Syria: the urgency of a political solution [fr]
Statement by Ms. Anne Gueguen, Deputy Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations, Chargée d’Affaires a.i.
Security Council - 29 August 2019
First, like others, I would like to thank Mark Lowcock and Geir Pedersen for their very detailed and useful briefings, as always. I am particularly pleased to see Mr. Pedersen in the Council restored to full health.
The Syrian tragedy has, for some months, entered into a new phase of the Syrian regime’s ruthless strategy, following the horrifying destruction of Aleppo at the end of 2016 and the dreadful battle in Ghouta in 2018. We are witnessing a similar situation in Idlib, even as elements could be put in place to advance the political process, the only way to definitively put an end the vicious cycle of violence. In that regard, collective action is urgently needed on three fronts — strictly enforcing the rules of war, bringing about a cessation of hostilities and beginning, at long last, the search for a political solution to the conflict, in accordance with resolution 2254 (2015) and the Geneva communiqué (S/2012/522, annex).
1/ There is an urgent need to silence Idlib’s weapons and prevent Syria from becoming the scene of a new escalation and conflagration.
France is particularly concerned about the significant intensification of the offensive of pro-regime forces in Idlib in recent weeks. We call on the signatories to the ceasefire agreement — Russia, first and foremost — to return to full compliance with their commitments and to ensure an effective ceasefire in the north-west, with a view to freezing the fronts and reaching a nationwide ceasefire, in accordance with resolution 2254 (2015).
In that regard, we welcome the dialogue between the United States and Turkey on north-east Syria, as well as the first steps towards establishing a security mechanism, which advance the necessary de-escalation of tensions in the east. It is essential that all efforts focus on the fight against Da’esh, which continues to pose a major threat to our security. For our part, we are pursuing action within the framework of the international coalition against Da’esh, with a view to the lasting stabilization of these liberated territories.
2/ The second and equally important point is that respect for international humanitarian law is binding on all and is not negotiable.
I would like to reiterate two absolute priorities:
i) the protection of civilians, including humanitarian and medical personnel, and ii) immediate, secure, comprehensive, sustainable and unhindered humanitarian access to the entirety of Syrian territory.
We condemn in the strongest terms the attacks of the regime and its allies, which continue to indiscriminately target civilian populations andinfrastructure in the north-west. It is particularly unacceptable that health infrastructure, including those that have been de-conflicted, and schools continue to be targeted. We reiterate our full support for the internal investigation launched by the Secretary-General in that regard. The fight against terrorism cannot justify the sacrifice of civilians, much less children. Such crimes must not go unpunished.
It is also critical that humanitarian aid reach the people who need it most through the fastest and most direct channels. We reiterate our call for parties that have the means to do so to exert the necessary pressure on the regime to ensure unhampered humanitarian access to all areas under its control, and thereby enable humanitarian workers to respect the cardinal principles of neutrality, independence, impartiality and humanity, especially in the south-west and eastern Ghouta. It is also essential that the United Nations be able to access displaced persons and refugees who have returned home. It is also critical that significant and concrete progress be made with regard to detained and missing persons. In that connection, I support the recommendations just made by Mr. Pedersen.
3/ The third priority is to ensure that the urgency of the situation in Idlib does not cause us to lose sight of the political urgency. We all know, but it bears repeating, that only an inclusive political solution can stabilize Syria in the long-term and eventually allow refugees to return to their country.
In that regard, we reiterate our full support for the Special Envoy’s efforts to relaunch a political process, under the auspices of the United Nations, on the basis of resolution 2254 (2015) in its entirety.
More than ever, it is necessary to finalize a constitutional package that is credible and balanced, both in the composition of the committee and in its rules of procedure, and to convene the constitutional committee in Geneva, under the auspices of the United Nations, as soon as possible. The Special Envoy has indicated that we are close to achieving that goal. We therefore call on the parties to finalize its establishment without delay, with the supervision of the United Nations. However, if the regime’s obstruction continues, it will be up to the Special Envoy to tell us whether the constitutional committee can really help initiate a political discussion.
Nevertheless, the constitutional committee cannot be the only driver for the political process. In order to ensure that the process does not stall, we must now address the other aspects of resolution 2254 (2015), first by paying attention to the preparations for the Syrian elections, which must be free and transparent and, in keeping with resolution 2254 (2015), supervised by the United Nations. All Syrians, including refugees, must be allowed to participate. In order to emerge from the Syrian tragedy, it is critical to give the Syrian people the ability to once again freely express their views on their country’s future.
To bring about the political future that we all so ardently seek, France places its full support in the efforts of the Special Envoy to bring together the small group and the guarantors of Astana within the same international forum. We hope to see progress on this issue over the weeks ahead.
Lastly, Council members are aware of our position — shared with the European Union and which remains unchanged — on reconstruction, the lifting of sanctions and normalization.
We call on all members of the Security Council to assume their responsibilities to bring an end to the tragedy unfolding before our very eyes in Idlib and urge them to support the draft resolution put forward by the humanitarian co-penholders, Belgium, Germany and Kuwait. Tragically, we have been too slow to act. There is no more time to lose.