Exposing deep rifts between its 193 members, the General Assembly voted today to adopt a resolution demanding an immediate end to all hostilities in Syria, as speakers decried the Security Council’s continued impotence on a situation that threatened to become “the shame of our time”.
By the terms of the resolution on the situation in Syria — introduced by the representative of Canada as its main co-sponsor and later adopted by a recorded vote of 122 in favour to 13 against with 36 abstentions — the Assembly expressed outrage at the recent escalation of violence, particularly in Aleppo, and demanded an immediate and complete end to all attacks on civilians and civilian objects and to all sieges throughout the country.
Further demanding unconditional humanitarian access and action by all warring parties to protect civilians, the Assembly stressed that the primary responsibility for such protection lay with the Syrian authorities. Reaffirming its support for a credible, inclusive and non-sectarian Syrian-led political process, it urged the Security Council to further exercise its responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security by addressing the crisis.
“I invite you to put yourself in the shoes of the people of Syria,” said Canada’s representative as he introduced the text. Without action, Syria would soon become a giant graveyard, as food supplies had been exhausted and families were now eating grass and garbage to survive, he said. Today’s draft was a not a solution, but an important statement that the lives of Syrians were a priority and that “the world will not stay silent while they suffer”.
The representative of the United States, echoing that sentiment and voicing her delegation’s support for the draft, said some 32,000 people had been displaced in the last two weeks while every hospital in eastern Aleppo had been attacked. The draft was a vote to stand up and tell the Russian Federation and the Assad regime to end the carnage, she said, adding that while the text was far from perfect, it was not the time to allow the “perfect” to become the enemy of the “good and decent”.
Syria’s delegate, pointing to a wide gap between theory and practice in respecting his country’s sovereignty, said the draft had violated United Nations Charter and his delegation had voted against. Those participating in the international coalition against terrorist groups in Syria had deliberately targeted hospitals and schools and their unilateral coercive measures had, in fact, negatively affected civilians. Canada and the draft’s other co-sponsors would do better to focus on the deadly practices of terrorist groups, he said, warning that the approach of some States in dealing with the crisis was threatening the United Nations credibility.
The Russian Federation’s representative said meddling in Syria’s affairs was a modern form of colonialism. The Russian Federation had taken steps to halt the conflict, including through the establishment of the International Syria Support Group and by working tirelessly with the United States to arrive at an effective solution.
Many speakers throughout the debate cautioned against the increasing politicization of the situation, while others urged the Assembly to avoid becoming mired in a stalemate similar to the one that had plagued the Security Council.
Against the backdrop of the Security Council’s continued impotence, Saudi Arabia’s representative said, the General Assembly should take emergency measures to take over the responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security in Syria.
Speakers said the Syrian people deserved more, as they looked to the United Nations for help. “The plight of Syria’s civilians will not be relieved by rhetorical exercises of finger-pointing or blame games,” said Brazil’s delegate. Alarmed by the persistent denial of humanitarian access and reports of the use of chemical weapons, he joined other speakers in condemning human rights violations by terrorist organizations such as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) and Nusrah Front and other parties to the conflict.
The representative of the European Union was among those speakers expressing concern at the recent veto of two Security Council resolutions aiming to establish a ceasefire in Aleppo and allow humanitarian access. Condemning the confirmed use of chemical weapons by Syria and Da’esh and other crimes involving violations of international law, he said the European Union would act swiftly to impose further restrictive measures against Syria, targeting individuals and entities supporting the regime as long as the repression continued.
Expressing another view, Venezuela’s representative emphasized that Syria had been a victim of terrorism and was fighting to defend its sovereignty. The humanitarian crisis must be addressed, including the causes behind it and the geopolitical agendas of several Member States. Condemning attempts to overthrow legitimate Governments, he warned that while today it was Syria that was a victim of political manipulation, tomorrow it could be any other country.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Denmark (on behalf of the Nordic countries), Liechtenstein, Mexico, Costa Rica, France, China, Marshall Islands, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Jamaica, Jordan, Argentina, Iran, Trinidad and Tobago, Thailand, Uruguay, Chile, Indonesia, Singapore, Guatemala, Paraguay, Turkey, Egypt, South Africa, Qatar, Kazakhstan, Greece, Israel, Bangladesh and Ecuador.
In other business, the General Assembly decided to extend the work of the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) until Wednesday, 14 December.
The Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. Monday, 12 December, to pay tribute to outgoing Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and administer the Oath of Office to Secretary-General-designate António Guterres.
