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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Kofi Annan's remarks to Security Council on Syria

Néstor Osorio, Permanent Representative of Colombia to the UN
and President of the Security Council for the month of July,
briefs correspondents following closed-door consultations
of the Council on Syria. 
11 July 2012. (Click on picture)
New York, 11 July 2012

Mr. President, Members of the Council,
1. Thank you for inviting me to speak to you today. This is an important moment to take stock of where we are and where we must go. Let me also join Mr. Ladsous in thanking troop contributors and expressing my gratitude to the men and women serving under General Mood.
2. I reported to you a month ago that the six—point plan and Security Council resolutions 2042 and 2043 were not being implemented — as they must. I recalled in this context the failure of President Assad to take the bold steps necessary to implement the six-point plan, and noted the intensification of violence from both the Government and the armed opposition. I called for joint and sustained pressure by the Council on the parties, and consequences for non-compliance. The Secretary-General’s report before you carries the same message.
3. Since I last briefed you, the situation has gone from bad to worse. Mr Ladsous’ briefing today confirms that the violence in Syria continues to escalate, with intensified government campaigns to root out opposition strongholds, and civilians being killed and injured in appalling numbers. Despite repeated promises to comply with its obligation to cease the use of heavy weapons, the government has increased its operations With shelling, mechanized infantry and the use of helicopter gunships, including in population centres. Opposition elements have also intensified their attacks against government forces and installations. At least several hundred thousand people are displaced, and many civilians are trapped in combat zones, not receiving medical care or humanitarian aid. Battles continue to rage through city after city. Whole neighborhoods have been shelled into ruins.
Entire families have been massacred. Thousands have been detained or disappeared without a trace and reportedly tortured. We have not seen substantial releases of detainees. Peaeefid demonstrators are not able to assemble without fear, and are reportedly violently repressed when they do gather in protest. Journalists are still unable to access and move around the country without restriction. The assaults on human dignity must end, those responsible must be held to account, and the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people must be addressed.

Mr President,
4. A group of influential states and organizations, gravely concerned at the situation, convened for the first time under my chairmanship on 30 June in Geneva not as a talk shop, but as an Action Group on Syria. I thank those who participated, and those who were not there but who are ready to help. For the first time, the international community has not only urged a renewed effort to stop the violence they have also laid out a clear path for change in Syria. We must work in parallel on efforts to ensure a cessation of violence and human rights abuses and comprehensive six point plan implementation, but also on a path for political transition that can take place with the constructive participation of the relevant parties, both in Syria and internationally. The Action Group agreed to work together by taking specific, concrete actions to secure a common agenda, and support my efforts to facilitate a meaningful political process.
5. The Action Group identified steps and measures to stop the violence and secure comprehensive implementation of the six point plan. In this regard, members opposed further militarization of the conflict and called for comprehensive implementation of the sixapoint plan and resolutions 2042 and 2043. They urged all parties to re-cornmit to a sustained cessation of armed violence in all its forms immediately and without waiting for the actions of others, and the Government to implement its obligations regarding humanitarian assistance, detainees, journalists, and peaceful protest.
6. The Action Group also agreed on “Principles and guidelines for a Syrian-led transition”, so that the Syrians could stop the violence and embrace a clear way forward and reach a Syrian solution. A solution must meet the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people, and involve irreversible steps according to a
7. In particular, the Action Group agreed that any transition should include a transitional governing body which would exercise full executive powers and can establish a neutral environment in which the transition can take place. This body could include members of the present government and the opposition and other groups, and should be formed on the basis of mutual consent.
8. The Action Group also stressed that all government institutions must perform according to human rights and professional standards and operate under a top leadership that inspires public confidence. The Action Group agreed that a transition also requires a meaningful national dialogue, a constitutional revision process subject to popular approval and free and fair multiparty elections steps overseen by a transitional governing body.
9. The Group also made clear that there must be a commitment to accountability and to national reconciliation. The Group stressed that it is for the people of Syria to come to a political agreement, but that time is running out and rapid steps are needed.

