Syria: the risk of a generalized escalation should not be taken lightly [fr]
Statement by Mr Nicolas de Rivière, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
Security Council - 19 February 2020
I wish to thank Mr. Pedersen and Mr. Lowcock for their briefings. The continued mobilization of the United Nations as a whole, under the leadership of the Secretary-General, is crucial.
France calls for a collective surge to bring to an end the unprecedented humanitarian disaster we are witnessing in Idlib. The appalling figures Mr. Lowcock recalled moments ago speak for themselves. What is unfolding as we speak is by far the most serious humanitarian crisis since the Syrian conf lict began. Since 1 December, the new offensive by pro-regime forces has killed nearly 400 civilian victims and displaced nearly 900,000 people. Babies and children are dying of cold in internally displaced person camps on the Turkish border. The threat of bombs from the regime and its allies is constant. Hospitals, schools and internally displaced person camps have now become the target of attack. After the sieges of Aleppo and Ghouta, there no longer seems to be any limit to the suffering the regime is ready to inflict on its own people.
France therefore reiterates its condemnation of the bombing by the regime and its allies against civilians. Even war has rules. Those rules are based on essential principles of humanity: international humanitarian law and respect for such law are not optional but universal obligations. That also means guaranteeing safe and unhindered access for cross-border aid to all people in need.
The risk of a generalized escalation should not be taken lightly. Everything must be done to avoid it. Any further escalation would have disastrous humanitarian consequences and help strengthen terrorist groups at the expense of our security.
At this pivotal moment, it is our collective responsibility to marshal our efforts to achieve a lasting ceasefire in Idlib. Given the inability of Astana guarantors to silence the guns, we must succeed in taking collective action. To do so is the duty of the Secretary-General and of the Security Council. I call on the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General to work to establish a lasting ceasefire in Idlib, in keeping with the mandate entrusted to him in resolution 2254 (2015). We call on him to present the Council with specific proposals in that regard. The members of the Council with direct influence on the Syrian regime must do everything they can to immediately put an end to the massacre under way in Idlib. The fight against terrorism in no way justifies what is taking place.
Secondly, I wish to register France’s profound concern at the total deadlock in the political process. More than four months on since the inception of the Constitutional Committee, the process is at a total standstill. It is more urgent than ever that the United Nations tackle the other subjects at the heart of resolution 2254 (2015), since the adoption of a new constitution alone will not put an end to the conf lict in Syria.
France condemns the systematic obstruction perpetrated by the Syrian regime. The offensive in Idlib leaves no doubt about its intentions: to take back control of Syria by force, whatever the cost, with no negotiation. That is lamentably the blind strategy the regime has pursued since 2011, resulting in 6 million refugees and 4 million internally displaced people.
France remains determined to support the Special Envoy in his efforts and urges him to make it clear to the Security Council should he find himself no longer able to advance the work of the Constitutional Committee. The United Nations must also take full responsibility for the discussion on detainees, following the extension of the working group meetings on the subject in Geneva on 17 and 18 February.
The parameters for a political settlement are well known, having been defined in resolution 2254 (2015) and the Geneva communiqué (S/2012/522, annex). It is a question of putting in place a safe and neutral environment, including through confidence-building measures, including the release of detainees. It is also a matter of preparing for the holding of free and transparent elections, under United Nations supervision, in which all Syrians can take part, both in Syria and abroad.
Without a credible political settlement, France’s position on reconstruction and sanctions will remain unchanged. That is also the position of the European Union. Russia and Iran alone will cover the costs of rebuilding Syria.
France will also continue to mobilize in favour of the fight against impunity by supporting the United Nations investigative mechanisms, which is essential for breaking the cycle of violence and creating the conditions for a just and lasting peace.
In conclusion, I would like to reiterate France’s call on all those having influence over the authorities in Damascus — Russia in particular — to work in favour of a lasting political solution, in conjunction with the members of the Security Council. The Council must emerge from its paralysis: this is the essential condition for effectively combating terrorism, facilitating the return of refugees and achieving lasting peace in Syria.