Introduction of Draft Resolution
MARC-ANDRÉ BLANCHARD (Canada), introducing the draft resolution “The situation in the Syrian Arab Republic”, made a number of technical revisions to the text, including one in preambular paragraph 5 and two in preambular paragraph 15 referring to the language on the “Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant” (ISIL/Da’esh). Without action, Syria would soon become a giant graveyard, as food supplies had been exhausted and families were eating grass and the little garbage left to survive. Regardless of political views, he said, “I invite you to put yourself in the shoes of the people of Syria.” The world was expecting more from the United Nations than indifference, cynicism, silence and deadlock. “This is a crisis that has become the shame of our time,” he said, stressing that civilians and hospitals should never be military targets. The people of Aleppo had a right to life. Today’s resolution was a not a solution, but a step and an important statement. The lives of the Syrian people should be a priority. “They are our priority and the world will not stay silent while they suffer,” he added. Member States must stand up and call for an end to all the violence. Today the world was saying human life mattered. The lives of Syrians mattered.
The representative of Syria, speaking on a point of order, asked the General Assembly President to request the opinion of the Secretariat’s legal counsellor on the content of preambular paragraph 17, specifically a reference to the term “the Syrian regime”. Warning that such an ill-intentioned reference was a blatant legal violation of the United Nations Charter and threatened the credibility and impartiality of the Organization, he pointed out that the draft also referred in places to the “Syrian Arab Republic”. The co-sponsors must choose between those terms, as mixing them was inappropriate.
PETER THOMSON (Fiji), President of the General Assembly, said that questions on terminology did not formally fall under the competence of the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs unless there had been a formal request for advice from the Assembly in the form of a draft resolution. The Office had declined to provide a legal opinion in response to the request by the Syrian delegation, as such a request had not yet been put in writing or circulated to Member States for review.
BASHAR JA’AFARI (Syria) said that out of respect for the President, he would not challenge the response to his delegation’s point of order. He then pointed to a wide gap between theory and practice in respecting Syria’s sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity. Article XII of the United Nations Charter prohibited the Assembly from presenting any recommendation on a topic that was still under consideration by the Security Council unless the latter body had explicitly made such a request. Hence, the delegate of Canada’s presentation of L.39 ran contrary to the Charter. The Canadian delegation, which alleged to be interested in the welfare of the Syrian people, had paradoxically voted against resolutions on the occupied Syrian Golan just a few days ago and on illegal Israeli settlements. That disconnect revealed the ill intentions of the co-sponsors of L.39, especially the Canadian delegation.
He said Member States should recall that Canada had participated in an international coalition against ISIL/Da’esh in Syria, violating Syrian sovereignty and systematically destroyed the country’s infrastructure. Canada, along with France, Denmark, United Kingdom, United States and others, had rained bombs on Syria, deliberately targeting hospitals and schools and killing hundreds of civilians, he said, warning that its actions could lead to the continued spread of terrorism. The Government of Canada and of other draft co-sponsors had imposed unilateral coercive measures that negatively affected Syrian citizens and Syria’s ability to respond to their needs. The Syrian people had not designated those delegations to speak on their behalf.
Instead, he said, Canada and the draft’s other co-sponsors would do better to focus on the practices of terrorist groups that continued to kill, detain and torture civilians, subjecting them to Wahhabi practices, forcing children to carry arms, raping women and forcing them into marriage. The approach of some States in dealing with that crisis threatened the United Nations credibility, and the draft before the Assembly reflected that approach and included distortions of Syria’s achievements in the global war against terrorism. Condemning Israel’s brazen actions, the arrogance of the United States, France and the United Kingdom and the support Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar provided to terrorist groups, he said Syria was prepared to resume a Syrian-Syrian dialogue without preconditions or external interference. Calling for a vote on the draft resolution, he said that a vote against the text would reflect Member States’ rejection of the exploitation of the United Nations and the “bargaining over the blood of Syrians”.
JOÃO PEDRO VALE DE ALMEIDA, European Union delegation, said the Assembly could not remain silent in the face of the dramatic situation in Syria, including escalating violence and suffering in Aleppo, the use of barrel bombs, cluster bombs and chemical weapons and the continued systematic, widespread and gross violations and abuses of human rights and international law by all parties. Stressing that those responsible for those violations must be held accountable through fair and independent investigations and a referral to the International Criminal Court, he called on the Security Council to take action in that respect. Calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities in Aleppo and all of Syria to be monitored by a strong and transparent mechanism, he said regional actors bore a special responsibility in that respect. All parties must provide full and unhindered countrywide access to all those in need and to end all obstruction to the delivery of humanitarian aid without delay. “There can be no military solution to the conflict,” he said, recalling that the bloc actively participated in the International Syria Support Group and supported the efforts of Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura.
