Syrian Tragedy ‘Shames Us All’, Secretary-General Tells Security Council, Saying that Failure to End Conflict Should Haunt Entire Membership

SC/12526
21 September 2016
7774th Meeting (AM)

Syrian Tragedy ‘Shames Us All’, Secretary-General Tells Security Council, Saying that Failure to End Conflict Should Haunt Entire Membership

Some Speakers Support Russian Federation-United States Accord, Early Resumption of Talks as Others Decry ‘Barbaric Proxy War’

The international community’s collective failure to end the conflict in Syria should haunt the entire Security Council, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today, as he provided a grim snapshot of the situation on the ground.

Given that well over 300,000 Syrians had been killed, half of the country’s population had been uprooted and much of its infrastructure lay in ruins, “the Syrian tragedy shames us all”, Secretary-General Ban told the 15-member Council, adding:  “We are at a make-or-break moment.”

He continued: “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.”

On the heels of the recent air strikes on the United Nations-Syrian Arab Red Crescent humanitarian convoy near Aleppo, and on Syrian troops in Deir ez-Zor, the Secretary-General said the current situation defied Council resolutions.  “Yet, we know international unity can make a difference,” he added, citing the formation of the International Syria Support Group, which had paved the way for the adoption of Security Council resolution 2254 (2015), providing a pathway to peace.  He appealed for stakeholders to return to the negotiating table.

Staffan de Mistura, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Syria, said that, despite the horrors on the ground, some points of convergence had emerged from the intra-Syrian talks on framing a transition.  That could demonstrate how close all sides were regarding what Syria would look like as a unified, non‑sectarian State in which fundamental freedoms were enshrined and protected by a new constitution.  He said that, as soon as talks resumed, he would heed the Secretary-General’s request to present the draft framework, elements of which included recognition that only a Syria-owned process could end the conflict, with a view to drafting a new constitution, holding free and fair elections and reforming State institutions.  However, none of those elements would materialize without respect for the 9 September ceasefire agreement brokered by the Russian Federation and the United States, co-chairs of the International Syria Support Group.  Going forward, a cessation of hostilities would be critical, he said.

Some Council members said the United States-Russian Federation arrangement represented the best hope, while others supported the Secretary-General’s call for an early resumption of peace talks.  President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi of Egypt said the 9 September agreement was not enough, adding that progress would depend on the immediate continuation of negotiations.  A political solution remained elusive, yet a breeding ground for terrorism had already been sown, he said.  Alongside efforts to cultivate peace, terrorist organizations must be tackled urgently, he added.

During the ensuing discussion, many speakers agreed that strengthened political will was needed to ensure success in implementing a ceasefire agreement.  China’s Minister for Foreign Affairs cautioned external forces against using the conflict for their own selfish ends.  In similar vein, the United Kingdom’s Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs called the conflict “a barbaric proxy war” abetted by players in the Council Chamber.  If Syrians would still be enduring massive suffering in a year’s time, responsibility would lie with members of the Council, but above all, with the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad and its sponsors, he said, calling for a genuine ceasefire and a genuine political agreement.

Sergey Lavrov, the Russian Federation’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, said there could be no more unilateral pauses, since Al-Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant and other terrorist groups had used such pauses to consolidate their positions.  Instead, simultaneous steps were needed by all parties involved in the conflict, he said.  The priority now was to resume the intra-Syrian dialogue with a view to ending the crisis, in order to preserve a unified Syria.

Noting that Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) had intensified its attacks immediately after the air strike on Deir ez-Zor, he said further research on opposition groups was needed, because some of those included in the negotiations had not repudiated their association with known terrorist organizations.  In addition, his Government had recorded more than 300 violations by opposition forces who had signed the latest ceasefire agreement.

John Kerry, Secretary of State of the United States, said facts must be respected, including known facts about violations of the cessation of hostilities, such as the bombing of hospitals and a humanitarian convoy in areas where only Syrian and Russian aircraft had been present.  Describing the 17 September coalition attack on Syrian forces as “a terrible accident”, he pointed out that it had been acknowledged immediately.

