21 September 2016 United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called on the members of the Security Council to fully support his Special Envoy in working on convening formal talks seeking to resolve the Syria conflict and developing proposals for future talks, or risk destroying the international community's credibility in being able to uphold “our common humanity.”
“We are at a make or break moment,” the UN chief told the Security Council in a meeting this morning on the situation in Syria. “I challenge everyone to use their influence now to restore a cessation of hostilities, enable humanitarian assistance everywhere it is needed, and support the United Nations in charting a political path for the Syrians to negotiate a way out of the hell in which they are trapped.”
“You have now no higher responsibility in your service as members of the United Nations Security Council,” Mr. Ban added.
The Secretary-General General emphasized to the 15-member body that more than 300,000 Syrians have been killed, half of the country's population has been uprooted, and much of its infrastructure lies in ruins. In addition, many Syrians fear that fragmentation of their State could follow, with Da'esh [also known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant] and Al Qaeda affiliates poised to exploit further chaos, he said.
The collective failure of the international community should haunt every member of this Council
“The Syrian tragedy shames us all. The collective failure of the international community should haunt every member of this Council,” Mr. Ban declared, adding that global norms of humanitarian law have been “flagrantly violated,” defying the Council's resolutions.
At the same time, the Secretary-General said, it is known that international unity can make a difference, as Council unity and resolve has led to the elimination of Syria's previously denied chemical weapons programme and the attribution of responsibility for their use.
Moreover, food and medicines have been delivered to millions of Syrians, also across front lines and via air drops to besieged and hard-to-reach areas. The formation of the International Syria Support Group has also provided fresh momentum to the search for a settlement and paved the way for Security Council resolution 2254 (2015), the UN chief said.
He also recalled that the cessation of hostilities – albeit fragile – that began in late February yielded positive results for a few months. In that window, he said, the UN intensified humanitarian operations and brought the parties to Geneva for talks.
“But that process was once again overwhelmed by violence,” the Secretary-General said, noting that the “long-sought” agreement between the Russian Federation and the United States, concluded on 9 September, “represents a new opportunity.”
However, Mr. Ban said, the attack on a UN-Syrian Arab Red Crescent humanitarian convoy two days ago was an “outrage,” resulting in several casualties and forcing the UN to suspend aid operations.
“I am looking at options for vigorously investigating this and other similar atrocities against civilians,” he said, adding that he is also concerned about the earlier attack in Deir al-Zour in which dozens of lives were lost.
“We must remain determined that the ceasefire will be revived. I urge everyone to use their influence now – today – to ensure that it does,” the UN chief stressed.
As soon as a new round of intra-Syrian negotiations begins, they must focus on the fundamental issues for a viable transition, Mr. Ban said.
In that regard, he said that with his strong backing, his Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, will be ready to present to the parties a draft framework of proposals as a starting point for negotiations for a Syrian-owned and Syrian-led political transition.
“I have asked the Special Envoy to work intensively toward convening formal negotiations as soon as possible. I call on the Security Council to fully support the Special Envoy as he proceeds in this manner – with no ifs, ands, or buts. We have to unequivocally move ahead towards a credible political process,” the Secretary-General said, adding that he expects all to use their influence with the Syrian parties to make sure they come to talks, ready to genuinely negotiate the core issues of political transition.
“No country's destiny should rest on what happens with a single individual,” Mr. Ban continued.” If one side continues to insist that the powers of the office of the President are not subject for negotiation, by definition there cannot be a negotiated settlement. And if another side insists that the President simply depart at the very outset of a transition, it is difficult to see a genuine negotiation taking place.”
The Secretary-General also emphasized the “profound need” for accountability, declaring: “For the world not to pursue the perpetrators of such brutality would be a grave abdication of duty. It would deny Syrians justice and healing.”
“It would shred the credibility of an international community that claims to be concerned about upholding our common humanity,” he added.
Reiterating a call to the Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC), Mr. Ban said that members of the Government of Syria who gave orders or were part of the chain of command must be brought to account, while others on the battlefield must also be brought into “halls of justice.”
“And there can be no doubt that any durable settlement will have to ensure a proper framework for transitional justice, and for reconciliation, if Syria is to overcome the horrors of this war,” the Secretary-General stressed.
For his part, Mr. de Mistura, also speaking at today's meeting, reaffirmed that he is ready to present to the parties a draft framework of proposals as a starting point for negotiations for a Syrian-owned and Syrian-led political transition.
“As soon as talks resume, it is my intention to put proposals to all sides as a starting point – and nothing more than a starting point – for negotiations and as a means by which to move to direct talks – not anymore just proximity talks. The Secretary-General encourages me to present a draft framework to move the sides towards transition through a negotiation,” the Special Envoy said.
He noted that any such proposals would proceed on the basis that the conflict in Syria cannot be resolved militarily, but only through a political negotiating process between the Government and the opposition.
Mr. de Mistura detailed that any viable transition must inevitably address how power is to be exercised in practice by transitional governance; involve power being shared and a phased and genuine power devolution exercised during transition in an agreed manner; require the creation of collective transitional bodies to oversee a national ceasefire, humanitarian relief and the creation of a calm, neutral environment; and be accompanied by sustained international efforts to help reconstruct Syria.
“Above all both sides need to recognise that any transition needs to be all-inclusive and agreed – as the Geneva Communiqué clearly states – through mutual consent,” the Special Envoy said.
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