He deplored that two Security Council resolutions aiming to establish a ceasefire in Aleppo and allow humanitarian access had been vetoed. He expressed support for a renewed cessation of hostilities to allow all parties to engage in negotiations for a genuine political transition, including a broad, transitional governing body. Condemning the confirmed use of chemical weapons by Syria and Da’esh as well as other crimes involving violations of international law, he said the European Union would act swiftly to impose further restrictive measures against Syria targeting individuals and entities supporting the regime as long as the repression continued. Combating terrorism could never be used as an excuse for violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law, he said, expressing support for L.39.
IB PETERSEN (Denmark), speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries, said that today’s resolution clearly expressed the “horror we all share as we witness the ongoing bloodshed in Syria”. The draft’s broad support illustrated that the international community was joined together in its call for an end to Syria’s human disaster. The situation in Aleppo was catastrophic. The Secretary-General and his Special Envoy had repeatedly warned the world about the possible destruction of Aleppo and the alarming conditions in other parts of the country. Indiscriminate attacks inflicting devastation and harm on civilians must stop. Priority must be given to protecting civilians and facilitating the delivery of humanitarian relief.
He said all violations of international humanitarian law must end and those responsible must be held accountable, including for chemical weapon attacks that had been confirmed by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons-United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism. Syria was obliged under international humanitarian law to give immediate, full and unhindered humanitarian access to all parts of the country. There could be no lasting solution for Syria without a political solution. It was critical to uphold the call for an inclusive political process in line with Security Council resolution 2254 (2015), including ensuring that women and civil society remained represented. He called on the Council to live up to its responsibility to maintain international peace and to address with necessary resolve the humanitarian disaster unfolding, particularly in Aleppo.
CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein) said the situation in Syria was the “defining crisis of our time” and nothing had illustrated the political paralysis in the Security Council more starkly than the repeated use of the veto in connection to moderate resolutions. Where the Council had been able to forge agreement, the results had been “depressing”. Aleppo had become the tragic symbol of the international community’s failure. The General Assembly’s involvement was an urgent necessity. Today’s resolution was a step in the right direction, but more action was needed in the area of accountability. Violations had been documented and reported on extensively and many of them amounted to crimes against humanity and war crimes. There had also been reports of chemical weapon use, indiscriminate shelling of civilian targets and the use of starvation as a war tactic. Since the referral of the situation to the International Criminal Court had been vetoed in the Council more than two years ago, there had been no “serious efforts” to ensure accountability and end impunity. The Assembly must therefore step in to prepare files that could be served as the basis for the criminal proceedings in a court that may in the future be able to exercise jurisdiction.
VITALY CHURKIN, (Russian Federation) said his delegation was deeply troubled by the conflict in Syria, which had entered its sixth year due to the irresponsible actions of several Powers. Meddling in Syria’s affairs was a modern form of colonialism. The Russian Federation, upon the request of the legitimate Government of Syria, aimed to alleviate the plight of civilians caught up in the conflict. The “phantom notion” of a moderate Syrian opposition had officially collapsed. The Russian Federation had taken steps to halt the conflict, including by establishing the International Syria Support Group. The situation was a matter of international peace and security and must be considered by the Security Council. “If consensus eludes us on a given document, that means that it was imbalanced and insufficiently prepared,” he said, adding that vociferous presentations in front of cameras certainly did not help. As Aleppo had transformed into a stronghold of Nusrah Front fighters tormenting civilians, the Russian Federation had been working tirelessly with the United States to arrive at an effective solution, which was the aim of their 10 December high-level meeting. Yesterday, a ceasefire had been put into place by the Russian Federation to evacuate civilians out of Aleppo.
He said L.39 had incorrectly referenced the reason of the outbreak of conflict in Syria. It contained accusatory elements against the Syrian Government. Terrorists in the region had learned to manufacture and use toxic weapons. There was no clear reference in the draft that a cessation of hostilities could not apply to terrorist groups. Significant volumes of humanitarian assistance were currently being delivered to Syria. “You are not educating the Syrian Government with unilateral actions,” he said. “Rather, you asphyxiate the civilians you claim to so dearly care about.” The Russian Federation was hardly surprised anymore by such double standards. The focus should be on assembling an international counter-terrorism mechanism because “terrorism could strike anywhere”. For the above reasons, the Russian Federation would vote against L.39.