He urged the Council not to give up on resolving the crisis, calling upon all parties in Syria, as well as the entire international community, to cooperate with the 2012 Geneva communiqué and desist from supporting any actions that prevented progress.  To get the process back on track and restore credibility, the Government of the United States had proposed the immediate grounding of all aircraft in key areas and allowing humanitarian assistance to flow.

Among several speakers offering other suggestions was France’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development, who said his Government stood ready to play a part in a new mechanism for monitoring violations and bolstering confidence-building measures.

Prime Minister John Key of New Zealand, Council President for September, spoke in his national capacity, underlining the critical need to rewrite the narrative of failure and help to set Syria on a path towards peace.  Those wielding influence over the parties and the Government of Syria — particularly the United States, Russian Federation, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey — must emphasize that a political solution was the only way out of the conflict, he said, calling on those countries to work together to restore the cessation of hostilities.  “Advancing a political solution must be the priority in the weeks ahead,” he said.  “The people of Syria deserve this much.”

Syria’s representative said his Government was ready to resume dialogue without preconditions in order to reach a political solution determined by Syrians alone, without foreign interference.  Emphasizing that Syria would not become another Libya or another Iraq, he said the Government must not be excluded or marginalized.  There must be a process to begin demilitarizing and normalizing the opposition, he said, stressing that the situation in Syria must not be seen as a civil war.

Noting that the so-called coalition had been created without Syria’s approval, he said the situation was reminiscent of the coalitions that had caused havoc in Iraq, Libya and Yemen.  The so-called coalition had promised to target only terrorists, but now it was bombing Syrian assets and troops, while there were United States soldiers inside the country.  In other words, a proxy war had become a real one, he said.

Also speaking today were Heads of State, Heads of Government, ministers and other senior representatives of Ukraine, Senegal, Japan, Malaysia, Venezuela, Uruguay, Spain and Angola.

A representative of the United States took the floor a second time in response to Syria’s statement, to which a representative of Turkey also responded.

The meeting began at 9:39 a.m. and ended at 12:39 p.m.

Briefings

BAN KI-MOON, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said “the Syrian tragedy shames us all”.  The international community’s collective failure should haunt every member of the Council, given that well over 300,000 Syrians had been killed, half of the country’s population had been uprooted and much of its infrastructure lay in ruins.  Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) was exploiting the chaos and neighbouring countries were hosting millions of refugees, while many had lost their lives trying to reach Europe.  Forces unleashed by the conflict were destabilizing the region, as terrorist attacks reached targets around the world.  Flagrant violations of global norms of humanitarian law included indiscriminate attacks on civilians and civilian facilities, the use of medieval siege tactics and the weaponization of hunger, the use of chemical weapons and the arbitrary detention of tens of thousands of men, women and children in appalling conditions who were systematically subjected to unspeakable torture.  Meanwhile, foreign fighters and arms flowed to all sides, he noted.

That scenario defied Council resolutions, “yet we know international unity can make a difference”, he said.  Council unity and resolve had led to the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons programme, aid had been delivered to millions and the formation of the International Syria Support Group had provided fresh momentum to the search for a settlement and paved the way for Security Council resolution 2254 (2015).  However, recent events, such as the attack on a United Nations-Syrian Arab Red Crescent humanitarian convoy two days earlier, were an outrage.  Determination to revive the ceasefire was critical, he said, urging all to exert their influence to ensure an open road to political talks.  Moving forward, the intra-Syrian negotiations must focus on a viable transition, he said, adding that he had asked his Special Envoy to work intensively towards convening formal negotiations as soon as possible.

Calling upon the Security Council to fully support his efforts, he emphasized, however, that a transition was not an end in itself and that actions must be taken to ensure the continuation and reform of State institutions, as well as accountability for perpetrators of violations of human rights and international law.  He reiterated his call for the Council to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court.  “We are at a make-or-break moment,” he said.  “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.”

