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STAFFAN DE MISTURA
SPECIAL ENVOY FOR SYRIA
----------BRIEFING TO THE SECURITY COUNCIL
ON THE SITUATION IN SYRIA
30 October 2014

Madame President, Members of the Security Council,


1. I felt it was important for me to use the opportunity before the end of your Presidency to
brief this Council and thus accelerated some of my trips to be here today. What we have just
heard from the Deputy ERC is deeply troubling. It is also a stark reminder to all of us as to
why Syria has to be in the forefront of our minds. Three and a half years on, almost four, the
human cost is unquantifiable. And the dangers of a spillover beyond Syria's borders real and
in front of our eyes.
2. Since we have been briefed on the humanitarian dimensions, I will focus mostly on my
own mandated priorities, preliminary consultations and some early ideas on the way
forward. On instructions from the Secretary-General I did engage early on and intensively
with regional and Syrian actors. Lakhdar Brahimi whose work, as difficult as it was, I hold
deep respect, reminded me of the importance of ensuring an enhanced such engagement. As
such I embarked on those consultations, including with the government and the Coalition
Opposition, before being able to brief you. I am already grateful for the generosity of advice
and the expression of support offered to my mission by many of your capitals, from this
Council and other partners.
3. At this stage, it would be presumptuous of me to have already come before you with a
perfectly articulated plan. But I remain equally conscious, as is my team, that we have no
time to waste. Every day is becoming more urgent than before. And while I have been
traveling regionally in listening/learning mode, that doesn't mean I have not been doing some
active thinking of my own, and that's what I would like to share. So let me from the outset
stress that while I don't, let us be honest, have the solution, I do have a preliminary plan of
action on which we have to move with some sense of urgency. A plan of action that is: a)
based on the groundwork laid out by my predecessors; b) capitalizes on the consensus
reached on more than one occasion amongst members of this Council - reference resolutions
2170, 2139, 2165, OPCW, and most recently 2178, all demonstrations of the Council taking
decisions; and, c) a feeling that one needs to adjust to shifting circumstances on the

ground.
4. I am not here to reinvent the wheel or propose new frameworks. The Geneva
Communique is still valid. In fact it is very valid. It has set the broad parameters for a
future negotiated solution. And we can no longer allow preconditions to delay the start of
the talks, which has only led to hardening of positions. We must as of now start anew with
no preconditions. And the Geneva Comunique remains a reference point. My mission, as I
interpret it, is to identify areas of commonality and entry points, wherever we find them, to
advance the three inter-linked priorities entrusted to me by the Secretary-General when I
took up this assignment: reducing violence, improving humanitarian access--and
therefore helping our colleagues to do so, and planting the seeds for a political process.
Some are immediate and others more long-term goals. Yet they are all interrelated and
mutually- reinforcing.
5. One thing is abundantly clear. The overwhelming majority of Syrians--of all religions and
ethnicities would like to see an early, if not immediate, end to the conflict. The Syrian people
are saying "khalas", and did so when I saw them; "we have had enough". We have heard
the same message from the civil society, from women's organizations--and they are very
active, from the displaced, from refugees and from those silent disaffected from all classes
and professions who are fleeing the country. These voices have solidified a broadly-accepted
consensus, which I think we all share, that there can be no military solution to a conflict that
no one seems to be winning. In fact everyone is losing. The same voices have also raised the
flag for those of us who by merely reducing the Syrian crisis to the driving factors of
terrorism and violent extremism may have forgotten this conflict is as much a result of lack
of inclusiveness, disenfranchisement, marginalisation, and the unravelling of Syria's social
fabric.
Madame President,
6. When I agreed to take this assignment, I was warned about taking on the quasi-impossible
mission. Expectations were muted after Geneva II and many were at a loss for ideas. Yet two
new factors have come into play. These are: a) the renewed horrific and aggressive
visibility of "Daesh", and b) the reaction to this threat and thus the formation of the
anti-Daesh coalition. Together they have put Syria back on the map. They have also shaken
up the apparent standstill given the unyielding positions of regional and international actors
connected to this conflict.
7. Before this summer Syria was fast becoming the forgotten conflict. It took abhorrent acts
and images of terror to return the limelight on Syria. We need to take advantage of this.
Daesh has paradoxically become the new horrific trigger. Governments and world public
opinions were galvanized against this common threat that fuels a violent extremist ideology
in the region and beyond. And the scope of the threat is indeed overwhelming. Daesh controls
now large parts of territory from Eastern to Northern Syria: Deir Izzor, Reqqa, Hasakah, the
neighborhood of Aleppo, covering a 200 km stretch on the borders with Turkey--perhaps