JUAN JOSÉ GÓMEZ CAMACHO (Mexico) said L.39 sought to address the situation of widespread suffering on the ground given the impossibility of the Security Council to exercise its power to tackle the humanitarian crisis. Veto use in the Council was not a privilege, but a great responsibility. More than 300,000 people had died and more than 4 million Syrians were now living as refugees in neighbouring countries. The United Nations had an obligation to take action to address the conflict, with the main challenge being to address and eliminate restrictions of humanitarian access to besieged areas. Only a political agreement would end the conflict, he said, expressing hope that Secretary-General-elect António Guterres could continue to work on the situation in Syria.
JUAN CARLOS MENDOZA-GARCÍA (Costa Rica) said that the international community could not be immune to the seriousness of the situation. The United Nations Charter had granted the task of maintaining peace and security to the Security Council. Members must place the suffering of the Syria people above their political objectives and end the tragedy, he said, expressing concern about veto use. Lack of effective action could not influence other States to stay inactive. Parties to the conflict must renew efforts to guarantee rapid, safe and unhindered access for the delivery of humanitarian aid, as food and medication were sorely needed. He welcomed various negotiation efforts and the unilateral action announced by the Russian Federation to evacuate civilians out of Aleppo. The presence of terrorist groups in Syria had exponentially worsened the crisis, he said, stressing that all sides must fight terrorism. A ceasefire must be guided by principles of humanity and neutrality. Indicating that his delegation would vote in favour of L.39, he urged other Member States to do the same, saying that the survival and well-being of an entire generation was at stake.
FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) said the Assembly today would deliver a strong message during the horrific situation facing the people of Aleppo. “It is never too late,” he said, urging a united voice from the international community. East Aleppo was on the verge of a precipice and the Syrian regime had not hesitated to target civilians, which was a direct and fundamental breach of human and moral rights. Civilians in Aleppo had been besieged and unable to access humanitarian aid. That unparalleled situation must be addressed by the world. It was important to ensure that those who wanted to leave Aleppo were able to do so. After months of fighting, it was important to reach a solution based on the Geneva communiqué and Security Council resolution 2254 (2015). As long as there was no political solution, Syria would remain a landscape of war and polarization, he said, urging delegations to vote for L.39.
WU HAITAO (China), expressing deep concern over the conflict in Syria, said the situation could be attributed to a plethora of overlapping factors. The international community should adopt an integrated approach to give the United Nations a central coordinating role in finding a comprehensive, lasting political solution based on Syrian-owned and Syrian-led dialogue on four key tracks. Parties to the conflict must commit to such a peaceful settlement. Noting that the Security Council remained seized of the matter, he stressed that any solution must respect Syria’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence and that any unilateral attempts to politicize the issue would only exacerbate the situation. Turning to the fight against terrorism, he said the international community should focus on the adoption of uniform standards and resolutely combat all terrorist groups designated as such by the Security Council. China had played a constructive role in seeking a political settlement, with its special envoy having recently visited Syria.
MAURO VIEIRA (Brazil) said his delegation had supported the call for today’s formal plenary meeting in order to express its strong concern over the situation in Syria, which had magnified sectarian tensions, destabilized the region, helped to spread terrorism and nurtured the worst humanitarian crisis in recent times. Alarmed by the persistent denial of humanitarian access and reports of the use of chemical weapons, he condemned human rights violations by terrorist organizations such as ISIL and Nusrah Front. Concerned about the negative impacts of coercive economic measures, which could only be applied by the Security Council, he regretted that body’s continued inability to reach a decision on Syria, as illustrated by its recent rejection of three draft resolutions. That impasse underscored the urgent need to reform the Council into a more transparent, democratic body, he said, highlighting the Assembly’s important role. However, the Assembly should be careful to avoid reproducing the self-defeating logic of polarization that was currently paralysing the Council. “The plight of Syria’s civilians will not be relieved by rhetorical exercises of finger-pointing or blame games,” he said.
