Describing the Syrian conflict as a “shameful symbol” of the international community’s divisions and failure, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today urged the Security Council to endorse fresh recommendations by his Special Envoy on finding a political settlement based on the 2012 Geneva Communiqué.
Syria was the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, with at least a quarter of a million deaths and massive displacements, Mr. Ban said. Atrocious crimes were now almost an hourly occurrence, fed by a lack of accountability for major human rights violations that had been committed over the past four years and through decades of repression. The Syrian people had been exposed to chemical weapons — which should have been relegated to the past — and to new indiscriminate killing devices such as barrel bombs and hell cannons.
The conflict had given rise to terrorist groups and had fuelled sectarian and radicalization throughout and beyond the region. Funding for humanitarian activities continued to be outpaced by the gargantuan and ever-growing scale of needs. “The situation is a clear threat to international peace and security that should compel us all to consider what more we can do to end the carnage and uphold our responsibilities,” Mr. Ban said.
It was in that context that he had instructed Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura to intensify efforts by the United Nations to find a political settlement to the conflict. Specifically, Mr. de Mistura was asked to work to operationalize the Geneva Communiqué, which remained the only internationally agreed basis for a political settlement and which the Council had unanimously endorsed in resolution 2118 (2013).
The consultations that Mr. de Mistura had convened, drawing the views of an inclusive and representative group of Syrians and non-Syrian stakeholders, had revealed gaping fault-lines as well as points of consensus upon which a credible political process could be constructed, Mr. Ban said. Syrians and external actors alike possessed a shared sense of concern regarding the threshold that the conflict had now reached and pointed to an urgent need for action. He expressed his readiness to convene a high-level international conference to endorse any recommendations or agreement that a Syrian-led political process may reach.
“The status quo in Syria is unacceptable,” he stressed, adding that waiting for a more propitious alignment of regional international circumstances would be both immoral and irresponsible. If the Council failed to give its full support to the new proposal, the world would expect the body to provide a viable alternative.
Mr. de Mistura, in a briefing, then told the Council that the immensity of the human suffering in Syria commanded the international community to seek out even the remotest possibility of a political solution. The Geneva Consultations, a set of structured separate discussions with Syrian and non-Syrian players, were unrolled on 5 May aimed at “stress testing” any willingness of narrowing the gaps in interpretation of the principles contained in the Geneva Communiqué.
Most Syrians and international actors agreed on what the country should look like and the relevance of the principles and content of the Communiqué, he said. Syrians overall emphasized their vision for a united, sovereign, independent, non-sectarian, multi-confessional, all-inclusive State with territorial integrity and preserved and reformed State institutions led by those that inspired public confidence and trust.
Yet there was dissonance on how to get there, he said, with much of it based on the different narratives as to the root causes of the conflict and emerging priorities. His recommendations, guided by the views and analyses shared during consultations, were predicated on the need for regional and international consensus — and sustained engagement — on a way forward.
In an effort to deepen the Geneva Consultations format, Mr. de Mistura proposed thematic discussions through intra-Syrian working groups on safety and protection; political and constitutional issues; military and security issues; and public institutions, reconstruction and development. Those working groups would start generating movement towards a Syrian-owned framework document on the implementation of the Geneva Communiqué.
The framework document would also provide for a transitional governing body, procedures for a national dialogue, the Constitution drafting process and transitional justice issues. The support of the Council would be critical to convince all Syrian and regional players to get involved, he said, adding that such an international support mechanism might eventually lead to the formation of a Contact Group.
The Geneva Consultations had been clear on the profound risks of failing to act now, including the increasing risk of a multigenerational conflict that, with each passing month, reduced the prospects of ever restoring Syria as a unified State, Mr. de Mistura stressed.
The meeting began at 10:13 a.m. and ended at 10:40 a.m.