'Time to shift from logic of war,' put interests of Syrian people first, UN Security Council told

Duma, East Ghouta, Syria. Photo: UNOCHA

30 August 2017 – Calling for creative ways to work towards peace in Syria, the United Nations Special Envoy today outlined the political path forward, which includes holding another round of the so-named Astana talks and behind-the-scenes efforts by the international community.

“This is a time for realism and focus, for shifting from the logic of war to that of negotiation, and for putting the interests of the Syrian people first. If I could identify one thing above all that can make the difference, it will be a sense of unity of purpose internationally with clear priorities and common goals,” UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, told the Security Council.

He noted that the next round of what has become known as the 'Astana talks' – between the Syrian conflict parties and led by Russia, Turkey and Iran – will be held on 14 and 15 September.

These three countries “will need to keep actively working, as they have been doing, on de-escalation,” Mr. de Mistura said, adding that he and his team will be supporting these efforts.

The UN official also noted the key role that Saudi Arabia and other countries with influence over the opposition have in fostering “cohesion and realism of the opposition.” Mr. de Mistura said his office is ready to convene further technical talks to support Saudi efforts on unifying the opposition.

In addition, he noted the importance of working with the Government of Syria. He said that it will be vital for those countries with influence to “assess the situation carefully and signal a genuine readiness for dialogue and inclusion” on the country's political future.

Today's briefing comes just weeks ahead of the annual high-level opening segment of the UN General Assembly, where the European Union will host a special event in New York which will serve as “an opportunity” to address future resilience and stabilization efforts, and support the humanitarian needs in Syria, Mr. de Mistura said.

These events will all take place ahead of the convocation of the formal intra-Syrian talks in Geneva later in October.

“This is designed to give time for the dynamics I have just described to reach a further stage of maturity,” the senior UN official said.

He added “it is my hope that both the Syrian Government and the opposition will come to Geneva then to engage in formal negotiations.”

Outgoing UN aid chief urges help for Syrians

Also today, the Council heard from outgoing Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stephen O'Brien, who steps down tomorrow.

Addressing the Council for the final time after two years on the job, Mr. O'Brien made an emotional appeal for the 15-member body to do more to end the brutal civil war, now in its seventh year.

“I am still urging you, in the name of our common humanity, to find a way to stop the Syrian people paying the price of political failure,” he said. “The fact that month after month, it is the unremitting, fearful plight of the Syrian people which sears into our hearts and outrages and torments our minds, I am bound to reflect – surely we can do better.”

He expressed frustration at the “little progress” made in recent months in responding to the needs of thousands of people who remain besieged in Foah, Kefraya and Yarmouk.

Mr. O'Brien noted that on numerous occasions, despite agreement to distribute aid, the trucks were loaded only be to be unloaded.

“This is disgusting. It's scandalous and an outrage and I urge all Member States – in particular those with the influence – to do all they can to bring the parties to their senses,” he urged.

I am told a new agreement among the parties was apparently reached on 27 August, but where is the evidence?”

He cautioned that thousands of people – mostly women and children – depend on the international community's collective action.

Among other points raised, he reiterated that civilians, humanitarians and health workers are not a target, and said that he stands in solidarity with the millions of civilians whose lives have been destroyed by the conflict.


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