AMATLAIN ELIZABETH KABUA (Marshall Islands) expressed grave concern at the diplomatic failure to address the humanitarian crisis in Syria and growing security threats. As much as the United Nations had realized success in multilateral diplomacy, there had been far too many shortcomings over the years, including grave humanitarian and security crises and genocide. The United Nations had failed to act in time and leadership in acting had been blinded by politics. It was not too late to take at least some measure of action to ensure that going forward, all Syrian civilians received desperately needed humanitarian assistance. The violence must end, she stressed. Accountability for potential violations of international law was imperative. It was time to look outside of Headquarters and uphold the basic tenets of the Charter, in words and in practice.
MATTHEW RYCROFT (United Kingdom) said only three members of the Organization could bring an immediate end to the carnage in Syria: the Assad regime and its backers from the Russian Federation and Iran. “They say they can’t because they need to defeat terrorism,” he said. Yet, their actions of bombarding Aleppo and blocking humanitarian aid would not defeat terrorism, but fuel it. The Russian Federation continued to claim that it was misrepresented, but until the Russian Federation and the Assad regime implemented every word of today’s resolution and relevant Security Council resolutions, it would all be too little too late. The situation in Syria could get worse. Hundreds of men and boys who had crossed the lines had gone missing recently, taken by the Syrian regime. Mechanisms must be established to allow humanitarian assistance to reach those in need. The war will end one day and when it does, the killing would continue elsewhere. The Assad regime would only control one third of Syria. It would not control the hearts and minds of those fighting for a free Syria. Whether in a year or a decade, those responsible for all the atrocities must be brought to justice, he said.
SAMANTHA POWER (United States), recalling Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s statement that “even a slaughterhouse” was more humane than the situation in eastern Aleppo, said that several States had recently tabled a Security Council draft resolution calling for a seven-day break in hostilities. However, China and the Russian Federation had vetoed it, even as the toll on civilians continued to rise. She said about 32,000 people had been displaced in the last two weeks and every hospital in eastern Aleppo had been attacked. People were being shot in the street as they tried to escape, while others were hiding in basements. Urging Member States to vote in favour of L.39, she said it was a vote to stand up and tell the Russian Federation and the Assad regime to end the carnage. While the text was far from perfect, as no resolution drafted quickly to address an emergency could be, it was not the time to allow “perfect” to become the enemy of the “good and decent”.
JÜRG LAUBER (Switzerland) renewed his delegation’s appeal to all parties to the conflict to fully and unconditionally uphold their obligations under international law, including allowing rapid and unfettered humanitarian access. The use of starvation as a weapon of war and of chemical weapons constituted war crimes. As such, the situation in Syria should be referred to the International Criminal Court. He expressed regret that L.39 did not include a reference to the Court as the sole existing mechanism to help deliver justice to victims. He called on all parties to cease hostilities and enable swift and unfettered humanitarian access and on those with influence to bear on the parties to prompt them to fully uphold international humanitarian law. Renewing Switzerland’s offer to host resumed negotiations, he said his delegation would vote in favour of L.39.
E. COURTENAY RATTRAY (Jamaica) said the international community’s collective conscience “must jolt us from our slumber and push us to act”. The General Assembly must stand up and with “one clear and unequivocal voice declare that enough is enough”. The preservation and protection of human life had been overtaken by a narrow focus on advancing political interests, without regard for the most vulnerable. The Assembly must demonstrate that it was alarmed by the ongoing fighting that had rendered it impossible to open and sustain a humanitarian corridor. “We do not have the luxury of time, particularly as we move rapidly into the increasingly harsh, wintery conditions that will add another layer to the cloak of suffering,” he said. The Security Council must assume its responsibility to take effective actions to enable the complete spectrum of humanitarian assistance.
RAFAEL DARÍO RAMÍREZ CARREÑO (Venezuela) condemned all attacks against civilians and humanitarian aid workers. Syria had been a victim of terrorism and was fighting to defend its sovereignty. The humanitarian crisis must be addressed, including the causes behind it and the geopolitical agendas of several Member States. Condemning attempts to overthrow legitimate Governments, he said such actions had violated the stability of the region. Member States could not claim to be leaders of a humanitarian cause and yet take action to destabilize Syria and the region. Foreign intervention in the region had triggered the emergence of ISIL and Nusrah Front. The lack of will to find a real political solution was shameful, he said, noting that some Member States that had tabled L.39 had also used extreme groups to undermine the Syrian Government, kill, torture and erode the social fabric of a sovereign country. Welcoming a debate in the General Assembly on the origins of the wars in Syria and Iraq and the situation in Palestine, he said such discussions would expose those who were promoting humanitarian efforts while pushing their own agendas. A political solution was the only way to end the suffering of Syrians. Today, Syria was a victim of political manipulation, but tomorrow, it could be any other country. L.39 was a poor example of a way to fix the crisis.
