There is a narrow window of opportunity to put an end to Syrian conflict [fr]
Statement by Mr. François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
Security Council – 27 March 2019
I would like to thank Under-Secretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo and Mr. Ramesh Rajasingham for their especially insightful briefings. For my part, I would like to come back to the three points of consensus that bring us together — first, the fight against terrorism; secondly, the need to protect civilians; and, thirdly, the implementation of a political solution.
First, our common priority is to continue to pool our efforts against terrorism in Syria and ensure respect for the front lines with a view to achieving a national ceasefire.
The territorial defeat of Da’esh in Syria, announced on 23 March, marks, after the retaking of Raqqa and the fall of the caliphate in Iraq in late 2017, a new and important stage in the combat against that terrorist group. Once again, we would like to pay tribute to the courage and determination of the Syrian Democratic Forces.Let us make no mistake. Just as it would be a serious political mistake to think that the Syrian tragedy is behind us, similarly it would be a serious misapprehension to think that the fight against Da’esh is over and that we can move on to other things.
This territorial victory should not make us forget the scope of the challenges we are facing in our efforts to prevent the resurgence of Da’esh in one form or another. That terrorist group, which, although it has been driven underground, continues to have considerable financial reserves and remains a threat. It is therefore vital to maintain a robust capacity for action against it and to continue with our efforts to stabilize the entire region in order to consolidate the conditions for a lasting victory.
In that regard, the announcement that an American military contingent will remain in the north-eastern part of the country is good news. The hold that the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham terrorist group has on almost all of the Idlib de-escalation zone also remains a serious source of concern, as mentioned by several of my colleagues. We must jointly reflect on the issue in order to respond to the threat in a coordinated manner, while maintaining the ceasefire agreement arrived at by Russia and Turkey and endorsed by the Istanbul Summit. A new offensive would have tragic human consequences and cause the fighters involved to disperse, which would pose a threat to the security of us all.
The recent resurgence of bombings by the regime and its supporters in violation of these agreements is in this regard very worrisome, and we call for them to cease. In that same vein, France wishes to reiterate here the importance of a nationwide ceasefire, in keeping with resolution 2254 (2015). Any military action that would call into question the current front lines would imperil the peace process, destabilize Syria and the region, and risk jeopardizing the gains made in the fight against terrorism. The Syrian people would once again be the primary victims.
The second priority is a humanitarian one, as the situation in Syria in this respect remains disastrous. We once again call on all of the parties to honour their commitments under international humanitarian law, which, I would recall, is not negotiable. Here I am referring to two absolute priorities: on the one hand, the imperative need to protect civilians, including humanitarian and medical personnel, and, on the other the need to guarantee immediate, safe, comprehensive, unimpeded and sustainable access to all of the Syrian territory, in line with the relevant resolutions of the Security Council and international humanitarian law. To cite but a few examples, it is unacceptable for the regime to continue to deliberately impede humanitarian access to eastern Ghouta and the south-west so as to punish the people of that area. Likewise, it is urgent that a new assistance convoy be deployed to Rukban camp; that is an immediate and vital priority.
We call on all influential actors to bring pressure to bear on the regime to authorize such a convoy and guarantee safe and unimpeded humanitarian access to the areas it has retaken. It is vital also to ensure that the return of those who were displaced from Rukban takes place in line with international humanitarian law and in close coordination with the United Nations. It is also imperative to ramp up the humanitarian response in the north-eastern part of the country so as to handle the inflow of displaced persons. France is fully playing its part in this effort and has released considerable emergency funding in order to support the humanitarian response in the region.
Support for the Syrian people and those countries hosting refugees requires the continuing mobilization of all actors. In that respect, the commitments undertaken during the third Brussels Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region must be implemented without delay. Nationally speaking, France has announced a contribution of more than €1 billion for the period 2019-2021.In that context, the third central priority is a political one. Only a political solution based on resolution 2254 (2015) and the Geneva communiqué (S/2012/522, annex) can lead to the sustainable stability of Syria and the region. We have underlined on several occasions that the constitutional committee, provided that agreement is reached on its composition and its rules of procedure, could make a useful contribution to the political process.
More generally speaking, the Special Envoy, Geir Pedersen, has our full support in undertaking initiatives on the implementation of all aspects of the road map. This will include three elements: a nationwide ceasefire; the implementation of confidence-building measures conducive to the creation of the safe and neutral environment required by the Geneva communiqué; and the holding of free and transparent elections.
In that regard, the Special Envoy’s resolve to work on the issues of detained and disappeared persons seems particularly relevant to us and requires our full support. The United Nations is the only body that can ensure that real strides are made in these priority areas. Similarly, it is clear to all that only tangible advances in the aforementioned areas will make it possible for refugees to consider returning home. The political and security situation is not yet conducive to the voluntary return of displaced persons and refugees to Syria under safe and dignified conditions, under the auspices of the United Nations.
France is very concerned by reports of arbitrary arrests of returning refugees by the Syrian security services. In the areas retaken by the regime in particular, such practices violate the relevant agreements. We would point to the responsibility of Russia, as guarantor of these agreements, to bring pressure to bear on the regime to ensure that the provisions thereof are respected.
Irreversible and credible advances towards a political solution will be vital to the rebuilding of the country, the normalization of relations with the regime and the lifting of sanctions. It is essential and urgent for the Syrian regime to commit itself in good faith to that goal.
Beyond the very real differences that persist among Council members, today’s exchanges also show that is a strong convergence of views among us on the three priorities of the combat against terrorism, the humanitarian imperative and the quest for an inclusive political solution based on resolution 2254 (2015).On behalf of France, I wish to launch an urgent appeal: let us switch off the automatic pilot and work tirelessly together in order to build on this convergence and move together towards peace. This is no longer a mission impossible. Our conviction is that today, possibly for the first time in eight years, we have a narrow window of opportunity to put an end to the Syrian conflict. So let us together take this opportunity, despite the immense difficulties ahead; we do not have a moment to lose.