Monday, October 18, 2021

UN envoy calls for new international dialogue on Syrian war

UNITED NATIONS – With no progress toward ending the 10-year Syrian conflict, the UN special envoy for Syria called Friday for new international talks on concrete steps such as prisoner exchanges and a nationwide ceasefire. which the government and the opposition can agree on as a preliminary step. To accelerate a political solution.

Geir Pedersen told the United Nations Security Council that he believes these and other areas have the potential to gain common ground among Syria’s warring parties in “significant concern for the average Syrian people”. Progress will “promote internal and regional stability and build trust and confidence,” he said.

“It won’t be easy,” Pedersen said. But he said he thinks all major players are interested in deepening dialogue on the way forward, which is why “we need a new constructive international dialogue on Syria.”

Pedersen said he is in regular contact with senior Russian officials, a close Syrian ally, and the United States, which supports the opposition, before and after a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden this month . He said he is in regular contact with the 15-member Security Council and several countries in the region’s major states.

Pedersen said he would travel to Rome to speak with foreign ministers at a meeting on Syria convened by Italy and the United States, and shortly thereafter he would travel to Moscow. He also plans to consult with Russia the guarantor states Turkey and Iran in the so-called “Astana Process” aimed at ending fighting in Syria before the Astana Group meeting in early July.

Asked after the council briefing when he might start a new international dialogue, he said, “I hope we are not talking about too many weeks.”

Since the start of the Syrian conflict in March 2011, a number of high-level gatherings have been drawn up to stop fighting and guide the country to political change. Locations included Istanbul, Paris, Rome, Vienna and Geneva and assemblies with names such as “Friends of Syria” and “London 11”. In 2016, it was the “International Syria Support Group”. None have made a lasting impression.

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About 2.4 million people in northwestern Syria depend entirely on cross-border deliveries of aid from Turkey for their basic needs, including food

Pedersen told reporters he thought it might be the right time to try to start international talks because “there are some very important developments.”

He pointed most importantly to Syria’s 15 months of relative peace on the ground, but stressed that “this is a very delicate peace, and we need to discuss how we can ensure so that it does not break.” He also cited the collapse of Syria’s economy, the lack of movement on releasing captives and kidnappers and accounting for missing persons, and forcing millions of Syrians to flee their homes.

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Warned that relative peace remained fragile, Pedersen told the council that the June 12 rocket attack had “alarming signs of escalation” and the shelling of an al-Shifa hospital in the northern Syrian city of Afrin controlled by Turkish-backed fighters. At least 13 people, including medical personnel, and parts of the hospital were destroyed. He also cited air strikes and shelling south of rebel-held Idlib resulting in casualties and more displacement.

Elsewhere, there have been “more airstrikes to Israel this month, more unrest in the Southwest” and more attacks by terrorist groups, including operations claimed by the Islamic State extremist group, he said.

Pedersen said there are worrying signs that the Islamic State group is strengthening, “given the increasing frequency and reach of its latest attacks.” He urged major international players to cooperate in combating IS and other terrorist groups.

“The recovery from the economic impact of most Syrians after a decade of war and devastation is another area of ​​potential common focus,” Pedersen said.

A profound humanitarian and national tragedy

He urged the international community to focus on the 13 million Syrians forced to flee their homes in Syria and abroad – half of the country’s pre-war population.

“This is a deeply humanitarian and national tragedy and a time-bomb for regional stability,” he warned.

The United Nations, the United States, Russia and several other countries support the Security Council resolution of December 2015, a road map for peace in Syria adopted by major global powers and Arab countries in Geneva in June 2012, which Calls for a new constitution after UN-monitored elections. .

Pedersen has tried unsuccessfully to get the Syrian government and opposition to start talks on a new constitution.

Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Vasily Nebenzia, stressed the importance of convening the Constitutional Drafting Committee. He called on all sides to “engage in constructive dialogue” and urged support “in every possible way” for intra-Syrian dialogue.

US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield criticized Syria’s “so-called election in May” that kept President Bashar Assad in power, saying it was not free or fair and violated a 2015 Security Council resolution that The elections were announced under the supervision of the United Nations. Drafting a new constitution.

“The Syrian people deserve an election,” she told the council. “And these elections must have a diverse range of candidates, a safe voting environment, and a meaningful way for displaced people to participate.”

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