SIMA BAHOUS (Jordan), expressing support for L.39, said the draft would contribute to halting the bloodshed and human rights violations. It was important to respect the political sovereignty of the Syrian people and translate peace into practical and tangible results on the ground. A cessation of hostilities would guarantee the delivery of supplies to besieged areas, particularly in Aleppo. A political solution was the only way to achieve results. Syrian leadership must be a part of that the solution, which must be in line with the Geneva communiqué and relevant Security Council resolutions. She called on the Security Council to urge all parties to implement their obligations.
MARTÍN GARCIA MORITÁN (Argentina), underlining a deep concern about the worsening crisis, said the most democratic body of the Organization could no longer remain idle. Disturbed that the Council had yet to agree on measures to reach a ceasefire, he said it was not a time for political speculation, but a time for acting firmly on the responsibility that fell on the five permanent Council members. The Assembly must aim at guaranteeing unhindered access to civilians in need of aid, particularly in Aleppo. Syria required an unconditional ceasefire rather than temporary truces. Argentina condemned terrorism in all its forms, indiscriminate attacks against civilians, hospitals and schools and the use of chemical weapons. He urged the Syrian Government and all other parties to the conflict to respect international law. Condemning terrorist acts committed by Nusrah Front and others, he said any action against those groups must also abide by international law.
Action on Draft Resolution
The representative of Iran, speaking in explanation of position, said L.39 was one-sided and divorced from the reality on the ground. While the situation was alarming and the humanitarian situation deteriorating, Iran agreed that the international community should do everything in its power to address it. Yet, the draft was totally silent on its root causes, which were terrorism and violent extremism. Those issues should be addressed first, he said, stressing that militants that were supported by some foreign countries were responsible for the ongoing humanitarian disaster. He asked the draft’s co-sponsors, and specifically the United Kingdom, what they would do if part of their territories had been occupied by similar terrorist groups. Noting that the draft was also silent on the need for an exclusively Syrian-led and Syrian-owned political dialogue without foreign interference, he said Iran would vote against it.
The representative of Saudi Arabia, welcoming Canada’s efforts in preparing the draft, expressed regret that the text did not “rise to the level of the suffering of the Syrian people”. In addition, the text had failed to distinguish between the attackers and the attacked and had not properly highlighted the Syrian regime’s responsibilities. In that context, and against the backdrop of the Security Council’s continued impotence, the General Assembly should take emergency measures to take over the responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security in Syria. Despite its reservations over those matters, he said his delegation would vote in favour of L.39.
The representative of Trinidad and Tobago, recalling her delegation’s principled stance on abstaining from voting on country-specific resolutions, expressed concern over certain references in L.39 to the Syrian authorities. While preferring more balanced language, she said, in light of the international community’s responsibility to protect populations from war crimes and crimes against humanity, the gravity of the situation warranted a departure from Trinidad and Tobago’s usual practice of abstaining. Today, it would vote in favour of the text.
The representative of the Russian Federation, responding to the statement that had been made by the representative of the United States, said that delegation had recently blocked a meeting of experts on Syria, preferring instead to engage in a propagandistic show in the Security Council. The United States should explain to the international community what was occurring under its leadership around Mosul, he said, adding that it should have drawn important lessons from its experiences in Iraq, Libya and other places.
By a recorded vote of 122 in favour to 13 against with 36 abstentions, the Assembly adopted L.39.
The representative of Syria, in explanation of position, expressed gratitude to States that had stood independently and refused to be a toy in the hands of other Powers. Those Member States had demonstrated their respect for the Charter by voting against an egregiously unfair draft that had been politicized and non-censual. All desperate attempts to distort facts would not dissuade the Syrian Government from continuing to fight terrorism. The Syrian people would not be betrayed by their Government, he stressed, pledging the restoration of security and stability in all parts of the country. To the sponsors of terrorism in Aleppo, he said “your bloody game is coming to an end”.
The representative of Thailand said her delegation had voted for the draft to show solidarity with Syrian people. Regardless of one’s alignment to any party, all sides had an obligation to abide by international law and end attacks on civilians. There was no military solution to the crisis and the international community must exhaust all channels to find a political one.
