An hour before it was due to go into effect, the Security Council today endorsed the cessation of hostilities agreement aimed at ending five years of bloodshed in Syria.
The 15-member Council unanimously adopted resolution 2268 (2016), endorsing the deal announced in the Joint Statement by the United States and the Russian Federation, Co-chairs of the International Syria Support Group. The resolution demanded that all parties to the agreement live up to its terms, and urged all Member States to use their influence to ensure that parties to the conflict fulfil their commitments and create the conditions for a durable and lasting ceasefire.
Briefing the Council before the vote, Staffan de Mistura, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Syria, said the cessation of hostilities was the result of lengthy and detailed discussions and the outcome of intense negotiations at the highest level. Speaking via videoconference from Geneva, he added that it was a “major achievement”.
Much work for the implementation of the agreement lay ahead, he continued, stressing that Saturday would be a critical day and warning that there would be no shortage of attempts to undermine the process under way. The international community must work fast to address any incidents that may arise, while all parties must demonstrate restraint. He announced that, provided the cessation of hostilities held and humanitarian access was kept open, he intended to reconvene formal Syria peace talks in Geneva on Monday, 7 March.
Speaking after the vote, the representative of the United States said the cessation of hostilities agreement offered a genuine opportunity to pause the fighting in one of the most brutal conflicts the world had seen in a generation. It offered practical, concrete steps to reduce the violence and create the space for a long-overdue political transition. Still, she pointed out, the widespread scepticism over whether the cessation of hostilities would be respected from the outset or hold over the long-term. “That scepticism is more than reasonable,” she said. “Let us be real,” she continued, adding: “It is going to be extremely challenging, especially at the outset, to make this work.” Nevertheless, the agreement was the best chance to stop the violence.
The Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation described the resolution as another collective step towards a political solution in Syria. “The document must be strictly implemented without any precondition,” he emphasized, calling upon all to monitor its implementation closely. As confirmed by the Joint Statement, the cessation of hostilities would not apply to terrorist organizations such as Jabhat al-Nusrah and Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), he stressed. The fight against those groups would continue, he said, adding that, in order to make progress, it would be essential to shut down their supply lines completely. He went on to reaffirm his country’s strong commitment to Syria’s sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity.
Syria’s representative said that, since the start of the crisis, his country’s Government had spared no effort to reach a political settlement. To ensure the deal’s implementation, Syria would continue to coordinate with the Russian side to identify areas and armed groups to be included in the agreement. He underlined the need to control borders, stop the support flowing from some countries to armed groups and prevent those groups from strengthening their capacities or changing their locations.
Also speaking today were representatives of Egypt, France, China, United Kingdom, Spain, Japan, Malaysia, Senegal, Ukraine, New Zealand, Angola, Uruguay and Venezuela.
The meeting began at 3:50 p.m. and ended at 5:41 p.m.
STAFFAN DE MISTURA, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria, briefed the Council via video conference from Geneva, saying the international community had come a long way and much had transpired since his last briefing, when the Syria peace talks had been suspended. He said that, in the last 10 days, aid had been delivered to almost 110,000 people and 200 trucks had reached six different locations within Syria. The first World Food Programme (WFP) test air drop had been an attempt to reach an area in which nearly 230,000 people were held under siege by Da’esh. The Council was well aware of the grave humanitarian situation in Syria, he said, emphasizing the desperation of civilians, especially women, children and sick people held in besieged communities by the Government, armed groups and Da’esh.
He went on to note that a growing number of Syrians were embarking on an often-fatal journey across the Mediterranean Sea to reach safety in Europe and elsewhere. Those conditions had led to the establishment of the International Syria Support Group Task Force on Humanitarian Access which had met three times since 12 February. The past week had featured the first air drop of humanitarian assistance in a challenging environment, he said, adding that there was an increased flow of assistance. Although it was not enough, it represented an important increase in the flow of aid. However, Government approval procedures still needed simplification, he said, adding that he had personally addressed that issue with the Government of Syria during his recent visit to Damascus.