STAFFAN DE MISTURA, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria, said he was ready to present a draft framework to all parties as a starting point for continued negotiations.  The United Nations had done its due diligence in order to understand the needs and fears of all sides, having engaged extensively with stakeholders and taken numerous steps, he said.  Despite the horrors on the ground, some points of convergence had emerged from the intra-Syrian talks on framing a transition, which could demonstrate how close all sides were on what the country would look like as a unified, non-sectarian State in which fundamental freedoms were enshrined and protected by a new constitution.  During round three of the intra-Syrian talks, further commonality had been outlined, including issues to be addressed moving forward.

He said that, as soon as the talks resumed, he would heed the Secretary-General’s request to present the draft framework.  Its elements included the recognition that only a Syria-owned process could end the conflict, with a view to drafting a new constitution, holding free and fair elections and reforming State institutions.  A cessation of hostilities was critical.  “It looks like a dream, but that’s the plan,” he said.  “And if we don’t do that, it will be impossible to get there.”  To move forward, the Government of Syria would need to understand that a devolution of power was needed, not the absorption of parties into the current system.  Having taken input from all the Syrian parties, he appealed to all Council members to heed the Secretary-General’s calls.  If peace was to be made, a transition would be needed alongside genuine negotiations.  “We cannot ignore the gorilla in the room,” he said, noting that none of the elements cited could occur without respect for the 9 September agreement.

Statements

JOHN KEY, Prime Minister of New Zealand and Council President for September, spoke in his national capacity, emphasizing the critical need to rewrite the narrative of failure and help to set Syria on a path towards peace.  No one would benefit from a continuation of the conflict, including the Government of Syria, which bore responsibility for starting the war, and those whose support was allowing the violence to continue.  Syrians must reach agreement on their future, but it was clear that they could not end the war on their own.  While the pathway was set out in resolution 2254 (2015), which had established a timetable, it had yet to be implemented, he noted.  Today, everyone must commit to restoring the cessation of hostilities, delivering aid and restarting political talks.

The recent arrangement between the United States and the Russian Federation represented the best hope, he said, encouraging the two nations to demonstrate sustained leadership.  The following days would be critical in moving forward.  He urged the Syrian parties to abide by the arrangement, with the Council’s support.  Those wielding influence over the parties and the Government of Syria — particularly the United States, Russian Federation, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey — must emphasize that a political solution was the only way out of the conflict, he said, calling on those countries to work together to restore the cessation of hostilities over the coming days.  “Advancing a political solution must be the priority in the weeks ahead,” he emphasized.  “The people of Syria deserve this much.”

SERGEY LAVROV, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, said the crises in the Middle East were attributable to inter-ethnic conflict, terrorism and outside interference, among other causes.  The Russian Federation remained convinced that there was no alternative to an inclusive political settlement in Syria, without preconditions.  It had agreed with the United States on a number of points regarding how to achieve such a settlement through the International Syria Support Group over the past months, although the details had not been made public.  The priority was to be able to differentiate terrorist groups from others and to prevent terrorists from escaping justice through association with those other groups, he said.

As per the recent cessation-of-hostilities agreement, Government forces had begun withdrawing from key roads to allow the flow of humanitarian assistance, he said, adding however, that there had been no reciprocation from opposition forces.  It was clear who was complying with the agreement and who was not, he said, noting that his Government had presented more than 300 violations of the cessation of hostilities by opposition forces which had signed on to the agreement.  In addition, after the air strike on Deir ez-Zor, ISIL had immediately intensified its attacks, he noted.  That kind of coincidence required further investigation.  Further research on opposition groups was needed, because some of those included in the negotiations had not repudiated their association with known terrorist organizations.

