New York

24 September 2019

Note to Correspondents: Special Envoy for Syria Geir O. Pedersen’s remarks at the European Union event on Syria

Dear High Representative of the EU and Vice-President of the Commission Frederica Mogherini, Dear Ministers, Excellencies, Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen. It is good to see so many good friends here today.
 
Yesterday, for the first time in a long time, the Syrian people received some positive news.
 
I will speak about that in a moment.
 
But first let us not forget this: the Syrian people have endured more than 8 and a half years of conflict.
 
The extent of their suffering and their grim prospects for the future are of deep concern to all of us.
 
Our task is to help the Syrian parties and the Syrian people find a path out of this tragedy—a path that protects their dignity and their rights.
 
The Secretary-General formally announced yesterday the agreement of the Government of Syria and the opposition Syrian Negotiations Commission for what we call a credible, balanced and inclusive Constitutional Committee that will be facilitated by the United Nations in Geneva. 
 
It was quite an experience to be in Damascus yesterday where I shook hands with Foreign Minister Moallem and said, “we have an agreement.” Immediately after that I called the head of the opposition SNC who was in New York, Dr. Hariri, to consult. I also told him how happy I was that we had an agreement on the Constitutional Committee. As Frederica just mentioned, this is first time the UN has facilitated an agreement directly between the parties.
 
The establishment and work of such a Syrian-owned and Syrian-led Constitutional Committee takes place in accordance with Security Council resolution 2254 (2105). 
 
It is based on a strong commitment to a political solution that meets the legitimate aspirations of all Syrians and to the country’s sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity.
 
I want to of course acknowledge that this agreement could not have been reached without the constructive engagement of the Government and in particular Foreign Minister Moallem, and indeed without the constructive engagement of the Opposition led by SNC leader Nasser Hariri. 
 
The Secretary-General looks forward to meeting them here in New York in the coming days, as do I, and I will then be beginning the discussions with them on the launch and initial work of the Committee.
 
I believe I can say with some confidence that it will be launched very soon.
 
It has been my responsibility to facilitate this agreement, but of course I needed the help of friends and partners. And many of you are in this room today.
 
Let me thank the governments of Russia, Turkey and Iran – their diplomatic engagement in support of the UN facilitation has been very helpful.
 
Let me also thank the members of the Small Group – the United States, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Egypt, France, and Jordan.
 
I also appreciate the united support of Security Council and their members. I think it is particularly appropriate to say that the European Union and its members have strongly backed my efforts, as you could just heard from the EU High Representative here today.
 
Most particularly, I want to send a message to the Syrian society in all its vibrancy, wide cross-sections of which I have consulted in the course of efforts to put together this agreement. It is an agreement between the Syrian government and the opposition, but there is a place for the Syrian society in this agreement and that is particularly important to me. I understand their impatience for progress, and I recognize the commitment amongst all Syrians, from all walks of life, to their beloved country.
 
It is their legitimate aspirations for the future that this Constitutional Committee has the task of addressing, and it is a task that must give us all pause and inspiration.
 
The meaningful participation of Syrian women and men is critical for reaching a sustainable peace in Syria. 
 
The UN has worked hard to ensure that women are at the table and I have worked with all sides for their effective representation in the Constitutional Committee. 
 
I will continue to prioritize women’s full participation in all aspects of the political process.
 
Moving forward, we need to work on more than the Constitutional Committee, if Syria is to move toward a new future.
 
The establishment of the Constitutional Committee is the only first, albeit important, step in this process. It’s a door opener to the implementation of resolution 2254, including eventual free and fair elections, administered under supervision of the United Nations and with participation of all Syrians, including members of the diaspora.
 
But for this to happen, and this is important, we must build up what is still almost totally lacking in Syria—and that is a sense of trust and confidence – between Syrians, and between Syria and the outside world. There’s no alternative but to work together to identify how to move together along a better path. 
 
In this respect, I am convinced that real action on detainees, abductees and missing persons - done in a meaningful way and at meaningful scale – is critical for the success of any credible political process. 
 
I will continue to push for progress on this crucial matter.
 
In parallel, we must of course ensure that humanitarian assistance reaches all those who need it, that conditions are in place to allow for safe, dignified, and voluntary return, and we must continue to support neighboring countries who so generously host Syrian refugees, as Federica just mentioned.
 
In closing, I would like to thank you, Federica, for convening this meeting, and for the support you have given us since I started this job. 
 
Thank you.