Regarding the cessation of hostilities, he said that he had met with the Russian and United States Co-chairs of the International Syria Support Group Cease Fire Task Force less than three hours ago. They had noted that the principal parties to the conflict had announced their willingness to participate in the cessation of hostilities, due to take effect in less than an hour. The agreement required the parties to participate in all United Nations-facilitated political negotiations, cease attacks with any weapons, refrain from acquiring or seeking to obtain new territory, allow humanitarian access, and to use only proportionate force. The cessation of hostilities was the result of lengthy and detailed discussions and the outcome of intense negotiations at the highest level, he said, describing the accord, in itself, as a “major achievement”.
What was needed now was for the parties to abide by the terms of the agreement, he stressed. Much work for its implementation lay ahead and all stakeholders must remain “steadfast in their own resolve”. Underlining that Saturday would be critical for the cessation of hostilities, he cautioned that there would be no shortage of attempts to undermine the process under way. The international community must work fast to address any incidents that may arise, and all parties must demonstrate restraint. He said that, provided the cessation of hostilities held and humanitarian access was kept open, he intended to reconvene the peace talks on Monday, 7 March.
SAMANTHA POWER (United States) said the Council had gathered at a critical moment, and the cessation of hostilities agreement offered a genuine opportunity to pause the fighting in one of the most brutal conflicts the world had seen in a generation. The cessation of hostilities offered practical, concrete steps to reduce the violence and create space for a long-overdue political transition. However, there was some scepticism regarding whether the cessation of hostilities would be respected from the outset or hold over the long-term, she noted. “That scepticism is more than reasonable,” she said, emphasizing, nevertheless, that the agreement was the best chance to reduce the violence. Today, the only measure that mattered was not the words on the paper; it was whether the commitments were put into practice and led to real change on the ground. For that to happen, the parties to the conflict must abide by the terms of the agreement, she emphasized, expressing deep concern over the continued bombardment of towns by the Syrian and Russian Governments that had caused massive displacement and hundreds of deaths.
Countries with influence on the parties must press them to live up to their commitments, she stressed, adding that, when violations of the agreement occurred, a sober, coordinated response was critical. “Let us be real,” she said, “it is going to be extremely challenging, especially at the outset, to make this work.” Today represented a major opportunity, and if the cessation of hostilities held, it would be a major step towards the political solution that the international community had talked about so much. The cessation of hostilities would help foster conditions through which the parties could reconvene for peace talks. The agreement represented the most tangible opportunity in a long time to end the suffering of the Syrian people and create the needed space for a political transition. “So much relies on what we do,” she said. “Let us not squander this chance.”
GENNADY GATILOV, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, welcoming the resolution’s adoption, described the action as another collective step taken to reach a political solution in Syria. “The document must be strictly implemented without any precondition,” he emphasized, calling upon all to monitor its implementation closely. As confirmed by the Joint Statement, the cessation would not apply to terrorist organizations, such as Jabhat al-Nusrah and ISIS, he stressed. Noting that the fight against those groups would continue, he said that in order to make progress, it was essential to shut down their supply lines completely. He reaffirmed his country’s strong commitment to Syria’s sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity.
The Joint Statement was a turning point towards ending the long-standing conflict in that country, he said. The peace process would be complex and difficult, yet the intra-Syrian negotiations must resume in order to move forward. Expressing hope that the United Nations would continue its impartial role, he said that the international community must fully implement the resolution 2254 (2015). The Russian Federation called upon all to act in a responsible way, he said, adding that the international community could not lose such an historic opportunity. In conclusion, he said that his country had always supported a political solution in Syria, and the resolution of the challenges there could be achieved through collective efforts.
AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULLATTA (Egypt) stressed the need for all conflict parties, Syrian and non-Syrian, to cease hostilities at the time specified by the resolution. Political settlement within the framework of resolution 2254 (2015) and International Syria Support Group communiqués was the only way to attain freedom and democracy. He called on the Special Envoy to resume talks with the Syrian Government and opposition groups in Geneva as soon as possible and to finalize arrangements for resumed formal negotiations under United Nations auspices, between the Government and the broadest possible spectrum of the Syrian opposition, which must include Arab and Kurdish groups engaged in fighting terrorism, especially against Da’esh and Al-Nusrah Front, in northern Syria.
FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France), welcoming the unanimous adoption of the resolution, noted that it triggered hope for an immediate improvement of the crisis. Since the first meeting in Vienna, his country had strongly supported the use of diplomatic means to make progress. The cessation of hostilities would contribute to the de-escalation of the conflict, he said, emphasizing the key role played by Council members. Stressing the need for the international community to closely monitor the cessation agreement, he called upon all relevant parties to allow humanitarian agencies rapid, safe and unhindered access throughout Syria in order to reach all people in need.
LIU JIEYI (China), welcoming the International Syria Support Group’s statement, noted that a political solution was the only way out of that conflict. To make progress, the international community must push for the implementation of all relevant statements and resolutions, including resolution 2254 (2015), he said. On the humanitarian access, he underlined the need for the urgent delivery of aid to the Syrian people in need. In that regard, he called upon the international community to comply with their obligations under international law.
MATTHEW RYCROFT (United Kingdom) said that, if fully implemented, the cessation of hostilities agreement could be the most significant step forward in the last five years of the crisis in Syria. It was vital that the world seize the impetus laid out in the agreement. However, additional confidence-building measures were still required of the regime to demonstrate its commitment to the accord. There must be an end to the obstruction of medical aid destined for besieged areas, he said, declaring: “This practice is completely unacceptable.” Noting that there was so much more to be done, he said the Russian Federation must use its unique influence to ensure that parties abided by the agreement. The international community must not forget that 1,380 people had been killed and many more injured by Russian and regime air strikes since the Russian Federation’s entry into the conflict. It was crucial that all members of the international community work in good faith to implement today’s resolution, alongside the agreement reached in Munich, to ensure that this would be the year in which the bloodshed in Syria would come to an end.
ROMÁN OYARZUN MARCHESI (Spain) said that, in less than 10 minutes, the world would take a decisive step towards ending the crisis in Syria. At the present “most crucial stage”, Spain called upon all parties to comply fully with today’s resolution, he said, emphasizing that transparency and rigour would be crucial in the days to come. After five years of fighting, Syria represented an extraordinarily complicated theatre of war in which the slightest provocation could have enormous results, he warned, noting that the conflict had created one of the largest modern humanitarian crises. The only way to break the cycle of violence was to put resolution 2254 (2015) into force, he said, pointing out that the text stressed the importance of parties to the conflict adopting confidence-building measures, including allowing humanitarian access and releasing prisoners. The international community was prepared for a new era of reconciliation in Syria, he added.
MOTOHIDE YOSHIKAWA (Japan), fully endorsing the resolution, noted that its adoption and implementation should lead to the cessation of hostilities in Syria. The cooperation among all partners would strengthen the implementation of all relevant resolutions. Since the crisis had begun, millions of Syrians had had to flee their country to seek safe havens. In that regard, the start and maintenance of the cessation of hostilities needed to be monitored closely, he stressed.
RAMLAN BIN IBRAHIM (Malaysia) said the resolution sought an end to the bloody conflict in Syria. Welcoming the announcement of the cessation of hostilities by the International Syria Support Group, he noted that it provided an opportunity to bring a solution to the long-standing conflict. To that end, the international community needed to make sure that the agreement did not fail. Concluding, he called on all relevant parties to allow humanitarian agencies safe and unhindered access throughout Syria in order to reach all people in need.
FODÉ SECK (Senegal) called the resolution a “light of hope for the people of Syria who no longer know which way to turn”. It was his hope that the cessation of hostilities would be effective and lead to other confidence-building measures. He expressed concern, however, that the agreement would not be enough, as it would not apply to the terrorist groups operating in the country. Noting the recent positive steps forward with regard to the delivery of humanitarian aid, he called on the parties concerned to fully respect the cessation of hostilities and do so scrupulously in order to build other measures of confidence with the support of the international community. Senegal eagerly awaited specific proposals on the monitoring mechanism that the Secretary-General would submit to the Security Council.
VOLODYMYR YELCHENKO (Ukraine) welcomed the resolution as a means to break the dangerous pattern of violence in Syria and bring the crisis to an end. His delegation, however, disagreed with the portion of the text that recognized the efforts of the Russian Federation to aid in the agreement on the cessation of hostilities. The Russian Federation was trying to position itself as a mediator in the Syria settlement process, although, in truth, it was stirring up violence by supplying military personnel and funnelling weapons into the region. He noted that, in the last hour, he had received word that a Russian airstrike had hit a hospital in Aleppo province. Despite its reservations, his delegation had voted in favour of the resolution given the gravity of the violence in Syria, he said.
