The Security Council today unanimously adopted a resolution supporting efforts by the Russian Federation and Turkey to end nearly six years of bloodshed in Syria and jump-start a political process.
By the terms of resolution 2336 (2016), submitted by the Russian Federation and Turkey, the 15-member Council took note of a package of documents issued by those countries on 29 December (document S/2016/1133), laying out the terms of a country-wide ceasefire in Syria to start on 30 December.
The package also outlined agreements reached on a mechanism to record ceasefire violations; on the regime for applying sanctions to violators; and on establishing delegations to launch negotiations in mid-January in Astana, Kazakhstan, on a political settlement aimed at a comprehensive resolution of the Syrian crisis by peaceful means.
Stressing the importance of fully implementing all relevant resolutions, particularly resolutions 2254 (2015) and 2268 (2016), the Council looked forward to the meeting to be held in Astana between the Syrian Government and opposition representatives, viewing it as an important part of the Syrian-led political process, and a “step ahead” of the resumption of negotiations under United Nations auspices in Geneva on 8 February 2017.
Further, the Council reiterated its call on parties to allow humanitarian agencies “rapid, safe and unhindered” access throughout Syria, reiterating that the only sustainable solution to the crisis was an inclusive, Syrian-led political process, based on the 2012 Geneva communiqué.
In the ensuing debate, delegates welcomed the Council’s unanimous support for the ceasefire brokered by the Russian Federation and Turkey, stressing that it only increased the legitimacy of those efforts, and confidence in the Council’s own ability to make important decisions. Some asked for details on the participation of opposition groups in Astana, humanitarian access and the United Nations role in the Astana political process, with several noting that the Special Envoy for Syria must play a key role in those efforts.
The representative of the United States supported the resolution because it struck the right balance between cautious optimism and a realistic need to see how it would be implemented. She expressed regret that annexes to the agreement had not been made available, and concern over reports of both a regime offensive supported by Hizbullah in the Wadi Barada village north-west of Damascus, and differences between regime and delegation documents. She asked for an explanation of why those differences existed.
The United Kingdom’s representative, stressing that discrepancies between key texts must be resolved, said monitoring of the ceasefire would be crucial. The Russian Federation and Turkey must ensure any such measures were independent and coordinated with both the United Nations and the International Syria Support Group’s ceasefire task force.
On that point, France’s delegate said the Russian-Turkish agreement contained a number of “grey areas”, including whether the regime was genuinely committed to the ceasefire. The Council had not received the list of groups included in the agreement, and the level of commitment of all parties remained uncertain. He also expressed concern over which groups would be designated as terrorist groups.
At the same time, said Egypt’s representative, it was critical to act rapidly and launch the diplomatic process. Real intentions focused on a final political solution were crucial. Military activity would never solve the crisis, he said, urging Syrian parties to act responsibly to find a Syrian solution which would protect the country’s territorial integrity.
Broadly speaking, the representative of the Russian Federation said today’s resolution spoke to the need for a cessation of hostilities in Syria and a meeting in Astana where the Syrian Government and opposition would, for the first time, meet face-to-face. “If you can’t help and if you don’t want to help, make sure you don’t complicate things,” he said. The international community must be guided by the goals of achieving a political settlement in 2017, respecting the interests of the Syrian people and fostering stability in the region.
Also speaking today were the representatives of New Zealand, Angola, Venezuela, Ukraine, Uruguay, Senegal, China, Malaysia, Japan and Spain.
The meeting began at 1:01 p.m. and ended at 1:44 p.m.
MICHELE SISON (United States) said that on Friday Council members learned about the proposed cessation of hostilities arrangement. While lauding those goals and expressing support for a ceasefire, she said that Council members were still learning about the details of the initiative. She also expressed regret that annexes to the agreement had not been made available. The United States voted in favour because the resolution “strikes the right balance” between cautious optimism and a realistic need to see how it would be implemented. She expressed hope that the ceasefire would hold and not serve as an excuse for further unjustified offenses. She also expressed concern over reports of a regime offensive supported by Hizbullah in Wadi Barada. Explanations of what reconciliation would look like still needed to be addressed. Talks to be held in Astana next month should relate directly to the United Nations process.
ALEXIS LAMEK (France) said that his country supported initiatives to save Syrian lives and end the crisis and for those reasons it had voted in favour of the resolution. He hoped that the ceasefire would be implemented immediately and that all sides would assume their responsibilities. The text contained a number of “grey areas”, including whether the regime was genuinely committed to the ceasefire. The Council had not received the list of groups included in the agreement. The level of commitment of all parties remained uncertain. He expressed concern over which groups would be designated as terrorist groups and said that any monitoring of the ceasefire must be carried out in line with Security Council protocol. Preparatory processes for the next peace talks must be in line with the Geneva communiqué and the process leading up to the Astana meeting must remain transparent. Discussions on the political transition must also remain open as they were critical for a just and lasting peace.