The time had come to revisit the categorization of opposition groups, he said, expressing hope that no one would expect terrorists and those cooperating with them to respect the cessation of hostilities while they attacked civilians.  All armed opposition groups must provide guarantees that they would abide by all provisions of future cessations of hostilities.  Simultaneous steps by all parties involved in the conflict were needed, he said.  There could be no more unilateral pauses, since Al-Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant and other groups had used such pauses to consolidate their positions.  The priority was the resumption of the intra-Syrian dialogue to end the crisis, in order to preserve Syria as a unified State.  The Russian Federation supported the Special Envoy’s efforts in that regard, he said.  Attempts to put forward preconditions and other efforts to sabotage resolution 2254 (2015) were unacceptable, he emphasized, adding that his country would work with everyone — including the Government and opposition forces — for the resumption of dialogue.

JOHN KERRY, Secretary of State of the United States, said in regard to the Russian Federation’s opposition to preconditions that a ceasefire had been achieved four times without preconditions, but the agreements had been “shredded” by spoilers who did not want them to succeed.  Asking how bombing hospitals and children, and using chlorine gas could be defended, he emphasized that obfuscation was not acceptable.  There was need for a united Syria in which the people could choose their own leadership, yet certain parties and their proxies were preventing the realization of that goal.  Facts must be respected, including the known facts about violations of the cessation of hostilities, such as the bombing of hospitals and the humanitarian convoy in areas where only Syrian and Russian aircraft had been present.

While describing the 17 September coalition attack as “a terrible accident”, he pointed out that it had been acknowledged immediately.  It had also been “a very different thing” from attacking an obvious humanitarian convoy.  Russian officials had presented various explanations — as well as denials — for the latter attack, none of which were credible and all of which had been contradicted by eyewitnesses.  Stressing the need to restore credibility to the process, he said the primary question was not what was known, but what was to be done.  There was need for a real ceasefire that would allow the Syrian people to breathe.  While it was true that association with Nusrah Front was unacceptable, spoilers could not be allowed to determine the path ahead, which remained one of diplomacy.  There was need to renew the cessation of hostilities – excluding only ISIL and Nusrah Front – accompanied by unfettered delivery of humanitarian assistance.

After seven days of such a ceasefire, coordinated action with the Russian Federation against ISIL and Nusrah Front was planned, he said, adding that air action against the legitimate opposition must be halted at the same time.  A prohibition on flying was needed to prevent Syria from going after civilian targets under the pretext of attacking terrorists.  However, the Geneva plan still represented the best way forward, he said, even if the Assad regime, on one side, and Nusrah Front on the other, remained spoilers.  To get the process back on track and restore credibility, the United States proposed the immediate grounding of all aircraft in key areas and allowing humanitarian assistance to flow.  He urged the Council not to give up on resolving the crisis and called upon all parties in Syria, and the entire international community, to cooperate with the Geneva plan and desist from supporting any actions that prevented progress.

ABDEL FATTAH AL SISI, President of Egypt, said that a political solution remained evasive, yet a breeding ground for terrorism had been sown.  Highlighting flaws in previous attempts to resolve the crisis in Syria, he said the focus had been erroneously placed on the symptoms rather than the causes.  The core problem was the absence of a just political solution that addressed the aspirations of Syrians.  The 9 September agreement was not enough and it depended on the immediate continuation of negotiations, he said, calling upon the Special Envoy to bolster efforts to that end.  Terrorist organizations must also be tackled, he said, emphasizing that time was of essence.

Resolution 2254 (2015) had proven that it was possible to find common ground, he said, adding that, given political will, such commonalities could be reached swiftly.  A Syrian-led solution to the crisis must and could be found.  The road ahead was clear and implementation of the recent agreement should trigger the end of hostilities.  For its own part, Egypt had delivered aid in order to help besieged populations in Syrian towns, he said.  History taught that no ceasefire arrangement had succeeded without negotiations for a political process, he said, expressing support for respecting the aspirations of the Syrian people.  Each day, more blood would be spilled and action must be taken to restore hope to the people and immediately tackle the root causes of the conflict.

