I thank the Government of Morocco for hosting this conference of the Group of Friends of the Syrian people at a critical time for Syria and the international response to the intensifying conflict.
The situation in Syria has deteriorated dramatically and has become more militarized, with continued large-scale human rights violations.
Violence has escalated, claiming the lives of thousands of civilians. Many more have been wounded, arrested, detained or are missing. Many have been tortured and exposed to degrading treatment, including sexual violence. Cities, towns and villages continue to be destroyed. Hundreds of thousands of people have become internally displaced or are refugees in neighbouring countries. Millions of lives have been disrupted by the conflict.
With winter upon us, potentially 4 million men, women and children inside Syria will need humanitarian assistance before the New Year. Yet violence and resource shortages are impeding United Nations efforts to deliver. The Syria Humanitarian Assistance Response Plan is only 50 per cent funded – and the regional Refugee Response Plan even less so.
I commend the generous assistance and protection provided by host governments to refugees from Syria. The international community needs to do more to help these countries to address the growing impact of the refugee crisis, and to help to mitigate other spill-over effects, such as tensions between communities.
I also urge the international community to exert immediate and sustained pressure on all parties to respect international humanitarian and human rights law. It is a fundamental principle, which I staunchly support, that all those who commit international crimes and gross violations of human rights must be held accountable and brought to justice, in particular those most responsible for such atrocities.
Above all, the international community needs to unite to support a negotiated end to the crisis. A military solution will not bring an end to violence in Syria. Left to themselves, the current dynamics risk the disintegration of Syrian state institutions and full-fledged civil war, with widespread killings along ethnic and confessional lines. Syria could be plunged into a destructive spiral from which recovery will be hard and long, with dangerous consequences for the entire region.
Building a free and democratic Syria will require negotiations and genuine political dialogue. The formation of a new coalition of the opposition is an important step in the right direction and can help create the conditions for a comprehensive and inclusive political process.
I am pleased to note a broad representation of Syrian leaders here today. A durable solution to the crisis must be led and owned by Syrians working together in a spirit of inclusive dialogue and mutual understanding so all Syrians – Sunnis, Alawites, Christians, Druze, Shiites, Kurds, Assyrians and Armenians alike – can enjoy their full human rights.
The international community has an obligation to help you build a democratic future. The United Nations stands ready to facilitate. But we can only succeed if all sides engage positively, with the support of the international community, in particular the Security Council.
If we genuinely unite behind the Joint Special Representative for Syria and behind one process, based on the rejection of violence in favour of dialogue and a peaceful democratic transition, it is still possible to avert the worst-case scenario and enable a reconciled and stable Syria to emerge from this tragedy.