even more, with an impact on an estimated 5 million Syrians living therein.


8. Yet the fight on combatting terrorism is but one part of the equation. We all recognize
it. Defeating Daesh is linked to a politically negotiated end to the Syrian crisis. As the
Secretary-General has warned, a solely military response to this threat could fuel the
radicalization and spark more violence. No number of airstrikes, or for that matter boots on
the ground, can alone deliver a decisive dent on Daesh without a political understanding
amongst all Syrians that addresses the root causes of this conflict, not just its consequences.
There are still moderates left in Syria. But should they be further eclipsed our task of
reaching a political settlement will become that much more difficult. And the activities of
Daesh are not the single security concern within Syria. We just heard it from our colleagues.
Government and opposition groups have escalated military operations from Quneitra and
Deraa to the wider Damascus area and moving close to Aleppo.
Madame President,
9. Against the above background skeptics rightly question the prospects for a political
solution. Conditions on the ground appear non-conducive for immediately launching another
negotiating process--though perhaps these may change. Parties are still deeply distrustful of
each other.
10. All this takes place at the expense of civilians caught in the cross fire. Military tactics barrel bombings and indiscriminate mortar and rocket fire, have become a daily norm.
Sunnis, Kurds, Christians, Allawites are being heavily besieged on a daily basis in Kobane,
Aleppo, Idlib, Wa'er, Eastern Ghouta, Darayya, Yarmouk, Nubul and Zahra; some by
government, others by opposition forces. And as a reminder yesterday a Syrian government
helicopter struck at an IDP camp near Habeet, killing 10 people, after a car bomb in Homs
had earlier causes dozens of injuries. All reminders that this is a crucial moment not to be
missed.
11. And as the human tragedy in Syria unfolds, the whole region is feeling the reverberations
with neighbors such as Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey absorbing much of the humanitarian
impact. In Berlin earlier this week where I was present myself there were plenty of questions
as to whether host communities, already strained, could withstand the pressures from another
massive wave of refugees if one more major city were to witness an accelerated escalation of
conflict, such as the one we have been witnessing potentially in Aleppo. Reportedly, more
than 200 government air raids occurred throughout the country over a 36-hour period last
week, with heavy raids in Aleppo. Hence the serious concern whether Aleppo could be next.
12. The regional dimensions of the Syrian conflict, as it has evolved, can thus not be underestimated. Syria continues to have a polarizing impact on the region as a whole and threatens
to further engulf neighboring states. But as much as regional dynamics are key to
safeguarding a solution, the starting point is within Syria. The solution must be found
therein, amongst Syrians themselves, wherever they are, inside and outside Syria. And the

