Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks on the situation in Syria to the Security Council, in New York on 18 December 2015:
The Syrian conflict began with peaceful popular demands for political change, but it soon became defined by internal, regional and international divisions, including in this very Council. Almost five years later, we see a country in ruins, millions of people scattered across the world, and a whirlwind of radicalism and sectarianism that challenges regional and global security.
I therefore welcome the critical initiative of the International Syria Support Group. In particular, I recognize the statesmanship of United States Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
And I also welcome the resolution the Security Council will adopt at this meeting. As the first resolution to focus on the political path to resolving the crisis, this marks a very important step on which we must build. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the distinguished ministers who have taken such great leadership and participated in this meeting.
At the two recent meetings in Vienna, the International Syria Support Group made two major requests of the United Nations. First, to convene, in January, formal negotiations between the Syrian Government and opposition representatives focused on a Syrian-led transition process. Second, and in parallel, to determine the requirements and modalities of a nationwide ceasefire. The United Nations stands ready to undertake these important tasks. We welcome the meeting convened in Riyadh that brought together a broad spectrum of the Syrian opposition.
As the Government and opposition delegations are getting ready, the United Nations stands ready to relaunch intra-Syrian talks mediated by my Special Envoy, Staffan de Mistura. As set out in the Geneva Communiqué, the parties must ensure the full and effective participation of women in these talks.
This morning, at a meeting, I urged the International Syria Support Group to apply the necessary pressure on the Syrian parties to immediately implement the following confidence-building measures:
First, stop the use of indiscriminate weapons against civilians, including barrel bombs, which have continued despite the Government’s pledge to refrain from such assaults. Second, allow unconditional and unimpeded access for aid convoys. Tens of thousands of people in besieged areas have been forced to live on grass and weeds. This is outrageous. Third, halt attacks on medical and educational facilities, and lift all restrictions on medical and surgical supplies from humanitarian convoys. Fourth, release all detainees. Reports indicate that prisoners face torture and atrocious conditions.
Nearly two years have passed since the Geneva II conference. The people of Syria have suffered enough. I call for you to show vision and leadership in overcoming your differences. A fleeting opportunity for peace has emerged; your duty is to seize it.