Syria: the risk of a new escalation in the Syrian tragedy cannot be ruled out [fr]
Statement by Mr. François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
Security Council – 26 October 2018
I would like at the outset to thank the Special Envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General for his particularly important and enlightening briefing concerning progress in the political process and, more broadly, for his tireless efforts, which deserve and enjoy our full support.
We requested this meeting in response to the proposal made by Staffan De Mistura last week. We did so because Syria is currently at a crossroads: it could either tip into military escalation in Idlib, which would open up one of the darkest chapters in the Syrian tragedy, or it could take the difficult path of genuine political momentum for a settlement to the conflict. We are deeply convinced that today, perhaps for the first time in seven years, there is a narrow window of opportunity to achieve that. Both scenarios, the encouraging one and the bleak one, are possible today; the choice depends a great deal on us and on the ability of the Council to come together around the option of peace.
The establishment of the constitutional committee can and must be the turning point that we are looking for, a first step in a process of genuine political momentum. Such establishment as soon as possible is therefore our priority today. To be clear, given the choice between war and peace in Syria, the key lies largely in the land of Tolstoy; the establishment of the constitutional committee requires that Russia leverage its full weight in Damascus in this respect, just as we are doing for our part with our partners in the small group. After all, the idea of the constitutional committee came out of an initiative of Russian diplomacy, and today all the members of the Council, without exception, have advocated for its establishment.
So what are we waiting for to move forward? I should like today to make three points: to clearly identify the responsibilities of the Syrian regime, whose obstruction is continuing to block the launch of the political process; to share with the Council the efforts made by France and the small group to achieve this; and, lastly, to briefly lay out possible subsequent solutions.
Our friend Staffan went to Damascus to hear the expectations and positions of one of the parties to the conflict. From the picture that he has just painted, it seems, as was, unfortunately, predictable, that the regime does not consider itself bound by a commitment, even though a few months ago it transmitted its list to the Special Envoy, and that it is rejecting the list of the third of the constitutional committee proposed by the Special Envoy, in so doing not hesitating to trample the rules laid down in Sochi.
The conclusions of his visit provide clarification concerning the responsibilities at play and require us to redouble our efforts to finally get the political process of the ground. The United Nations has made considerable efforts to achieve a composition of the constitutional committee that represents all components of Syrian society. Here once again, on behalf of France, I would like to pay tribute to Staffan de Mistura for his work.
Staffan has conducted in-depth consultations, adjusting his proposals several times so as to achieve a balanced, universally acceptable composition of the constitutional committee. The offer currently on the table meets those requirements. He was mandated to carry out this work and to achieve the establishment of the committee, and he has our full support for inviting the participants without delay to a first meeting in November. We strongly request that he move forward in this respect.
France has spared no effort to encourage progress in the political process. The ministers from the small group issued a joint communiqué on the margins of the General Assembly calling for the early creation of the constitutional committee. The members of the small group, whose representatives all spoke last week in the Security Council (see S/PV.8373), demonstrated their unity and support for that agenda along with the vast majority of members of the Council.
President Macron spoke on the telephone with President Trump at the beginning of the week on the subject of Syria, and the urgent need to make progress on the political track was underlined. Our determination to ensure that the constitutional committee is established is therefore very clear. The Istanbul summit, which will take place on Saturday and will bring together France, Germany, Russia and Turkey, must also allow for progress to be made on this specific point and, of course, on the subsequent political process. The small group will meet once again before the end of the month, and there is therefore unprecedented mobilization for the committee to meet. So let us come together to push ahead with all of our strength in this direction so that we do not allow this very fragile window of opportunity to close.
What do we need to do now? As confirmed by the Special Envoy’s visit to Damascus, the top priority is for all actors to at last bring the necessary pressure to bear on Damascus so that the committee can meet in November. That is the only possible path. Together we must show that we are firm and mobilized to ensure the implementation of the objectives that we have clearly endorsed.
The Council’s convergence of views on a proposal initially made by Russia represents a unique opportunity; to fail to seize it would be irresponsible. We cannot allow the regime to ruin our collective efforts; if that happened, the conflict would continue for years, with no financial resources to rebuild the country and refugees left unable to return.
In summary, our friend Staffan de Mistura’s road map is clear and in line with resolution 2254 (2015), which is more than ever our common compass, and he has our full support in implementing it.
I will conclude with a solemn appeal to everyone’s sense of responsibility: we must remain fully aware that the risk of a new escalation in the Syrian tragedy cannot be ruled out. The only definitive way to avoid that is with a credible and inclusive political solution. That means that the coming weeks are crucial, and that is why we will not hesitate to convene the Security Council as often as needed during the coming period to mobilize the international community in support of mediation on the part of the United Nations and to finally achieve the delayed establishment of the constitutional committee. I remind the Council that the establishment of that committee will be only the first step in the long process of bringing back peace to Syria, which includes elections and the establishment of a safe and neutral environment on the ground. We are counting on our friend Mr. De Mistura, just as he can count on our full support until the end of his mission.