is a necessity.
As you know, there are several mechanisms. With respect to the chemical weapons resolution, we are considering the best timing for it - sooner rather than later.