GERARD VAN BOHEMEN (New Zealand) welcomed the cessation of hostilities agreement as an important step towards a ceasefire. While the fight against Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), Al-Nusrah Front and other terrorist groups must continue, it left the door open to striking the wrong targets, deliberately or inadvertently, which in turn, could unravel the agreement. “All those who subscribe to this agreement must act with extra caution to prevent such an outcome,” he said, supporting the Council’s message sent today that Syrian parties must participate in negotiations on a political transition. Parties should not insist on preconditions designed to scuttle such talks before they had begun, he stressed, which meant committing to ending hostilities, allowing unimpeded aid and releasing detainees. No side would receive everything it wanted, he said, adding that a political solution required compromise.
ISMAEL ABRAÃO GASPAR MARTINS (Angola), expressing support for the unanimous adoption of the resolution, noted that the text was a step towards finding a peaceful solution to the Syrian conflict. Given the worsening refugee crisis, the ceasefire initiative was very timely, he stressed, expressing hope that intra-Syrian talks would resume. Reiterating support for the Special Envoy for his valuable work, he called upon all parties to comply with their obligations under international law.
ELBIO ROSSELLI (Uruguay) said his delegation strongly supported the joint statement made by the United States and the Russian Federation, which had demanded the cessation of hostilities and the provision of immediate access to besieged areas in Syria for humanitarian aid organizations. The resolution was an important step forward towards achieving a political solution in Syria and a signal of hope for the Syrian people.
RAFAEL DARÍO RAMÍREZ CARREÑO (Venezuela) said the text would contribute to bringing about a lasting solution to the conflict. Endorsing the joint United States-Russian Federation statement, he called for its strict compliance. Describing upcoming peace talks as an opportunity to make progress, he stressed that all parties must be included. Excluding Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from the talks would lead to the failure of the process, he said. On the financing of terrorist groups, he noted that the agreement could not be applied to terrorist organizations, such as ISIL/Da’esh. Concluding, he reaffirmed his country’s strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Syria.
BASHAR JA’AFARI (Syria) said that, since the start of the crisis, his Government had spared no effort to reach a political settlement. It had accepted the cessation of hostilities on the basis of continued military counterterrorism efforts against ISIL, Al-Nusrah Front and other terrorist groups affiliated with Al-Qaida, and in line with the Russian-American Joint Declaration, which it considered an important step towards a political settlement.
To ensure the implementation of the cessation of hostilities, Syria continued to coordinate with the “Russian side” to identify areas and armed groups to be included in the agreement, he said. He also stressed the need to control borders, stop country support to armed groups and prevent those groups from strengthening their capacities or changing their locations. “Syria upholds the right of its armed forces to respond to any breach committed by those terrorist groups against Syrian citizens or against the Syrian armed forces,” he said.
Noting that Syria had participated in the recent Geneva talks with good intentions and “complete earnestness” to reach a political settlement, he reiterated that it was ready to participate in any sincere effort to reach a political settlement in which Syrians alone decided their future through a Syrian-led dialogue without foreign interference. “The ball, again, is in the court of other parties” that had yet to prove their good intentions and commitment to facilitate a settlement, without preconditions or interference in domestic affairs, he said. With that, he invited Syrians to promote national reconciliation, mobilize efforts to defeat terrorism and build a unified territory.