Mr. President,
10. Neither the Government nor the opposition has fully embraced the Action Group communique, but its importance is apparent to all. We must all work together to secure the full commitment of the parties in word and deed.
11. I have just returned from the region, where I addressed matters directly with President Assad. I also consulted the Government of Iran, which was not present in Geneva, and the Government of Iraq, which I had not had the opportunity to visit since taking up this assignment. Turkey, Qatar and Kuwait participated in the Action Group, together with the League of Arab States Secretary-General, and I look forward to further regional consultations, including in Saudi Arabia, as soon as possible. And you may recall that in previous visits ‘I have been to Qatar, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey.
12. You Will recall that, on 12 April, a nationwide cessation of armed violence was declared. The fighting stopped, showing that the parties are capable of halting theviolence. But this lull did not hold.
13. In my meeting with President Assad, we spoke candidly about the need to establish a clear mechanism for the cessation of violence in a renewed comprehensive effort to implement the six~point plan. We discussed the idea of stopping military operations and urgently calming the situation in key parts of the country that are experiencing significant violence. This could include simultaneous actions in several locations, where violence has been ongoing and where civilian needs are particularly urgent.
14. For this to work, the Government has to be prepared to go further than before. President Assad indicated that he would be ready to take the first step to cease violence _in the context of an agreed set of actions by the parties. This principle should be applied in all locations as part -of do-escalation efforts.
15. It is also essential that the Government is ready to be realistic about the weapons of the local armed opposition. Until now, it had insisted that armed elements must surrender their weapons in return for amnesty. This is not acceptable and would efforts to cease violence. President Assad agreed to consider the idea that the armed opposition would not have to surrender its weapons as an initial step towards political dialogue.
16. These efforts must be complemented by action in all circumstances to allow immediate and full humanitarian access to all areas affected by the fighting. They must also be matched by a readiness to take specific actions by the Government to build confidence — including most urgently meaningful release of detainees, and broader action on full implemantation of the six-point plan.
17. I made clear to the President that on the basis of this discussion we should urgently finalize comprehensive implementation arrangements for securing a cessation of armed violence in accordance with the six point plan — plans which are only as valuable as the first steps taken to implement them and positively impact people caught in the violence. I wish to stress once again that the six-point plan is a package intended to create a conducive environment for dialogue and must be implemented in full.
18. In this regard, I specifically stressed with President Assad his Government’s unacceptable use of heavy weapons, and he indicated he would stop. Let me stress: the Government should be the first to stop, and should not insist on the opposition handing over its weapons. Nothing is more urgent, given the appalling scale of civilian casualties the use of heavy weapons is exacting, in clear violation of the Government’s responsibilities under international law.
19. President Assad asked that UNSMIS provide support to the initiation of local ceasefires and dialogue. UNSMIS can facilitate dialogue and specific steps to end violence between the Parties, including through outreach with the armed opposition. For UNSMIS to play this role, however, all parties must commit to cooperate with the Observers, including free and safe access, as the Action Group stressed. And let me be clear: it is the parties which remain responsible forholding to their commitments.
20. Local dialogue initiatives and ceasefire arrangements can only work if they feed into and are complemented by, and indeed linked to, broader and credible nation wide political transition process With clear timelines, as envisaged by the Action Group. As the Action Group outlined, disarmament has to be addressed in the framework of the political transition process. This is one of the inherent linkages between stopping the violence and moving ahead on the political track.
21. President Assad and I exchanged views on aspects of how a political transition could be negotiated and unfold — which, I indicated, I believe should be able to be completed within six months to a year. President Assad indicated that this could be possible if conditions were correct. A key issue at this stage is the appointment of an effective empowered interlocutor who is clearly authorized to negotiate on the basis of the six—point plan and the Action Group communique’. It is essential that this person be seen as credible both in terms of his or her access to the President, and in terms of his or her ability to be viewed with confidence by those he or she must engage. President Assad offered me a name. I am looking further into this matter.
22. I have publicly described my talks with President Assad as candid and constructive. But such talks are only meaningful if they lead to action. The President promised action and he must deliver.
23. During my regional travels, I appreciated the valuable exchanges with the Governments of Iran and Iraq on all issues and the support they offered for the international effort to end the violence and secure full implementation of the six point plan. Both Governments were also very clear on the importance of a political transition — one that is Syrian-led and Syrian-owned, and ensures that the legitimate and democratic aspirations of the Syrian people are fully met.