PETRO POROSHENKO, President of Ukraine, said the Syrian Government bore full responsibility for the suffering of its people.  The “barbaric attack” on a humanitarian convoy in Aleppo following the Government’s withdrawal from the ceasefire was clear proof of a culture of impunity.  That lack of accountability was a stain on the Council, he said, adding that Russian support for the Assad regime had contributed significantly to the disastrous status quo and to the recurrent waves of violence.  He suggested that the Russian Federation’s policy followed the pattern of its action in Ukraine:  “Stir up hostilities, raise the stakes and then offer yourself as mediator in the settlement process.  In the meantime, grab ground and secure your position for imposing a solution.”

He said the Security Council’s inaction in preventing Russian aggression in his country had allowed Moscow to use Crimea as a base for assets employed against Syria.  All that demonstrated the need for Security Council reform.  Condemning violations of international law in Syria, including attacks on civilians and denial of humanitarian aid, he called for those responsible to be brought to justice.  International law must be upheld everywhere at all times and by all, he affirmed.  The parties in Syria must meet their obligations, adhere to the cessation-of-hostilities agreement, allow unhindered humanitarian access and participate in serious negotiations on a political transition.  Only by such actions could the plight of the Syrian people be alleviated, he emphasized.

MACKY SALL, President of Senegal, said the grave humanitarian crisis — marked by hundreds of thousands of deaths, massive displacement and a spreading threat of terrorism throughout the region and beyond — must be ended by a united effort to build peace through a negotiated solution.  Ceasefires, even though they had been violated in the past, could indeed help the Council to fulfil its mission of ensuring international security.  Citing an African proverb, he said that when two elephants fought, it was the grass that suffered.

Moving forward, Council reform would be critical, he said, highlighting the need to address the wider ramifications of the current crisis, from refugee flows into Europe to waves of terrorist attacks across Northern Africa.  The Council needed more tools to discharge its mandate, he said, adding that Senegal supported the establishment of a joint command centre to fight terrorism.  Peace and a political solution in Syria would be possible, he said, calling for a surge in the Russian Federation-United States dialogue to that end.

SHINZŌ ABE, Prime Minister of Japan, said the Council must strongly promote the transition to a political process that would lead to an end to the violence and improved humanitarian access.  Calling on the international community and stakeholders to abide by Council resolutions, he said that his country had provided non-military assistance and supported efforts to reach a political settlement with the goal of building societies resilient to violent extremism.  Providing an overview of such initiatives, he said Japan had dedicated more than $2 billion to humanitarian aid, health and education for Syrians inside and outside the country.  Yet, the success of those efforts would depend on how the current situation was resolved, he said, pledging Japan’s determination to work on the matter in a responsible manner.

AHMAD ZAHID BIN HAMIDI, Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia, said the Council must remain resolute in the face of heinous crimes and persistent violence on the ground, continuing to strive for unity and coherence in purpose and action.  The Council could never be sidelined and had a central role to play.  Despite recent setbacks, the 9 September agreement represented the latest concrete effort towards halting the violence and laying the groundwork for a credible and inclusive political process on the future of Syria.  Particular attention must be paid to protecting children, he emphasized, strongly demanding that the parties to the conflict respect international law, including by providing unfettered humanitarian access and civilian protection.  Resolution 2254 (2015) must guide the political process alongside the 9 September agreement, and all partners and stakeholders must support the way forward, as outlined by the Special Envoy, he said, emphasizing the need to redoubled efforts to achieve a durable political solution.

DELCY ELOÍNA RODRÍGUEZ GÓMEZ, Minister of People’s Power for Foreign Affairs of Venezuela, decried the humanitarian consequences of the Syrian crisis, saying the international community had become inured to the suffering in that country, caused by the interference of international parties who had sought to overthrow a legitimate Government.  The enormous lies put forward were comparable to the explanations for the invasion of Iraq.  The international community could not continue to be subjected to such lies, she said, emphasizing that citizens around the globe were tired of attempts by certain Powers to control the world.  Those attempts had had devastating consequences, she said, noting that the 17 September attack on Syria’s army had allowed the advance of terrorists.  It was easy to say mistakes had been made, but they had cost thousands of lives, and those responsible should be punished.  The Syrian people had a right to peace and development, she said, pledging to join any initiative that would bring about a peaceful solution based on respect for the country’s sovereignty and the wishes of its people.