The representative of Uruguay said he supported L.39 with the understanding that a clear and concise text was needed to call for a ceasefire. It was important to move forward to find a political solution. He particularly supported areas in the resolution that called for an end to civilian suffering. However, he did not support preambular paragraphs 5 through 20 for their politicization of the conflict and crisis.
The representative of Argentina, speaking also for Brazil, supported the draft because it called for an end to hostilities and urged the delivery of humanitarian aid to besieged areas. Those responsible for war crimes must be held accountable, he said, expressing hope that the draft would help to overcome the polarization in the Security Council. A Syria-led political process was the only path to peace. He said a few paragraphs of the draft could be seen as selective, including pointing at the Syrian Government as the sole party responsible for the crisis. That was neither accurate nor appropriate, given the many actors and the humanitarian nature of the conflict.
The representative of China, expressing his delegation’s strong commitment to the principles of the United Nations Charter, said efforts by all parties should be conducive to the resumption of the four negotiating tracks. Warning against the politicization of the situation, he said countries should stop the practice of criticizing the legitimate positions of other countries and instead make efforts to ease tensions.
The representative of Chile said his delegation had voted in favour of L.39. However, Chile did not agree with several selective elements, including references to the conflict’s origin and the terms that had been chosen to refer to some of the parties to the conflict. Stressing that no lasting peace could be achieved without justice, peace and reconciliation, he emphasized a need to end the violence and called for a categorical end to the provision of arms to all parties to the conflict.
The representative of Indonesia said his delegation had voted in favour of the draft, which had called on all parties to the conflict to resolve political issues peacefully without resorting to violence. In that regard, he urged all parties to desist from targeting civilians. While Indonesia had hoped for a more balanced and concise text, it had nevertheless voted in favour of it.
The representative of Singapore said that, given the failure of the Security Council to resolve the longstanding crisis, today’s meeting established an important benchmark because “when the Security Council is paralysed, the General Assembly must catalyse”, he said. The Assembly could not solve pressing problems by simply voting on resolutions, but it should build consensus, not accentuate divisions. The draft was not perfect, but the international community’s priority was to end hostilities and ensure the delivery of humanitarian assistance. Although the draft would not change the situation on the ground, it would give new impetus to all parties to engage in dialogue and reach a political solution. The draft’s adoption did not absolve the Security Council of its responsibility to address threats to international peace and security, he said, calling on that body’s permanent members to show leadership and urging them to find common ground and work together for the sake of the international community.
The representative of Guatemala said that his delegation had voted in favour of L.39 because it was dismayed at the suffering of Syrians. Given the need to help those victims and the inability of the Security Council to make a decision and allow for the opening of humanitarian corridors, his delegation had decided to support the resolution. Deploring indiscriminate attacks against the Syrian population, especially women and children, he expressed hope that the draft would reverberate strongly.
The representative of Paraguay said his delegation had voted in favour of L.39 because an urgent response was needed. All parties to the conflict needed to end hostilities and protect civilians. The resolution safeguarded Syria’s independence and territorial sovereignty while prioritizing the dire humanitarian situation. Despite that, it was impossible for all expectations to be entirely fulfilled and some references in the draft had diluted its main purpose. Paraguay had voted in favour of L.39, but had some reservations about the preambular paragraph 5 and references in preambular paragraphs that prejudged the Government of Syria.
The representative of Turkey expressed support for all efforts to end to the Syrian people’s suffering and reach a political solution, but had several concerns about L.39. The Syrian regime, instead of meeting the legitimate aspirations of its people, had employed all instruments of violence to prolong its grip on power. The Syrian people had been punished brutally, including by chemical weapons, torture, starvation and sieges. “These are facts,” he said, emphasizing that L.39, despite its best intentions, fell short of resolutely pointing the finger at the perpetrators of those atrocities. It did not say loud and clear that the regime had disregarded key international principles and failed to implement relevant Security Council resolutions. “We are beyond a stage where we can limit ourselves to mere expressions of concern or condemnations,” he added, urging the streamlining of all efforts to increase pressure on the regime and its supporters and to “make the consequences of their actions no longer affordable”. With a stalemate in the Security Council, an emergency special session was more justified than ever before.