GERARD VAN BOHEMEN (New Zealand) welcomed efforts, especially by the Russian Federation and Turkey, to reduce fighting in Syria and to work for the adoption of a resolution today that all could support. The adoption demonstrated what the Council could do when it worked towards achieving a positive outcome. There were aspects of the ceasefire that should be clarified, especially regarding the participation of opposition groups in Astana, groups not participating, humanitarian access and the United Nations role in the Astana political process. He expressed hope that clarity would be provided to help get Syria on a path to a lasting peace.
PETER WILSON (United Kingdom) backed all efforts to support a nationwide cessation of hostilities in Syria, stressing that those with influence, especially the Russian Federation and Turkey, must use that influence to ensure the ceasefire lasted. He expressed concern over reports of violations on the ground, underscoring that the ceasefire was the first step required for a return to political negotiations. Discrepancies between key texts must be resolved. Monitoring of the ceasefire would be crucial. The Russian Federation and Turkey must ensure any such measures were independent and coordinated with both the United Nations and the International Syria Support Group’s ceasefire task force. Success hinged on implementation of today’s resolution and others, he said, stressing that all sides must ensure unfettered humanitarian access as required by resolution 2328 (2016). Talks in Astana must support the United Nations process led by the Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura. The ceasefire was fresh and the situation on the ground would evolve. If it held, he expressed hope it would provide a breakthrough in the wider political process.
ISMAEL ABRAÃO GASPAR MARTINS (Angola) said the resolution was a real contribution on the path to peace and stability and commended the Russian Federation for its central role and Turkey for its part in the joint agreement. “Obviously, there are no perfect agreements,” he added, emphasizing that efforts should be concentrated on achieving a common goal so that the Syrian people could build a nation based on their own parameters. The resolution constituted an important step to resolving the conflict and had reinforced chances for long-lasting peace. The fact that it was unanimously adopted represented a very good way to end the year. The solution to Syria’s crisis remained political and the text signified just that.
ALFREDO FERNANDO TORO-CARNEVALI (Venezuela) said that he was encouraged by the unanimous adoption of the resolution and called for a comprehensive and peaceful solution to the conflict. He welcomed the meeting to be held in Astana between the Government of Syria and the opposition. The agreement forged by the Russian Federation and Turkey must be included as part of the work of the Special Envoy to Syria, he added, calling on all regional and international actors to support the process.
VOLODYMYR YELCHENKO (Ukraine) said his delegation had voted in favour of the resolution because of its focus on a ceasefire. Although numerous questions lingered, Ukraine supported efforts to end the bloodshed in Syria. To make the ceasefire work, confidence and trust must be built among all parties, which had been missing after so many years. Reports of violence in Wadi Barada testified to the fragility of the situation. He cautioned that, given the “sad track record” of broken ceasefires, it would be prudent for the Council to keep a watchful eye on developments as it entered the new year.
LUIS BERMÚDEZ (Uruguay) said that while the resolution could be improved, he welcomed that it had garnered unanimous support. Recalling that resolution 2328 (2016) had allowed for additional consultations, he said that that text, together with the package of documents, had allowed for today’s adoption. He urged implementation of resolutions 2254 (2015) and 2268 (2016), with negotiations to be in Astana to be harmonized with the United Nations-led peace process. He expressed hope that the cessation of hostilities would last and that peace talks would resume.
AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt) said his country had focused on ending the Syrian conflict by giving priority to the well-being of the Syrian people. Egypt had voted in favour of all resolutions in the Security Council on Syria and had supported initiatives that would give humanitarian access and aid to the Syrian people regardless of which party tabled the text. With today’s resolution calling for an end to hostilities, it was critical to act rapidly and launch the diplomatic process. Real intentions focused on resulting in a final political solution were crucial. Military activity would never solve the crisis, he said, urging Syrian parties to act in a responsible way to find a Syrian solution which would protect the country’s territorial integrity.
FODÉ SECK (Senegal) said that there were no military solutions to the lengthy and protracted Syrian crisis. The only solution likely to resolve the crisis was a political one based on the Geneva Communique and relevant Security Council resolutions which referred to rapid and unimpeded humanitarian access to the Syrian people. He also expressed gratitude to the Russian Federation for its role in the creation of the text.
WU HAITAO (China) welcomed the ceasefire between Syria and the opposition, as well as efforts by the Russian Federation and Turkey. The resolution’s unanimous adoption had shown the support for a comprehensive ceasefire in Syria and was conducive to building trust, advancing the political process, easing the humanitarian situation and combating terrorism. Expressing hope that parties would implement the ceasefire, he called on all opposition groups to join the ceasefire arrangement. The international community’s efforts should be based on respect for the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria and focused on relaunching the political process, as was as implementing the 2012 Geneva communiqué and Council resolutions 2254 (2015) and 2268 (2016). He expressed hope that the relaunching of peace talks by the Special Envoy in February would achieve a positive result. The Astana meeting marked an important step towards relaunching the Geneva talks and he expressed hope it would push forward a political settlement. He called on the parties to return to dialogue.
