New York

27 September 2013

Secretary-General's remarks to the Security Council on the situation on Syria

Today’s historic resolution is the first hopeful news on Syria in a long time. 

For many months, I have said that the confirmed use of chemical weapons in Syria would require a firm, united response. 

Tonight, the international community has delivered. 

I commend the members of the Council. I am especially grateful for the efforts of Russian Federation Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

As the Mission sent to investigate the allegations confirmed, chemical weapons were used in Syria. The perpetrators of this crime must be brought to justice.

This week, the Mission under Profesor` Sellström returned to Syria to complete its investigations, including of the incident at Khan al-Asal. I expect the team will complete its fact-finding activities by next week. I will promptly transmit its final report to you and all Member States.

At the same time, the international community has a responsibility to ensure that these weapons of mass destruction never re-emerge as an instrument of war or terror.

As depositary of the Chemical Weapons Convention, I welcome Syria’s accession and its declaration to implement it on a provisional basis.  Today’s vital decision by the Executive Council of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons establishes ambitious but realistic deadlines for the verified elimination of the Syrian programme.

Given the scope of this task and the continuing conflict in Syria, the United Nations and the OPCW have a preliminary agreement that will be fully developed based on this resolution and will be the basis for my proposal to the Council.

I thank OPCW Director General, Dr. Ahmet Üzümcü, for his collaborative spirit.  We will be dispatching an initial team to Damascus on Tuesday.

The inspection teams will have full support from all relevant United Nations departments and offices. 

Today’s resolution will ensure that the elimination of the Syrian chemical weapons programme happens as soon as possible and with the utmost transparency and accountability.

Ensuring the verified destruction of chemical weapons is a difficult task in any circumstance. In Syria, the inspectors – who are scientists and technical experts – will have to contend with the realities of the continuing conflict.

The success of this mission will depend on the Syrian Government implementing its obligations faithfully and without delay. This includes ensuring the safety and security of OPCW and UN personnel.

The cooperation of opposition forces will also be important. All sides share a common interest in the permanent destruction of these weapons.

This process will also require the active engagement of the international community. I am grateful for the pledges of support for UN and OPCW activities received to date.

In the days ahead, the two organizations will further explore how to facilitate the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons programme. I will provide recommendations to the Security Council in due course.

As we mark this important step, we must never forget that the catalogue of horrors in Syria continues with bombs and tanks, grenades and guns.

A red light for one form of weapons does not mean a green light for others.  This is not a license to kill with conventional weapons. 

All the violence must end.  All the guns must fall silent.

We must capitalize upon the newfound unity of the Council by focusing on two other equally crucial dimensions of the conflict: the dire humanitarian situation and the political crisis.

We expect Council members to firmly demand that the Syrian Government and the opposition uphold their obligations under International Humanitarian Law, including the lifting of all obstacles to humanitarian access.  Some besieged communities have received no assistance in more than 10 months.

The Council has agreed that the only way to bring peace to Syria is an inclusive and Syrian-led political process based on the Geneva Communiqué of 30 June 2012.  Today’s resolution calls for convening an international conference on Syria to implement the Geneva Communiqué as soon as possible.

Excellencies, it is time to make this happen as soon as possible.  The United Nations has completed all the preparatory work. President Assad has stated that he is prepared to send a delegation to Geneva, and the Syrian National Coalition has expressed its willingness to engage.  

Our conversations over the last week have focused on launching Geneva II.

On Wednesday, at my working lunch with the Foreign Ministers of the five permanent members of the Council, we agreed to make sure that the Syrian participants come to the Conference to negotiate in good faith. 

Today, Arab League and United Nations Joint Special Representative [Lakhdar] Brahimi and I continued these discussions with Member States.

We are aiming for a conference in mid-November. In the meantime Mr. Brahimi will launch all necessary preparations to ensure success.

Distinguished members of the Council,

No one is naïve to the challenges of ending this conflict peacefully. 

The Syrian sides must engage constructively towards the creation of a democratic state that guarantees the human rights of all in Syria.

The regional actors have a responsibility to challenge those who will actively undermine the process and those who do not fully respect Syria’s sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity.

And the Security Council members, individually and collectively, have a key role in ushering the Geneva process forward towards a lasting peaceful solution.

Thank you.