The following text contains the remarks of UN envoy Staffan De Mistura to the Security Council on January 18 as published by the UN Report Blog.
STAFFAN DE MISTURA
SPECIAL ENVOY FOR SYRIA
BRIEFING TO THE SECURITY COUNCIL
Pursuant to Resolution 2254 (2015)
18 JANUARY 2016
Mr. President, Members of the Security Council,
1. One month ago resolution 2254 gave the Secretary-General and his Envoy, clear tasks –to facilitate a political process; convene representatives of the Government and opposition in formal negotiations on a political transition process; determine the modalities and requirements of a ceasefire in consultation with relevant parties; and, report in 30 days on ceasefire modalities and options for further confidence-building measures. I, therefore, wish to present the requested reporting today and update on you on my activities.
2. Resolution 2254 also calls for many other important things that matter to the Syrians: unimpeded humanitarian access; immediate end to attacks against civilians and use of indiscriminate weapons; the observance of IHL; building conditions for safe and voluntary return of refugees and the displaced; and continued action by Member States to prevent and suppress terrorist acts. Pointedly, 2254 designates the ISSG as the central platform to facilitate UN efforts.
3. I have in the past three weeks visited Riyadh, where I met with the High Negotiations Commission, Ankara, Damascus for consultations with the Syrian government, and Tehran. I further met with US Assistant Secretary Anne Patterson and Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov and separately with the P5 at Political Director Level in Geneva last week. I met again the General Coordinator of the HNC in Brussels. And I have held plenty more conversations by phone with Syrians, civil society, other ISSG members, as well as esteemed UN colleagues.
4. I have in parallel led the preparations of my office on several aspects of the forthcoming talks. Throughout I have kept in mind that, while the Secretary-General and I have clear tasks, so do the parties; the ISSG; the international community; so does this Council. The Secretary-General and I have no chance in succeeding, or even making a dent, if others do not do their part too. Let us be clear about that.
5. Let us therefore start with the reality on the ground – more powerful than any resolution or a conference. The past month is a gruesome reminder of who bears the brunt of this ruthless, merciless, appalling conflict: the Syrian people, no matter who they support, and from almost every part of that devastated country.
6. Only last week Under Secretary-General O’Brien and ASG Kang briefed you separately on besieged areas and the aid convoys that reached three such villages: Madaya, Fouah and Kefraya. The UN has been able to reach less than 4% of all (14) besieged areas. Of the 113 requests made to the Government for access during 2015, 80 went unanswered. As USG O’Brien noted, sieges are imposed by the Government, armed opposition groups and ISIL. And though the burden of responsibility falls onto the besieging party, let us not forget the responsibility of those who put civilians in danger by using them as human shields. An estimated 200,000 people, mainly women and children, are facing sharply deteriorating conditions in the western side of Deir-Ez-Zor city, besieged by ISIL since 2015.
7. And so I reiterate my request of last week to the P5 to exert pressure on the parties to deliver on unimpeded and sustained access starting initially with four besieged areas (Madaya, Mouadamiya, Foua, Kefraya). Humanitarian access to some of these areas, while slightly improved in the last week, has been sporadic and difficult. USG O’Brien was clear however: the move must not be “either one-off or exceptional.” These would essentially be the first steps towards alleviating the humanitarian situation in line with existing resolutions and obligations under IHL. I count on this Council and the ISSG to ensure this.
8. These are neither CBMs, nor are they preconditions. They are crucial signals to the people of Syria that this time around “peace talks” will make a difference to their lives. For the purposes of our process a CBM will be an action by one side in the direction of the other. Whereas, what I am now asking for is acts of good will which demonstrate seriousness about this process. The success of Syrian and non-Syrian actors in meeting this minimum, but significant step, will be a small indication as to whether the talks stand a chance to be meaningful for those who suffer on the ground– not just another gathering in Geneva.
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