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United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, Geir O. Pedersen, briefing to the Security Council on Syria, December 20, 2021 – Syrian Arab Republic

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Thank you very much, Mr. President (Amb. Abdou Abarry, Niger)

1. We meet at the end of another year, and we can only view 2021 as a year of worsening suffering for the Syrian people.

  • Despite the lack of change on the front lines, we have witnessed continued violence against civilians and systematic violations of human rights, especially against women and girls.

  • Hunger and poverty levels increased as the economy continued to implode, with 14 million people in need, the highest number since the conflict began.

  • Several tens of thousands of people are still detained, kidnapped or missing.

  • Thirteen million Syrians remain displaced inside and outside the country – many of their children do not know their homeland – their prospects for voluntary, safe and dignified return do not improve – and constitute a continuing challenge for them. neighbors of Syria.

  • Syria remains fragmented into several areas that seem to be moving away, as the de facto authorities tighten their control on the ground and five foreign armies continue to jostle each other in theater.

  • And Syria continues to radiate instability – a haven for mercenaries, drug trafficking and terrorism.

Mister President,

2. Six years after its adoption, we are sadly a long way from implementing Security Council resolution 2254 in a way that could alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people, meet their legitimate aspirations and restore the sovereignty and unity of the Syrian Arab Republic. Syria.

3. But I think there are opportunities for progress that need to be explored in 2022. Why am I saying this? There are two main reasons for this.

  • First: because all parties are facing what I call a strategic deadlock on the ground which has now lasted for 21 months, without any change in the front lines, which shows more and more clearly that no actor or existing group of actors cannot determine the outcome of the conflict, and that a military solution remains an illusion.

  • And second: because there are serious risks and costs for all in simply trying to cope with the unacceptable status quo – especially given the humanitarian suffering, the continuing displacement crisis, the collapse of the economy, the de facto division of the country, the dangers of further escalation and the lingering threat of terrorism.

4. I have highlighted these dynamics in all my engagements. With each passing month, I have felt a wider realization than before that political and economic measures are needed – and that these can only really happen together – step by step, step by step.

5. I have traveled extensively in the region, meeting with the foreign ministers of Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates in November, and the Lebanese government earlier this month.

6. I recently visited Damascus for in-depth discussions with the Syrian government.

7. I also recently briefed American, European, Arab and Turkish emissaries when they met in Brussels. And my deputy, Khawla Mattar, is today as we speak on the way to NurSultan, where she will meet with Russian, Turkish and Iranian officials and other participants in an Astana format meeting.

Mister President,

8. I have the feeling, after all these commitments, that there is still great mistrust on all sides. A common message that I hear from many is that “we have taken steps, but those on the other sides have not”. Nonetheless, there is enough interest from all parties to test what might be possible through a wider political process.

9. To explore this issue further, I began to consult with senior officials from key stakeholders – Syrian and international – in bilateral consultations with me in Geneva. These are ongoing and will continue in January. This is the first round of consultations in what, in my opinion, must be an ongoing process.

10. So far, the Russian Federation, the European Union, Turkey and Qatar have participated with me in bilateral consultations in Geneva. I look forward to engaging other participants in the New Year. I ask each stakeholder not only their priorities and demands, but also what they are willing to put on the table in this context, to help move the process forward.

Mister President,

11. Over time, I hope that we can begin to identify and agree on progressive, reciprocal, mutual, realistic, precise and verifiable steps that could be taken in parallel to build confidence and help to achieve advance the political process in accordance with Security Council resolution 2254.

12. Let me reiterate here that while the political solution in Syria is to belong to and be led by the Syrians, many issues are not solely in the hands of the Syrians. Additionally, we have seen that when key stakeholders work together with mutual action on issues of common interest, at least some progress has been possible.

13. For example, the US-Russian channels helped lay the groundwork for Security Council resolution 2585, and it is important that we maintain and build on that foundation. As the Secretary-General said in his recent report: “We must continue to seize all opportunities to respond to humanitarian needs, including by further increasing access and further expanding early recovery efforts. I can’t wait to know more [UnderSecretary-General] Martin [Griffiths] on these issues.

14. And the meetings that I mentioned earlier – in Brussels recently and in Nur-Sultan tomorrow – are important for the signals they send and because they can address issues on the ground – particularly of a humanitarian or safe. These efforts will no doubt continue.

15. But, Mr. President, the truth is that the existing channels or formats all exclude at least one of the critical actors – Syrian or international.

16. I am convinced that we need all those with a stake in the conflict involved in a common political effort, if we are to see concrete progress on the issues that matter most – both for the Syrians themselves. and also in terms of regional stability. Steps that could actually move us forward towards a safe, calm and neutral environment… steps that could strengthen a Syrian-led political dialogue.

17. And we need to channel the frustrations at the lack of progress and the desire to take initiative in a coordinated strategy over a larger process. I hope that in this way we can initiate a virtuous cycle of reciprocal steps and build confidence – and that a process could unfold that could meet the aspirations of the Syrians, which could allow refugees to return voluntarily and in security and dignity, and this could fully restore the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Syria.

Mister President,

18. Let me note here that, during their stay in Nur-Sultan, my team will attend a meeting of the Working Group on the Release of Detainees / Abductions, Handover of Bodies and Identification of Missing Persons, where we continue to urge meaningful progress. on the different aspects of the case. They will also review the most recent liberation operation under the auspices of the Task Force when, on December 16 – in an operation observed by my office – five people from each side were simultaneously released in northern Syria.

19. What is absolutely clear is that large-scale action regarding releases – especially women, children, the sick and the elderly – and the sharing of information on the whereabouts and whereabouts of Detention of missing persons is necessary to move forward. I insisted on this point during my recent visit to Damascus.

Mister President,

20. As I work to move a larger process forward, I actively seek to reconvene the Syrian-led, Syrian-owned and UN-facilitated Constitutional Committee. In October and November, Deputy Special Envoy Mattar twice visited Damascus for consultations regarding a new session and also met in Istanbul with the Syrian Negotiating Commission and the co-chair it appointed. A little over a week ago, as I mentioned, I visited Damascus, where I met the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Co-Chair appointed by the Syrian Government.

21. It is important that delegations not only table constitutional texts but that all – including the delegation that has not yet done so – are ready to commit to revising them in the light of the discussions. We need a productive drafting process in line with the mandate of the Committee. The Committee must work, as its mandate indicates, “quickly and continuously to produce results and continuous progress”. I have had a concrete discussion with the two Co-Chairs about what this would look like, and continue to strive for a clear understanding. After my discussions in Damascus, I am waiting for a new communication from them before contacting the SNC.

22. Let us be clear: I am ready to convene a seventh session of the Constitutional Committee in Geneva as soon as the agreements are in place. And once they are, we will of course inform the middle third of civil society for a seventh session.

Mister President,

23. Let me add that I continue to engage extensively with Syrian women and men in civil society, who have various networks in Syria and the region, including members of the Women’s Advisory Council and participants in the Civil Society Support Room. I appreciate their contribution to all efforts to promote lasting peace in Syria.

Mister President,

24. Now is the time to consider whether a political process can advance in any meaningful way in 2022. The status quo carries many dangers, and it would be folly to manage an unacceptable and deteriorating impasse. Likewise, the realities facing all parties should promote an interest in compromise and open up opportunities for concrete progress on the political path. No one should expect miracles or quick fixes – the way forward will necessarily be gradual. But, Mr. President, I hope that this coming year we can work on concrete measures towards the implementation of Security Council resolution 2254. I count on the support of the Security Council.

Thank you.


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