I thank the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran for hosting this consultative meeting on Syria at this critical stage.
The crisis in Syria started with peaceful demonstrations calling for freedom and justice, only to be met with ruthless force leading to violent militarized conflict with increasing sectarianism and erosion of social fabric. Crimes against humanity and war crimes may well have been committed in Syria. These must be investigated and the perpetrators held to account.
Despite repeated verbal acceptances of the Six-Point Plan endorsed by the UN Security Council, both the government and the opposition continue to rely on weapons, not diplomacy, in the belief that they will win through violence.
But there will be no winner in Syria. Now, we face the grim possibility of long-term civil war destroying Syria’s rich tapestry of interwoven communities. This would have tragic implications for Syria’s people and could affect stability across the region. We cannot let this prediction come true.
All of us have a responsibility to the people of Syria. We must use all of the peaceful means in the UN Charter to help them unite around a Syrian-led transition process that is based on dialogue and compromise by all sides on the ground, not bullets, arrests, abductions and intimidation. This process should also preserve Syria’s unity and territorial integrity.
On June 30th in Geneva, Foreign Ministers of the Action Group, including the five permanent Council members, agreed on an action plan.
The Action Group agreed that any transition in Syria should include a transitional governing body, which can establish a neutral environment in which the transition can take place, and which would exercise full executive powers.
For the first time, the international community was able to agree on a path that should lead to a state that is genuinely pluralistic and democratic. This was an important step in support of the Syrian-owned process. This was a genuine opportunity for a better future for all Syrians that offered a process with which all can seriously engage.
However, since then, there has been no follow-through. Instead, the situation has worsened. Now the international community must again find common ground. The important work that Joint Special Envoy, Mr. Kofi Annan, has undertaken must continue. There are clear common interests among regional and international powers in a managed political transition. A conflagration threatens an explosion in the region that could affect the rest of the world. Joint action requires bilateral and collective efforts by all countries with influence over the actors on the ground in Syria, to press upon the parties that a political solution is essential.
The General Assembly adopted resolution 66/253-B on 3 August, which stressed the importance of making rapid progress on a political transition and encouraged Member States to provide active support to this end. For this consultative group, this means that it must take concerted efforts to persuade Syria’s leadership to change course and embrace a political transitions. A first move by the government is vital, as its intransigence and refusal to implement the six-point peace plan has been the greatest obstacle to any peaceful political process, ensuring the distrust of the opposition in proposals for a negotiated transition. The opposition, too, should be more forthcoming in favor of opportunities for a political solution. Most importantly and urgently, all sides must protect civilians and abide by their obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law.
The resolutions of the Security Council together with those of the General Assembly require the parties to end the violence, in all its forms, and move towards a democratic, plural political system, with equal rights for all. The international community has an obligation to support the implementation of these resolutions. United international pressure can make a difference. The Syrian people need action. Their aspirations have been denied. Their suffering is profound, and the increasing militarization promises only worse.
The primary responsibility for stopping the violence rests with those on the ground, particularly the government. But their refusal to lay down arms does not absolve the rest of us of the need to act. I urge all of you to face up to the collective responsibilities we shoulder.