SITI HAJJAR ADNIN (Malaysia) recalled that, weeks ago, the Council had endorsed the evacuation operation out of eastern Aleppo, with the deployment of United Nations personnel to monitor those efforts. Under a similarly dynamic situation, the Council today had discharged its responsibility. She welcomed efforts by the Russian Federation and Turkey, convinced that the Council’s backing of the ceasefire would only lend to its legitimacy. The Council had pronounced its undivided support for the Special Envoy’s efforts to bring parties to the negotiating table, and that only a political process would resolve the conflict. She expressed hope that its support would lead to a more productive dialogue and that its positive momentum would continue to gather strength in the coming weeks.
KORO BESSHO (Japan) said the United Nations should coordinate humanitarian assistance efforts under the current cessation of hostilities arrangement. “We do not want to hear any more reports by the United Nations and other implementing partners of obstructions,” he said, urging the Syrian Government to take measures to allow immediate and unhindered access and calling on guarantors of the cessation of hostilities to give more details on a monitoring mechanism. Expressing concern over reports of the possibility of another indiscriminate attack against civilians in a Damascus suburb or Idlib, he urged the Russian Federation and Turkey to fully address those concerns. He also looked forward to the Astana meeting and urged key stakeholders to participate in the political process.
VITALY CHURKIN (Russian Federation) said he didn’t intend to speak at the Council today as the resolution spoke for itself and thanked Turkey for its substantive work on the text. “All of us know that this has been a very difficult year,” he said, emphasizing that closing 2016 with the adoption of two resolutions on Syria demonstrated that “we are able to make important decisions”. Numerous meetings had led to serious agreements, but as many of them remained unfulfilled, the Russian Federation and Turkey had taken it upon themselves to reach the vital arrangement just adopted by the Council. The text spoke to the need of a cessation of hostilities in Syria and the important meeting in Astana during which the Government and opposition would meet in face-to-face negotiations for the first time. It was very important that the Council back such efforts. He said he wanted to in the most delicate of ways hint that everything that was accomplished today was the result of enormous effort. “If you can’t help and if you don’t want to help, make sure you don’t complicate things,” he said. “Don’t cast doubt and don’t just repeat outdated clichés.” The international community must be guided by the interests of the Syrian people and the stability of the region as a whole.
ROMÁN OYARZUN MARCHESI (Spain), Council President for December, spoke in his national capacity, saying that he had voted in favour of the resolution and welcomed its unanimous adoption. Thanking Turkey and the Russian Federation for having reached a cessation of hostilities, he said monitoring of the ceasefire must be transparent and impartial, with timely information passed to the Council. The political process must be carried out under United Nations auspices, with the Special Envoy playing a role in that regard. He stressed the need to not losing sight of resolutions 2254 (2015) and 2268 (2016), welcoming the modifications made to today’s text. Member States had played a key role in peacebuilding processes and they had much to contribute to future efforts. Only a democratic and united Syria could bring about an end to the terrorism perpetrated by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh).
The full text of resolution 2336 (2016) reads as follows:
“The Security Council
“Recalling all its previous resolutions and presidential statements on the situation in the Syrian Arab Republic, in particular resolutions 2254 (2015) and 2268 (2016), and the Geneva communiqué of 30 June 2012,
“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,“Noting the joint statement by the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Russian Federation and the Republic of Turkey of 20 December 2016,
“Noting with appreciation the mediation efforts undertaken by the Russian Federation and the Republic of Turkey to facilitate the establishment of a ceasefire in the Syrian Arab Republic,
“Reiterating its call on the parties to allow humanitarian agencies rapid, safe and unhindered access throughout Syria, as provided for in its relevant resolutions,
“Reiterating that the only sustainable solution to the current crisis in the Syrian Arab Republic is through an inclusive and Syrian-led political process based on the Geneva communiqué of 30 June 2012 as endorsed by resolution 2118 (2013), its resolutions 2254 (2015) and 2268 (2016) and relevant statements of the International Syria Support Group,
“1. Welcomes and supports the efforts by Russia and Turkey to end violence in Syria and jumpstart a political process, and takes note of the documents issued by Russia and Turkey in this regard (S/2016/1133);
“2. Stresses the importance of the full implementation of all relevant Security Council resolutions, particularly resolutions 2254 (2015) and 2268 (2016);
“3. Looks forward to the meeting to be held in Astana, Kazakhstan, between the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic and the representatives of the opposition viewing it as an important part of the Syrian-led political process and an important step ahead of the resumption of negotiations under the auspices of the United Nations in Geneva on 8 February 2017;
“4. Decides to remain seized of the matter.”