Swedish statement at the UN Security Council Briefing on the situation in the Middle East, Syria
National statement delivered by Ambassador Olof Skoog on behalf of Sweden at the United Nations Security Council Briefing on the situation in the Middle East, Syria, 20 December 2018, New York.
Thank you very much, Mr President,
I want to start by expressing Sweden’s immense appreciation, Staffan, to you for your tireless efforts for the people of Syria.
I want to thank you, for your perseverance, your creativity and your energy, and may I add your civility and dignity in circumstances where those values have been in short supply.
We welcome, of course, the incoming Special Envoy Geir Pedersen and we assure him that he will have Sweden’s full support. It is important to keep focus, momentum and I believe the unity of this council backing up him in his difficult task.
After almost eight years of conflict, we fully understand those who claim that the international community has failed the Syrian people. The international community has a responsibility now, to remain actively engaged on Syria. This is the only way to ensure that the grievances of the Syrian people that led to this tragedy can be addressed and for all people of Syria to feel trust in the future.
Since the beginning of our tenure on the Security Council, we have tried to leave no stone unturned to seek progress towards bringing the conflict in Syria to an end and to ensure that humanitarian needs are covered.
Today I will focus on the importance of immediate military de-escalation, the urgent need for progress towards a sustainable political solution and the necessary conditions for lasting peace.
Firstly, on the importance of de-escalation.
We call on all parties to the conflict to de-escalate and show restraint as well as to fully respect their obligations under international law.
We welcome the Astana guarantors’ renewed commitment to uphold the ceasefire in Idlib and reiterate our expectations on the guarantors in this regard. We are encouraged that the agreement to cease hostilities continues to hold although there have been worrying signs of violence recently. We are therefore also deeply concerned by continued military operations by Syrian government forces and allies, particularly in Idlib where there are reports of civilian casualties.
We are also concerned by Turkish statements on a possible military operation in north-east Syria. Turkey is a critically important actor in this crisis and a key partner of the European Union. As stated by the High Representative Mogherini we expect Turkey to refrain from any unilateral action that would risk further instability in Syria. The safe, calm and neutral environment on the ground is necessary for progress towards a political solution.
Secondly, Mr President, a sustainable political solution to the Syrian conflict, acceptable to all Syrians and the international community, can only happen through a UN-led political process, in line with Security Council resolution 2254. Women’s full and effective participation in this process is critical, and I want to thank you, Staffan, for the way you have put all your efforts on this agenda.
We appreciate the update on the constitutional committee. It is deeply disappointing that one year after Sochi, this Committee has still not been established. As just stated by Staffan, there is still an extra mile to walk to ensure a credible, balanced and inclusive committee.
We fully trust the UN’s judgement to ensure that the Committee composition and its rules of procedure meets the requirements needed for international legitimacy. There is not much time left, every effort must now be made to establish the Committee in a way that satisfies the UN’s criteria and then to swiftly be convened in Geneva under UN auspices. A failure to establish this committee, however, would rest fully with the Government of Syria due to its lack of constructive engagement and willingness to compromise to date. We urge the government of Syria and those with good relations with Damascus to ensure full collaboration.
The constitutional reform is a steppingstone towards the elections free and fair, with all Syrians eligible to participate. The twelve principles, referred to and repeated by Staffan here today, are fundamental in the entire process moving forward
Thirdly, Mr President, on the conditions for sustainable peace.
This conflict has led to a disaster far beyond Syria’s borders. Six million people are displaced within the country and five million have fled to neighbouring countries. The conditions for the safe, voluntary and dignified return of refugees are not yet in place, according to UNHCR.
Let us be clear. The primary reason why refugees and internally displaced persons are not returning is not primarily the lack of schools, hospitals and roads. It is first and foremost because they fear for their safety. They fear retribution, persecution and detention. They face discriminatory legislation undermining their housing, land and property rights. They all know of family and friends who have been arrested, imprisoned and tortured. There are no excuses for the Syrian authorities to still hold anyone unlawfully in prison. The authorities should release these detainees and uncover the fate of all those Syrians who have disappeared.
To create the conditions for the return of refugees, a political solution and respect by the Syrian authorities for international law, including international refugee law and international human rights law, is therefore fundamental.
To build sustainable peace, we recognise that reconstruction of Syria will eventually be needed. Sweden, like the rest of the European Union, will be ready to assist only when a comprehensive, genuine and inclusive political transition, in line with resolution 2254 and the 2012 Geneva Communiqué, is firmly under way - as this is deemed necessary to reach sustainable peace.
Finally, accountability is also necessary for sustainable peace. The conflict in Syria has been characterised by a flagrant disregard of international law and respect for human life. The Special Envoy recently stated that he has never, in his long UN career, seen a conflict with the use of such indiscriminate brutality as in Syria.
Upholding the international rules-based order is fundamental to end conflicts and prevent new conflicts from unfolding. Sustainable peace can only happen if the perpetrators of the horrible crimes witnessed in Syria are brought to justice.
The international community must not allow impunity. S
We encourage increased funding and support for the mechanisms established to ensure that evidence is preserved for future criminal proceedings. And we believe that this Council should refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
It is only through a UN-led process, trusted by all Syrians and supported by the international community, that we can achieve a political solution in Syria. One that addresses the fundamental grievances of the Syrian people. One that guarantees the right to aspirations. And one that creates the conditions for peace and stability for them.
The Security Council must therefore wholeheartedly support the UN-led political process and remain actively engaged.
I thank you very much, Mr President.