The representative of Egypt said the draft contained nothing new and failed to adequately describe the causes of the Syrian crisis. While his delegation had voted for L.39, he called for an immediate resumption of the political process. “Every time we are led to believe that the suffering of the Syrian people is coming to an end, it turns out to just be an alarm bell,” he added. There was no victory to be had in Syria, whose territory had been violated by all sides. Egypt would continue to engage in diplomatic efforts to attempt to alleviate the Syrian people’s suffering and all parties should place the well-being of the Syrian people above all else. Condemning all terrorist groups operating in Syria, including the Nusrah Front, he said the massive challenges facing the country could only be addressed with a comprehensive political solution, in line with Security Council 2254 (2015)and the Geneva communiqué. The next Secretary-General must not yield to pressure and should state quite clearly who was preventing progress.
The representative of South Africa said a political path must be supported by international efforts for a Syrian-led negotiation aimed at establishing a society in which minorities were protected. His delegation had abstained from the vote, he said, expressing concern that some Member States would use L.39 to affect a regime change at a time when the Syrian people looked to the United Nations to save them. He rejected all actions that countered the United Nations Charter. If Syria continued to be flooded with weapons by external sources, people would continue to suffer. He expressed concern at the double standards of some Member States who had been silent on civilian casualties in other countries. “We cannot discriminate against other children,” he said, expressing concern at the lack of Council action to curb the killing in Iraq, Libya and Yemen.
The representative of Qatar said the Syrian regime was continuing its “bloodthirsty policies”, adding that because the situation was dangerous and extraordinary, it required immediate action. The Security Council must hold a special session and assume its responsibility with respect to international peace and security. Delegates had made great efforts to strengthen the resolution to ensure it was tailored to the extent of the current crisis, she said, pointing out that the General Assembly must take measures to compensate for the inaction of the Security Council. She had voted in favour of the resolution, she said, with hopes that it would serve as the beginning of a new phase in which the international community could come up with a solution to the crisis. The Syrian regime’s actions constituted war crimes and it must be held responsible for its actions, she stressed.
The representative of Costa Rica said it had voted in favour of the resolution because he was convinced that the Security Council had been unable to take steps to address the crisis. Therefore, the General Assembly must take action. The operative parts of the resolution, if implemented, would help with the situation on the ground. However, he said that he had not co-sponsored the resolution because it should have a greater focus on humanitarian aspects.
The representative of Kazakhstan welcomed the Canadian initiative to resolve the tragic humanitarian crisis in Syria, commending, in particular, the humanitarian dimension of the resolution, such as the protection of civilians and communities, the complete cessation of hostilities and attacks and the provision of unconditional and unhindered humanitarian access throughout Syrian territory. However, he had abstained from voting because it was not only the official Syrian authorities who were responsible for the situation, as stated in the resolution. Such a stance could take away from the positive spirit of the document and could exacerbate the confrontation between the major actors of the conflict. It was important to strengthen cooperation towards a united and inclusive political solution.
The representative of Greece, associating himself with the European Union, said there could be no military solution to the Syrian conflict and deplored the humanitarian disaster in Aleppo. However, preambular paragraph five went beyond the scope of the humanitarian perspective, he said, requesting to be disassociated from it.
The representative of Israel, condemning all attacks against civilians by the Syrian regime and terrorists alike, said violence inflicted by the Assad regime, using conventional and non-conventional weapons, had plunged the country into the worst crisis in the Middle East. Pointing out that the Syrian Government was responsible for four chemical weapon attacks against its people, he said he had a hard time believing that in 2016, a Government could use such weapons against its people. Urgent action was needed in Aleppo. Referring to the “absurd” attempt made by the Syrian delegate, he said that instead of offering ways to improve the situation, he chose to do the only thing he knows how to do: baselessly blame other countries. The allegations were detached from reality.
The representative of Bangladesh said he remained committed to the sovereignty and unity of Syria. There was a need to put humanity first and ensure the safe, voluntary evacuation of civilians from Aleppo. Recognizing the importance for the international community to have a measured, restrained and cautious approach to the situation, he had abstained from the vote, he said.
The representative of Ecuador said that the situation in Syria was extremely complex, adding that it was unfortunate the resolution was trying to impose a politicized narrative by referring to events that had not yet been proven or which could be subjectively interpreted. The territorial and sovereign integrity of Syria should be respected. Furthermore, the focus on regime change in Syria, which had been politicized, had led to instability in the country. She also voiced concern about terrorist groups in the country and condemned the military support provided to some of those groups. In order to be effective, the resolution aimed at humanitarian purposes must be based on objective principles rather than political factors. Therefore, she had abstained from voting on it, she said.