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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Alqidwa's remarks to Security Council on Action Group for Syria

New York, 26 June 2012
Mr. President, Members of the Council, Mr. Ladsous, Mr. Pascoe,
1. Mr. President, when the Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States addressed you just over two Weeks ago, he spoke of devastating and increasing violence in Syria, and of the need for the international community to do more to stop the killing, apply joint pressure on the parties and consequences for noncompliance, and do more to chart the course for a peaceful Syrian-led transition in the country. The UN Secretary~General also told the General Assembly at the time that each day brings new additions to the grim catalogue of atrocities, including assaults against civilians, brutal human rights violations, mass arrests, torture and execution-style killings.
2. Tragically, the situation on the ground has not improved. Indeed, the killing and destruction and attacks by government forces, including through the use of artillery, heavy shelling and government helicopters, are intensifying. More civilians, men Women and children, are being killed every day. It has been reported that civilian casualties in June have been among the highest since April. At the same time, We have seen an increased scale of asymmetric attacks by opposition forces across Syria, targeting infrastructure, installations and senior officials of Syrian Armed Forces.
3. Civilian areas continue to be shelled, and civilians continue to be trapped line of fire, despite the legal and moral obligation to keep them out of harm’s Way. The latest attempts by UNSMIS, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and the ICRC to evacuate children, women and elderly from Homs have regrettably not yet succeeded. More civilians are being displaced from their neighbourhoods, hamlets and villages every day. It is the Government that has the primary responsibility to civilian populations to protect them from all forms of violence and this responsibility is not being met. The armed opposition also must respect the obligation to protect civilians in areas of fighting.
4. As you know, up to one and a half million people are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance. Despite the conclusion of an agreement with the government, and some deliveries under difficult circumstances, there has been no substantial improvement in the humanitarian situation. Assistance continues to be complicated by the context of intensified violence as Well as the government’s policies in this regard. We also see the continuing military occupation of hospitals and health facilities preventing access to medical treatment for those in need. In addition, in the recent days a volunteer for the Syrian Arab Red Crescent Was shot and killed in Deir Ezzor, bringing the death toll of the Red Crescent while on duty to four since last September.
5. Beyond support for urgent humanitarian needs, neighborhoods in many Syrian cities have to be rebuilt, and infrastructure has to be reconstructed.
6. We are all deeply worried about the escalating crisis. The six-point plan is clearly not being implemented. People, including peaceful protesters and activists, continue to be arbitrarily detained, and more are rounded up by the day. Clearly, there is no political dialogue; rather, We have seen increasing militarization and sectarianism.
7. Serious concerns remain about the regional ramifications of the Syrian crisis. There are now more than 92,000 assisted refugees in neighbouring countries, of whom 86,000 are registered with UNHCR. In a very concerning development that further highlights the heightened regional tensions, it has been reported that the Syrian forces downed a Turkish military jet on 22 June. As you know, the Secretary-General, who spoke to the Turkish Foreign Minister, has expressed his deep concern and urged Turkey and Syria to continue to address the situation diplomatically.

Mr. President,
8. We all know that since the last briefing, UNSMIS has had to suspend operations in light of the escalating violence and dangers to its security. The Joint Special Envoy fully supports that decision. We all commend General Mood and the brave men and women, both military and civilian, serving under him, and I know that they are keen to resume their work. Their commitment to the Syrian people has not faltered. But the circumstances must allow them to carry out their mandate. This can only happen when the protagonists on the ground take the strategic decision to stop the violence and to cooperate fully with the observers.
9. The UN Secretary-General will soon present his report on the implementation of Security Council resolution 2043 and the mandate of UNSMIS, and then it will be for the Council to decide Whether and how the mandate will be extended. The evolution of the political track will of course be a key consideration in this regard.

Mr. President,
10. A key to unlocking the crisis is international unity. To this end, the Joint Special Envoy and the team have been working intensively to convene a group of countries with influence over the parties in Syria to agree on a set of actions to address the crisis. The intention is to hold a ministerial meeting of an Action Group for Syria this coming Saturday, 30 June, in Geneva. The objectives would be three principal outcomes, which are essential and interrelated: first, to identify steps and measures to secure full implementation of the six point plan and Security Council resolutions 2042 and 2043, including an immediate cessation of violence in all its forms; second, to agree on guidelines and principles for a political transition that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people; and third, to agree on actions to implement these objectives in support of the Envoy's efforts to facilitate a Syrian - led political process.
11. We have worked hard in a series of bilateral conversations, as Well as meetings with key actors, to bring this idea to fruition. We also hosted a meeting this past Saturday involving senior officials of the permanent members of the Council, as well as of the League of Arab States, in preparation for the possible meeting. This included consideration of language related to an outcome document.
12. Throughout these discussions, the Joint Special Envoy has made it clear that it is essential for states with influence to agree among themselves on a set of principles and guidelines in order to effectively support a Syrian-led political transition. The Envoy is of course using his best efforts to facilitate a common position on the proposed outcomes of the Action Group. But he has also been steadfast in his resolve that an action group must be just that, and not a talking-shop. The Joint Special Envoy has made it clear that it is only worth holding this meeting on 30 June if the outcome is meaningful.
13. We appreciate the support this idea has received from the UN Secretary-General and the Secretary-General of the Arab League, as well as international partners. Concerted action by the participants in such a meeting should have a visible impact on the crisis. The inclusion of the permanent members of the Council should also be an important contribution to maintaining unity Within the Council and may even facilitate further action by it, in response to the Joint Special Envoy’s appeals when he briefed you in person on 7 June. We are awaiting clarity today on whether there is sufficient substantive agreement as well as consensus on the scope of participation before the Envoy decides whether the meeting should proceed on the 30th as planned.

Mr. President,
14. Since the last briefing to the Council our Office has also maintained regular contact with the Syrian government, opposition and other actors in Syria and internationally. The opposition continues to face serious challenges, politically and organizationally, but some progress appears to have been made in the last two weeks.
15. A member of the joined some of the key Syrian opposition representatives when they met in Istanbul, Turkey on 15 June. The meeting included a wide range of opposition representatives based outside Syria, as well as some opposition members who are currently based in Syria. Participants nominated a l5-member technical committee to prepare a consolidated joint political vision for the opposition and the coordination of their Work. This will be discussed at a meeting at the Arab League on 2-3 July which will include an even larger grouping of opposition members, ahead of the planned Friends of Syria meeting in Paris on 6 July. Increased coordination and unity among groups of the opposition on such key issues is of course positive, and we will continue to follow and support their efforts as appropriate in line with our mandate.

Mr. President,
16. We hope that the international community and the Security Council will now come together and take action to stop the killing, help the suffering population, and ensure that the crisis does not spread further to the neighbours in the World’s most volatile region.
17. Mr. President, this Council has already decided in resolutions 2042 and 2043 that the international community is committed to facilitating a Syrian-led political transition that will lead to a democratic, plural political system in which citizens are equal regardless of their affiliations, ethnicities or beliefs, including through commencing a comprehensive political dialogue between the Syrian Government and the whole spectrum of the Syrian opposition. I am hopeful that an Action Group for Syria can be convened to take meaningful steps to support this process. If we can reach agreement on a substantive statement, including specific measures that key international actors are committed to, it may help the Syrian people believe that peaceful transition is possible and that they should step back from violence and Work towards a comprehensive settlement agreement to end the crisis. The Office of the Joint Special Envoy is committed to doing all it can to facilitate such a process. But we cannot do it without your full and united support, and time is running out.
18. I very much look forward to hearing your comments and questions.
Thank you, Mr. President.
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