Brief Ceasefire in Duma Only Piece of Good News for Syria, Special Envoy Tells Security Council, Noting Increased Violence across Country

The top United Nations official in Syria briefed the Security Council today on the implementation of its recent resolution demanding a ceasefire in that country, noting that, while progress had been made in Duma, more remained to be done to ease the humanitarian crisis and find a political solution to the conflict.

Staffan de Mistura, Special Envoy for Syria, joining the Council via videoconference from Brussels, said that he had briefed the 15 member organ on March on the status of the implementation of resolution 2401 (2018). At that time, he noted, there had not been a sustained ceasefire. Furthermore, the United Nations Secretary-General on 12 March had reported on the situation to the Council, and had noted that it was incumbent upon all relevant parties to act on the resolution without delay.

There had been some progress since that time, he said. Further meetings with the Russian Federation on the outskirts of Duma in eastern Ghouta had resulted in a tenuous, fragile ceasefire between the Government of Syria, the military of the Russian Federation and Jaish al-Islam forces. The ceasefire had largely held for six days and had only taken place in Duma, and not in the rest of eastern Ghouta or elsewhere. Despite that, he underscored that the ceasefire was one piece of good news among the bad news. Those negotiations in Duma had shown there was a way forward to advance the implementation of resolution 2401 (2018).

Meanwhile, violence had escalated across other parts of Syria, he said. In Afrin, for example, the Turkish Government forces and their armed allies continued to gain ground rapidly. There had also been clashes in Daraa in southern Syria. On 13 March, 137 civilians had been evacuated, including 10 critical medical cases, and mostly women and children had been taken from Duma to the collective shelter in rural Damascus. On 15 March, United Nations colleagues had delivered a convoy of food assistance for 26,100 people in need in Duma. Those positive efforts were long overdue, but limited, he said. Elsewhere, there had been fresh allegations of the use of incendiary weapons in urban areas, as well as the targeting of medical facilities. There had also been allegations of chlorine use.

Evacuations had taken place in Misraba and other areas, he continued, although the United Nations was not present to observe the evacuation so was unable to know the precise number. Any evacuations should take place in accordance with international humanitarian and human rights law, and civilians must be protected from attacks and given access to the essentials to survive. He also expressed concern regarding those civilians in Syria who were being displaced and those who were in besieged and hard to reach areas. Resolution 2401 (2018) demanded that all parties lifted sieges in highly populated areas, and that had not been done. Syria’s women faced threats to their security, including widespread sexual and gender based violence. Their protection should be at the forefront of the United Nations response.

In the wake of the Sochi congress, the United Nations had not received complete inputs on a pool of candidates for a constitutional committee, he said. That pool should be looked at when it was received, to facilitate the establishment of that committee. There was still serious homework to be done on Government of Syria’s readiness to implement the Sochi agreement on carrying forward the Constitutional Committee in Geneva. It was clear that there must be serious talks with the Government opposition and all stakeholders on what was required to establish a neutral environment in which a constitutional process and United Nations supervised elections could viably take place.

The representative of Syria said he had informed the Council of measures taken to alleviate the suffering caused by terrorists. The Government of Syria is indeed keen for the life of its people, he said, and had taken all measures to secure their safety. It had opened a new security corridor in Hamouriyah in eastern Ghouta, an area liberated on 15 March from terrorists. The corridor aimed to evacuate civilians used by armed groups as human shields, and more than 40,000 civilians had used it to leave the area. The Government had coordinated with the International Committee of the Red Cross and Syrian Arab Red Crescent to facilitate civilians’ safe transport to temporary shelters. Syria’s army, in coordination with the Russian Federation, had opened a total of three such corridors.

Also on 15 March, he said, the Government had allowed entry of a 25-vehicle convoy, organized by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and the United Nations, carrying 25 tons of supplies. However, armed terrorists, under instructions from countries supporting them, continued to use civilians as human shields. It’s really weird that the Government of Syria is shouldering huge responsibility to implement resolution 2401 (2018), while the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which lamented the destiny of civilians, had done nothing. Some 100,000 civilians had been displaced in Afrin, and another 100,000 had left eastern Ghouta; yet no one had provided help. Rather, countries sitting on the Council had launched campaigns to defame Syria, he said, especially during the 12 March Arria formula meeting.

The solution to the Syrian crisis was a political one, he said, based on intra-Syrian dialogue without foreign interference or preconditions. He had spoken with the Special Envoy about those issues outlined in resolution 2254 (2015). The success of the political track hinged on providing an environment that was conducive and a commitment, regionally and internationally, to fight terrorism.

Kazakhstan’s delegate, recalling that guarantor States had adopted a joint settlement on settling the conflict on 16 March in Astana, echoed calls for all parties to facilitate unconditional, unimpeded and sustained access to those in need throughout Syria, as well as to take measures to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure. We do not believe in a military solution, he said, but rather, serious compromises from all sides. He urged Syria’s Government and opposition parties to start substantive talks.

Also speaking today were representatives of Peru, Equatorial Guinea, CAte d’Ivoire and Bolivia.

The meeting began at 10:11 a.m. and ended at 11:06 a.m.

Source: United Nations

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