The full text of resolution 2268 (2016) reads as follows:
“The Security Council,
“Recalling its resolutions 2042 (2012), 2043 (2012), 2118 (2013), 2139 (2014), 2165 (2014), 2170 (2014), 2175 (2014), 2178 (2014), 2191 (2014), 2199 (2015), 2235 (2015), 2249 (2015), 2253 (2015), 2254 (2015) and 2258 (2015), and Presidential Statements of 3 August 2011 (S/PRST/2011/16), 21 March 2012 (S/PRST/2012/6), 5 April 2012 (S/PRST/2012/10), 2 October 2013 (S/PRST/2013/15), 24 April 2015 (S/PRST/2015/10) and 17 August 2015 (S/PRST/2015/15),
“Reaffirming its strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic, and to the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations,
“Recognizing the efforts of the Secretary-General in implementing resolution 2254 (2015) and noting, through his good offices and by his Special Envoy for Syria, the launch of the formal negotiations on a political transition process, consistent with paragraph 2 of resolution 2254 (2015), on 29 January 2016,
“Commending the commitment of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) to ensure a Syrian-led and Syrian-owned political transition based on the Geneva communiqué of 30 June 2012 in its entirety and to immediately facilitate the full implementation of resolution 2254 (2015), and emphasizing the urgency for all parties in Syria to work diligently and constructively towards this goal,
“Welcoming the ISSG statement of 11 February 2016, including the establishment of an ISSG humanitarian task force and an ISSG ceasefire task force,
“1. Endorses in full the Joint Statement of the United States and the Russian Federation, as Co-Chairs of the ISSG, on Cessation of Hostilities in Syria of 22 February 2016 and the Terms for the Cessation of Hostilities in Syria (hereafter referred to as ‘the Annex’) attached to the Statement, and demands the cessation of hostilities to begin at 00:00 (Damascus time) on 27 February 2016;
“2. Demands the full and immediate implementation of resolution 2254 (2015) to facilitate a Syrian-led and Syrian-owned political transition, in accordance with the Geneva communiqué as set forth in the ISSG Statements, in order to end the conflict in Syria, and stresses again that the Syrian people will decide the future of Syria;
“3. Demands that all parties to whom the cessation of hostilities applies as set forth in the Annex (hereafter referred to as the “parties to the cessation of hostilities”) fulfil their commitments laid out in the Annex, and urges all Member States, especially ISSG members, to use their influence with the parties to the cessation of hostilities to ensure fulfilment of those commitments and to support efforts to create conditions for a durable and lasting ceasefire; “4. Recognizes the efforts of the Russian Federation and the United States to reach understanding on the Terms of the Cessation of Hostilities, and acknowledges and welcomes that the forces of the Syrian Government and those supporting it, as communicated to the Russian Federation, and the Syrian armed opposition groups, as communicated to the Russian Federation or the United States, have accepted and committed to abide by the Terms of the Cessation of Hostilities, and as such are now parties to it;
“5. Reiterates its call on the parties to immediately allow humanitarian agencies rapid, safe and unhindered access throughout Syria by most direct routes, allow immediate, humanitarian assistance to reach all people in need, in particular in all besieged and hard-to-reach areas, and immediately comply with their obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law and international human rights law as applicable;
“6. Expresses support for the ISSG initiative, coordinated through the ISSG humanitarian working group, to accelerate the urgent delivery of humanitarian aid, with the view towards the full, sustained, and unimpeded access throughout the country, including to Deir ez Zor, Foah, Kafraya, Az-Zabadani, Madaya/Bqin, Darayya, Madamiyet Elsham, Duma, East Harasta, Arbin, Zamalka, Kafr Batna, Ein Terma, Hammuria, Jisrein, Saqba, Zabadin, Yarmuk, eastern and western rural Aleppo, Azaz, Afrin, At Tall, Rastan, Talbiseh, Al Houle, Tier Malah/Al Gantho/Der Kabira, Al Waer, Yalda, Babila and Beit Saham;
“7. Reaffirms its support for a Syrian-led political process facilitated by the United Nations, requests the Secretary-General, through his good offices and the efforts of his Special Envoy for Syria, to resume the formal negotiations between the representatives of the Syrian government and the opposition, under the auspices of the United Nations, as soon as possible, and urges the representatives of the Syrian Government and the Syrian opposition to engage in good faith in these negotiations;
“8. Welcomes the cessation of hostilities as a step towards a lasting ceasefire and reaffirms the close linkage between a ceasefire and a parallel political process, pursuant to the 2012 Geneva communiqué, and that both initiatives should move ahead expeditiously as expressed in resolution 2254 (2015);
“9. Calls on all states to use their influence with the Government of Syria and the Syrian opposition to advance the peace process, confidence-building measures, including the early release of any arbitrarily detained persons, particularly women and children, and implementation of the cessation of hostilities;
“10. Requests the Secretary-General to report to the Council on the implementation of this resolution, including by drawing on information provided by the ISSG ceasefire taskforce, and on resolution 2254 (2015), within 15 days of the adoption of this resolution and every 30 days thereafter;
“11. Decides to remain actively seized of the matter.”