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JOINT SPECIAL ENVOY OF THE UNITED NATIONS AND THE LEAGUE OF ARAB STATES ON SYRIA
BRIEFING TO THE SECURITY COIJNCIL
24 APRIL 2OI2
1. I speak to you today at an important juncture in our common efforts to bring an end to violence and abuses in Syria and launch a political process that can bring an end to the crisis through peaceful means. I therefore appreciate this opportunity to brief the Council.
2. Let me first thank the Security Council for its very strong support. Your quick and unanimous decisions to authorize the deployment of an Advance Team, and to establish the United Nations Supervision Mission, have shown the determination of the international community to meet the challenge of bringing a peaceful end to the Syrian crisis.
3. I wish to warmly thank Secretary-General Ban and Secretary-General el-Araby for their continued support for my efforts. I have been intensively engaged with a number of key leaders in the region and internationally, and thank them for their continued support as well. I greatly valued the backing and counsel I received when I attended the meeting of the Ministerial Committee of the Arab League in Doha last week.
4. We must ensure that the momentum generated by the Council's speedy decision is not lost. The expeditious deployment of UNSMIS, subject to assessment by the Secretary-General of the situation on the ground, is crucial. The support of member states to the Mission, in particular through the rapid secondment of military observers, will greatly contribute to the success of these efforts.
5. Allow me to share with the Council my overall assessment of the situation and to draw the link between the challenges on the ground, the deployment of the Mission, and the broader political objectives I have in mind.
6. The Secretary-General, in his letter to the Council requesting the deployment of he Mission, made clear that the situation in Syria continues to be unacceptable. It is entirely contrary to the will of the international community and to the interests of the Syrian people. The Syrian authorities must implement their commitments in full, and a cessation of violence in all its forms must be respected by all parties.
7. Deputy Special Envoy Jean-Marie Guehénno briefed you on 19 April on the lull in fighting that was achieved after 12 April, and the subsequent reports of escalation, including shelling and violence in Homs. Since that briefing, reports of violence have continued. Without comprehensive monitoring of the situation, it is difficult to assess the level of violence, but the available reports suggest that, taken as a whole, the level of violence has decreased across the period since 12 April -- this, however, does not cover the spike in violence reported yesterday.
8. The peacekeeping department is updating you on the latest work of the Advance Team, which is not yet in a position to monitor meaningfully the situation throughout the country. I would like to take this opportunity to commend Hervé Ladsous, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, and his staff at the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, for their swift deployment of the Advance Team under difficult circumstances and at a critical time.
9. In areas where observers have visited, including Homs, there has largely been calm and quiet alongside their presence on the ground. However, I am concerned by media reports that, before and after Observer visits, government troops have been active in civilian areas and launched attacks. I am particularly alarmed by reports that government troops entered Hama yesterday after observers departed, firing automatic weapons and killing a significant number of people. If confirmed, this is totally unacceptable and reprehensible. Two observers have been stationed in Hama today.
10. I also continue to be concerned about reports of military actions in areas where the Advance Team has not been present in recent days, such as Idlib and Deraa governorates, and stress that the Government cannot cease action in one area to resume it in another- For its part, the Government continues to provide me with reports of attacks by armed groups inside the country, including bombings and armed attacks on soldiers and public property.
11. I have important information to share with you. On 21 April, the Syrian Foreign Minister informed me that, and I quote, "the withdrawal of massed troops and heavy weapons from around population centers is now complete and military operations have ceased. Orders have been issued that troops are not to be moved to protect strategic sites and centers” (end of quote). I was further informed that, and I quote, “the task of maintaining security and law and order will be carried out by the police and the forces of law and order, which will exercise self-restraint" while "the Army and Armed Forces stand ready to defend the national territory and borders against any attack from any quarter and to protect strategic sites and centers” (end quote). The letter informed me of the Syrian Government's view that it had completed implementation of items 2(a)(b) and (c) of the six-point plan.
12. I have written to the Syrian Government taking note of this letter. I stated that their communication, and I quote, “means that troops should now be back in their barrack, with heavy weapons in storage rather than operationally deployed” (end of quote). I further noted that my understanding of their communication is, and I quote, “that those involved in maintaining security in civilian areas will be police forces, operating under the principle of quote proportionate response” (…) That principle, as well as the need not to endanger civilian life, would certainly exclude any use of heavy weapons, which would amount to a disproportionate response, or use of light arms for crowd control” (end of quote). The above communication from the Syrian Government is encouraging and should make a real difference on the ground, if it is scrupulously applied. It should be understood that the only promises that count are the promises that are kept.
13. Human rights abuses have characterized much of the fighting over the past thirteen months. They must come to an end. Any cessation of armed violence must necessarily encompass a cessation of abuses such as summary executions, torture, arbitrary detentions, abductions, sexual violence and other abuses against women, children and minorities - and this applies to all sides.
14. Let me turn 1o other elements of the six-point plan. Action remains partial. Steps taken so far do not yet amount to the full and clear signal expected from the Syrian authorities, although gestures have been made.
15. Since 12 April, demonstrations have increased, taking place in several centers throughout Syria, particularly on the last two Fridays. Security has been tight, and there have been unconfirmed reports of the use of live fire by troops on some occasions.
16. I have been informed by the Syrian authorities that 68 international journalists have been granted visas. There does appear to be some increase in the operation of foreign journalists in the country.