RODOLFO NIN NOVOA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Uruguay, noted that the Council had stressed for five years the need to end the suffering and bring about a political solution to the Syrian crisis.  An urgent response was needed, he said, stressing that differences must be set aside.  All parties must shoulder their responsibilities under international law.  Unfortunately, that had not yet happened.  Following the adoption of a resolution specifying a ban on the bombing of hospitals, they continued to be attacked.  He condemned the use of chemical weapons and barrel bombs, as well as the actions of terrorist groups.  A renewed commitment to ending the financing of terrorist groups and effective implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty was needed to deter their activities.  Dialogue among the parties must resume in Syria, leading to a process that would allow Syrians to determine their own future, he said.  For that to happen, strict compliance with the cessation of hostilities was critical, as was unfettered provision of humanitarian assistance.  The plight of Syria’s people was at stake, and the international community must not fail them, he stressed.

JEAN-MARC AYRAULT, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development of France, said that, given recent attacks, it was clear that the only solution to the conflict was political.  While a ceasefire must be established with the United States-Russian Federation agreement as a guide, violations were being perpetrated by the Government of Syria and its allies.  A cessation of hostilities must be implemented efficiently, with perpetrators of violations being held accountable, and it must be permanent in order to build a peaceful future.  Security Council resolution 2254 (2015) mapped the road towards a political transition and, in that regard, the United States and the Russian Federation must meet their responsibilities to implement the 9 September agreement, he said, adding that France stood ready to play a part in a new mechanism for monitoring violations and bolstering confidence-building measures.  The conflict was also a war against terrorism, he said, pointing out that, while France had played its part in combating terrorist groups, nothing would be more effective in fighting Da’esh than finding a road to peace and stability for Syria.

JOSÉ MANUEL GARCÍA MARGALLO, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Spain, said there was no possibility that partial or temporary solutions would succeed in Syria, emphasizing the need for a lasting, comprehensive solution reached through an inclusive political process.  Meanwhile, those who had committed crimes against international humanitarian law must be held to account, as must those who had perpetrated terrorist attacks.  There must be an end to flows of foreign fighters and funds supporting terrorism.

It was also critical that opposition groups differentiate themselves from groups such as ISIL and Nusrah Front.  There must be dialogue among all legitimate parties, leading towards a Syria that would be a home for all actors of good faith and that would retain its territorial integrity, he said, emphasizing that the unity and pluralism of such a Syria was critical.  Those who had fled into exile must be able to participate, and it was crucial to restore both the land and the freedom of Syria’s people.

BORIS JOHNSON, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs of the United Kingdom, described the conflict in Syria as “a barbaric proxy war” abetted by players in the Council chamber.  A genuine ceasefire and a genuine political agreement were needed.  Meanwhile, there was no doubt that the Assad regime was responsible for dropping bombs and chlorine gas on civilians, medical facilities and humanitarian workers, he said.  “The court of international opinion cannot continue to tolerate this slaughter.”

Negotiations towards an open, democratic Syria that would respect all minorities must resume, he emphasized.  There should be room for compromise so that the process could move forward, he said, adding that people within the Council chamber could make that happen.  However, there was a need for political will.  He warned that, if in a year’s time there was still massive suffering in Syria, responsibility would lie with members of the Council, but above all with the Assad regime and its sponsors.

WANG YI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of China, said that, given the thousands of lives lost and the massive destruction, the crisis in Syria could only end through a political process, with dialogue narrowing differences between the parties for a productive outcome.  A multi-pronged approach must be taken to address the chaos and avoid new turbulence, he emphasized.  The international community must play its part, with the people of Syria taking the lead role.  Council resolutions must be implemented fully, he said, reminding members that they had unanimously agreed to resolution 2254 (2015) as a guide to ending the conflict.