Mr. President,
24. The opposition, including those elements with arms, must be ready to respond urgently and constructively to initiatives to end the violence and move a transition process forward. We are seeking to engage them on de-escalating the violence to ensure a mutually acceptable practical way of doing so, in full accordance with the six-point plan and the Action Group communique.
25. When the Action Group met in Geneva, its members urged the opposition to increase cohesion and be in a position to ensure effective representative interlocutors to work on the basis of the six point plan and the communique. In the immediate aftermath of the meeting, Deputy Joint Special Envoy Nasser Al Kidwa attended a meeting of the opposition in Cairo - the largest such gathering since the conflict began. There were 210 participants, representing various opposition groups, civil society and independent figures from within Syria and abroad.
26. On 3 July, the participants of the Conference -- with the exception of one group, which had walked out before the closing session -- adopted two documents: a Common Political Vision for the Transition in Syria, a consensus document delineating a common position on political transition; and a National Pact establishing “constitutional foundations of a future Syria”. The adoption of these documents represents a positive step in which a wide range of opposition came together to describe how they see the way forward. There is valuable common ground between the opposition documents and the Geneva communique, but also areas where more work needs to be done.
27. Regrettably, the conference failed to deliver progress on important organizational issues, and it was a missed opportunity for the opposition to forge greater unity at a crucial moment. However, this will not deter us from continuing to work for greater opposition cohesion and seeking effective representative interlocutors, inside and outside Syria, with whom to partner. This is urgent if we are to move the political transition forward.
28. Following the Geneva and Cairo meetings, my Office has been actively working to engage with the opposition, both in writing and in face-to-face meetings. Both of my deputies attended the Friends of Syria meeting hosted by the French government in Paris last Friday, 6 July, which was also attended by senior officials from over 100 states, and among other things supported the Action Group communique. Syrian opposition representatives have also held meetings with the Russian government in Moscow during the past week.

Mr. President,
29. We now have a clear, internationally-agreed path for a transition to a state that is genuinely pluralistic and democratic, supported by a wide-cross section of the international community. I believe this path offers a process With which all can seriously engage. It is on this basis that we have urged the Government, as well as all elements of the opposition, to implement the six point plan and to work on the basis the Action Group communique’. I hope the Security Council will give its full backing and endorsement to what the Action Group agreed.
30. It is a common pledge of all Action Group participants to apply joint and sustained pressure on the parties. I will be keen to hear soon from all Action Group members about their efforts in this regard, and Will be following up with Action Group members in the near future on our next steps. I Will myself visit Moscow next week.
31. Action Group members opposed further militarization of the conflict. I am sure we all agree that no one should be sending weapons to Syria.
32. The Permanent Five Members of the Security Council present in Geneva clearly pledged to support the effort. In this regard, I count on members of this Council to speak with one voice to ensure that UNSMIS is supported in a manner suitable to the new phase in which we have entered.
33. But let me be clear. The conflict has raged with growing intensity for sixteen months. Thousands have been killed. Several hundred thousand are displaced. These numbers are growing daily. The Syrian people are living a nightmare. The Security Council has been seized of this matter for some time, and has adopted two resolutions, 2042 and 2043. You should insist on implementation of your decisions, and send a message to all that there will be consequences for non compliance.
34. Now, more than ever, the international community must put aside narrow national approaches and work intensively together according to a common agenda to bring about an end to the violence and get the Syrian-led and Syrian-owned political transition off the ground. If we do not do this now, it may soon be too late.
Thank you, Mr. President.
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