17. On 16 April the Syrian Government released a statement saying that it has released 30 prisoners. They had advised they had released 97 earlier. While the Syrian Government agreed with the Red Cross on procedures for visits to places of detention to be put into practice with a visit to Damascus and Aleppo prisons, the status and circumstances of detainees across the country remains unclear and there continue to be concerning reports of significant abuses, The Government must now take a major step on the release of detainees.
18. The Syria Humanitarian Forum convened on 20 April in Geneva and was attended by the Syrian Government. It reached consensus on the scale of humanitarian needs and the urgency of a response. Words now need to be converted into action. It is critical that the Government reach an understanding with United Nations humanitarian agencies on ways to scale up operations without further delay.
19. As we look to the way ahead, it is clear that no course of action is without risk. The challenges to ensuring a sustained cessation of hostilities are very real: Thirteen months of conflict and brutality have taken their toll. There is little trust across the divide, and deep doubts remain about the genuine intent of the parties.
20. Yet the very fragility of the situation underscores the need to put arrangements in place that can a1low impartial supervision and monitoring. Sustained pressure and engagement from a united international community is essential. We continue to be hampered by the lack of verified information in assessing the situation. We need eyes and ears on the ground, able to move freely and quickly, and to engage all parties -- something which must be guaranteed by the Syrian authorities. This will provide the incontrovertible basis the international community needs to act in an effective and unified manner, increasing the momentum for a cessation of violence to be implemented by all sides.
21. Observers not only see what is going on, but their presence has the potential to change the political dynamics. In this respect, you have mandated the Mission not only to monitor a cessation of armed violence but to monitor and support fu1l implementation of the six-point plan. The plan is designed to help put an end to violence, but not to freeze the situation and conditions on the ground. On the contrary, its implementation, supported by the Mission, should provide an enabling environment for my efforts to facilitate a genuine political process.
22- In accordance with the Secretary-General's proposal and your resolution, the Mission has been mandated for an initial period of 90 days, and will then be the subject of assessment and review. That is not an open-ended exercise. The parties should understand the importance of ensuring that the Mission's work is facilitated and effective.
23. Let me stress the importance of the role of those states and voices with influence, including in the region. We need the help of many to explain the work of the Observer Mission, and to impress upon all concerned the need to cooperate with it and pursue political issues peacefully. This can help create a conducive environment for the Observers among all segments of Syrian society.
24. I turn now to the political process. A cessation of violence and action on the six-points is vital to sustain a political process. Equally, a credible political process is required if we are to sustain any long-term calm on the ground.
25. I have stated many times what such a process should entail. It should facilitate a political transition leading to a democratic, plural political system, in which citizens are equal regardless of their affiliation, ethnicities or beliefs. This requires a comprehensive political dialogue between the Syrian Government and the whole spectrum of the Syrian opposition, and the broad involvement of Syrian society. It must be inclusive, address the legitimate concerns and aspirations of the Syrian people, and ensure their fundamental rights. Concerns of minorities should be addressed and particular attention should be given to ensuring their protection and rights.
26. In this regard, I will approach the Syrian Government at an appropriate time as part of concerted preparations for an all-inclusive, Syrian-led political process, and I will request the President of Syria to appoint an empowered interlocutor.
27. We have also intensified our engagement with the opposition. It is vital that the opposition will be able to engage effectively in a political process. We are working with members of the opposition to help them become more inclusive and representative in their structures and decision-making, in particular, through our recent work with the Syrian National Council.
28. In the coming weeks, we will continue to intensify consultations with representatives of the Syrian parties on how to achieve a credible transition through a process of dialogue and mediation. In addition to engaging the Government and a broad range of opposition groups, we will also engage with civil society, including women’s and religious groups and others. Our facilitation of this process of political dialogue will be truly inclusive, involving broad consultations across Syrian society and with stakeholders in the region and internationally.
29. In Syria, a hard and bloody road has been trodden for more than a year, taking us to this point. We all know the bleak situation on the ground and the challenges ahead. Reported events in Hama yesterday are a reminder of the risks that Syrians face if our effort to create a sustained cessation of violence does not succeed. But we have also seen events change – at least temporarily – in Homs, where violence has dropped significantly in response to the presence of a very small number of observers. This is also a reminder of the possibilities at hand – that there is a chance to expand and consolidate the cessation of violence, through both the deployment of the full mission, and through concerted and united international pressure on the parties.
30. Under the circumstances, the peace we are trying to build could never be perfect – and we have all been shocked by events in Syria. But if we succeed, the prospects are far better than any promised through war. Our patience has been tested severely – close to its limits. But we have also seen sign that there is the possibility for the parties to implement a cessation of violence, which can lead to a political process and peaceful way out of the crisis. We must now strengthen the conditions for a cessation of violence – and in this we all have a role to play.
31. It is a deeply troubling situation that we face, but we have a supreme responsibility to do everything in our power to ensure that Syria does no descend into even deeper conflict, with all the implications that this would entail for its people and the region. Our commitment to peace and human rights demands that we act now.
32. Therefore, I thank and applaud you once again for your swift action in authorizing the deployment of the observer mission. Let all of us with influence engage in a concerted, sustained and joint push for peace, pressing upon all parties to the conflict the need to commit and implement the peace plan. I urge all governments to support the peace efforts and my mediation and to use their influences to steer the parties in the right direction – achieving their goals through peaceful means and a political dialogue that would lead to a stable, democratic Syria, based on justice, respect for the rule of law and human rights.
33. We owe this to the people of Syria, and to the brave men and women that have been deployed and are about to be deployed to this vital endeavor.
Thank you, Madam President.