|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Violence against Civilians Driving Syria Crisis towards Militarization,
Gives Extremists Pretext for Getting Involved, Secretary-General Warns
Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message to the second meeting of the Group of Friends of the Syrian People, delivered By B. Lynn Pascoe, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, in Istanbul on 1 April:
I thank the Government of Turkey for hosting this second conference of the Group of Friends of the Syrian people. Five weeks ago, in my address to the first meeting in Tunis, I stressed my expectation that the international community would act in a coherent and consistent manner to facilitate a peaceful resolution of the dangerous crisis in Syria. Much diplomatic progress has been achieved since, with Member States rallying behind the efforts of the Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States, Kofi Annan.
On the ground, however, the situation has continued to deteriorate. We condemn the Syrian Government’s cruel and unabated assault on its own civilian population. It is past time to stop the violence and to move swiftly in the direction of the peaceful, inclusive and democratic future that the Syrian people deserve.
As you meet today, the violence is escalating and the political stalemate is deepening between the authorities and the opposition. The death toll is rising every day, violations of human rights persist, and violence has driven too many people from their homes. Even children have been victims of unbearable abuse, including sexual violence. This must stop.
The unified and clear message sent by the Security Council in its presidential statement of 21 March, as well as by the recent League of Arab States Summit, provides strong encouragement to persevere and intensify our efforts to end the violence and human rights violations, deliver humanitarian assistance and launch a genuine political process. Our actions remain guided by our strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Syria, and to the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter.
Since taking up his functions a month ago, the Joint Special Envoy has consulted quickly and widely within Syria, across the region, and internationally. In Damascus, he held a series of meetings with the President and other senior Government officials, opposition leaders, youth activists, business and religious figures. He also met with a delegation of the Syrian National Council headed by Burhan Ghalioun in Ankara.
We continue to urge President Assad to stop the violence against civilians by military and security forces. Such abuses are driving what began as a peaceful protest movement towards militarization, and are providing a pretext for involvement of extremist groups. The use of force will only prolong and deepen the conflict, creating hatred and radicalization. The immediate priority is to stop all violence, bring in an appropriate United Nations monitoring mechanism, and embark on a Syrian-led political process that will fulfil the will of the Syrian people.
To this end, the Joint Special Envoy presented President Assad a six-point plan for immediate action, which has since received the full backing of the Security Council. Let me stress: these proposals are not a list of all the steps that the Syrian Government will need to take for this crisis to be resolved and a political solution found. They are the steps that the Syrian President needs to take today to defuse the crisis and send a clear signal that he is ready to change course.
The Syrian Government has said that it accepts the plan. This acceptance must now be translated into action on the ground. Speedy implementation is vital for the welfare and protection of the civilians, and it is essential for creating a platform for further dialogue and demonstrating to the Syrian people that the chance for peace is not lost.
The opposition has made encouraging moves to unite under one umbrella. In this context, the Joint Special Envoy will work closely with members of the opposition towards a sustained cessation of armed violence and to further support their efforts to build unity. In fact, Deputy Joint Special Envoy [Nasser] al-Kidwa had extensive meetings during this conference, which proved extremely useful.
In its presidential statement, the Security Council supported the concept of the Joint Special Envoy of an “effective United Nations supervision mechanism” for the envisaged “sustained cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties”. We have, in close contact with the Joint Special Envoy, begun preliminary exploration of the modalities for such a mechanism, as well as for establishing a quick presence in Syria once the necessary conditions are in place. And, let me state those: a cessation of armed violence, the cooperation of all parties and authorization by the Security Council.
Our efforts also focus on addressing the humanitarian situation. The preliminary findings of the Government-led humanitarian assessment recently conducted with the technical participation of the United Nations show serious humanitarian needs, in particular for food, medical assistance and education. There has also been a noticeable deterioration in living conditions in many governorates. An initial convoy carrying assistance for 2,000 displaced families was dispatched from Damascus to Tartous, and more aid is ready to be sent. Given the extent of the identified needs, the capacity of the humanitarian community in-country will need to be increased significantly in the coming weeks. It remains essential to preserve the independence and impartiality of humanitarian assistance.
The support of regional and international actors continues to be crucial to advance the prospects of a democratic, reconciled Syria, in which all Syrians are free and equal. The fate of Syria belongs to the Syrian people, and it is their welfare and universal rights that we must protect as our highest priority. I appeal to you to unite behind our efforts to facilitate a Syrian-led political transition to a democratic, plural political system, in which citizens are equal regardless of their affiliations, ethnicities or beliefs. The stronger and clearer the message you can collectively send, the better the chance that we can begin to shift the worrying dynamics of this crisis in the direction of positive change.
* *** *For information media • not an official record