While ceasefires had worked in the past, China regretted to note the recent air strikes on Government forces and on a United Nations humanitarian convoy, he said.  It was important to honour cessation-of-hostilities agreements that would ease the path towards negotiations.  Calling for the early resumption of peace talks, he said external forces should not use the conflict for their own selfish ends.  He underlined the urgent need to resume the delivery of humanitarian aid, saying his country would support that and other goals, in addition to providing assistance.  Combating terrorism was also critical, and China would play a constructive role in turning swords into ploughshares in the Middle East.  “The concerns of the people of the Middle East are China’s concerns,” he said.

MANUEL DOMINGOS AUGUSTO, Secretary of State for External Relations of Angola, said the entire international community must immediately step up efforts to end the war in Syria, which had languished into its sixth year as terrorist groups strengthened their ranks amidst the continuing chaos.  Despite efforts to provide humanitarian assistance, the reality was that military gains continued to take precedence over peace talks.  Regional and international stakeholders must maintain the political will that had led to the ceasefire and redouble their efforts to bring the parties back to negotiations.

Expressing appreciation for the personal commitment demonstrated by Foreign Minister Lavrov and Secretary of State Kerry, he said he hoped that Council members, the International Syria Support Group and regional stakeholders recognized the long-term benefits of ending the conflict, and that they would exert the necessary pressure for the resumption of talks.  Calling for a more effective, united approach to combating terrorist threats, he said the collective focus should aim on reducing the flow of arms into Syria, increasing aid deliveries and making a priority of ending the conflict.  “There is a renewed sense of urgency to end armed conflicts, which are at the roots of rising radicalism and of extremist ideology in conflict zones and throughout the world,” he said.

BASHAR JA’AFARI (Syria) said the United States had disowned the agreement that it had concluded in Geneva and had been unable to get armed groups to abide by it.  Noting that the so-called coalition had been created without his country’s approval, he said it was reminiscent of coalitions that had caused havoc in Iraq, Libya and Yemen.  It had promised to target only terrorists, but now it was bombing Syrian assets and troops, and there were United States soldiers inside Syria.  In other words, a proxy war had become a real war.  The unjustified, brutal aggression against units of the Syrian army, which was defending civilians besieged by ISIL, had led to the martyrdom of 83 soldiers, with more than 100 others wounded.  The attack had lasted nearly an hour, having been preceded by drone reconnaissance and followed by an ISIL advance, he said.

The mystery of which armed groups were terrorists and which were not had not yet been resolved, and neither had the question of support for terrorism by other countries in the region, he said.  It was now clear that it had become impossible to distinguish ISIL from those fighting it.  ISIL’s advances had not been stopped by the coalition and neither had support for the group.  However, the Government of Syria continued to be demonized.  The United States Secretary of State had accused both the Syrian and Russian Governments of having bombed the humanitarian convoy, relying on the testimony of a single eyewitness, he noted, adding that accusations that the Government had used chemical weapons had also relied on such dubious eyewitness accounts.  Meanwhile, the coalition had made many mistakes, killing Syrian civilians and allowing arms to fall into the hands of terrorists.

Calling attention to “heinous” Israeli attacks on his country’s territory in the past weeks and to the treatment of terrorists in Israeli hospitals, he said Turkey had also committed aggression against Syria, violating its sovereignty and territorial integrity.  However, Syria was ready to resume dialogue without preconditions in order to reach a political solution determined by Syrians alone, without foreign interference.  Emphasizing that Syria would not become another Libya or another Iraq, he said the Government must not be excluded or marginalized.  There must be a process to begin demilitarizing and normalizing the opposition, he said, stressing that the situation in Syria must not be seen as a civil war.

MICHELE J. SISON (United States), taking the floor a second time, said that the statement by Syria’s representative was so full of untruths that it was unnecessary to comment.

GÜVEN BEGEÇ (Turkey) said much of that statement, including the accusations against his country, was not true.  Turkey was confident that a political process would soon end the suffering in Syria, and that those who had caused the country’s destruction would be held accountable.  Until then, Turkey would work for a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

For information media. Not an official record.