premise can no longer be one of mutually exclusive preconditions, which has only led to
hardening of positions. We must as of now start anew with no preconditions.
Madame President,
13. If we agree that: a) Daesh has presented a new trigger -horrible, ugly, but an opportunityfor an accelerated solution; if we agree that military action alone is not enough, and, if we
agree that there will be no preconditions for starting a dialogue, then you would ask me what
next? Well, here comes the first proposal. For any political initiative to take hold one has to
create the enabling environment. We have to create a feeling of hople of possible
movement. This first and foremost presupposes a reduction of violence that produces early
dividends. Only if we can showcase to the people, to ourselves concrete examples of "areas
of reduced violence" where the calm is holding can we then reinject a much needed sense of
hope. Only then can we counter the ISIS/Daesh-narrative and begin to reverse the deepening
sense of concern and worry.
14. With that immediate objective in mind, we propose to work on identifying incremental
opportunities for a strategic deescalation of violence that may be local in nature but have an
impact on a national scale. These select pockets or zones of stability will be anchored on the
"freezing of the fronts" with an agreed to period of calm communicated separately by each
party to the UN, so noone loses face. Then comes the real credibility test. You will naturally
ask and you will be right to, because I ask myself those questions too: how is this different to
previous ceasefire agreements? What are the incentives for either party to agree to such a
"freeze"? Or how can we guarantee these tranquility periods become sustainable and not be
taken advantage of by either side to regroup militarily?
15. The short -yet not simple- answer is with pressure from all of us and there are many ways
to do so. And with a package of measures. Some of these initiatives could, for example, be
supplemented by the revival of local governance and administration and thus become test
areas for decentralized arrangements. They could be simultaneously matched by incremental
confidence-building gestures, including the release and/or treatment of detainees. But most
importantly they need to be complemented by some restoration of basic services and
livelihoods, a return of IDPs, and free access to humanitarian agencies, once the military
activity is at least temporarily frozen. Such localized understandings could present
opportunities to reinforce the protection agenda as well as become a catalyst for
accelerated implementation of resolution 2165.
16. Unavoidably, these complex arrangements would necessitate partnering with regional
actors with influence over the various players, as well as with the international donor
community, whose funding of humanitarian aid would be ever more critical if those freezes
take place. Here, let me use the opportunity to underscore that donor funding for Syria, and I
heard it from interlocutors inside and outside, is vital, especially now, especially with winter
approaching and especially if those frozen zones emerge. WFP has announced a 40%
reduction in food aid. It would be the wrong thing to do if we do not help replenish those

appeals.
17. We have to also be clear what these "local freezes" are not. We do not call them
ceasefires, as one fire shot and they are over. They are not an end in themselves. And they are
obviously not a substitute for a meaningful national political process. On the contrary, if
carefully identified, they can become the incremental building blocks towards an
overarching political horizon. But in order to lay that foundation we first need examples.
And these must be examples that are tried, that are visible, tangible, implementable, desirable
and replicable. Essentially we need to build the case of a credible alternative to the conflict
with demonstrable benefits for the average Syrian, who is still asking "all this is
happening and what about us? Is is all the same." Then we can begin to recover ground
lost to the ISIS narrative, bridge the gaps in trust and pre-empt anyone who has agendas from
filling the vacuum.
Madame President,
18. These localized freezes are of course but indicative elements of a strategy based on
incremental steps--since we did not succeed with the top down now trying the bottom up-before the final leap to a negotiated settlement is attainable. In parallel, my team in Damascus
and Geneva will strive to widen the spectrum of our outreach to all sectors of the Syrian
society, including those that may have been neglected or disempowered. And we must focus
on the forces of moderation that exist if we are to counteract Daesh's appeal as a social
incubator. Like in Iraq --where political leaders are working to ensure a broad-based
dialogue, social cohesion and demonstrable political progress- the test is inclusiveness. Like
in Iraq too we must work to bring the Sunnis into the fold, or at least ensure that any of the
strategies pursued do not risk further alienation. Like in Lebanon, the rule of the majority
must not eliminate the voice of the minorities. Syria's unique social mosaic must be
preserved.
19. Ultimately too, a Syrian-reached and -owned political understanding would need to be
backed by a regional and international dialogue. For diplomacy to succeed it is essential
that regional and international parties with a stake in the outcome have a common
understanding of the Geneva Communique, the political process it is intended to produce,
and use their influence with the Syrian parties constructively to this end. It is thus my hope
that in the not so far future we can convene key stakeholders in an appropriate format to forge
a broader consensus on whatever emerges from an intra-Syrian negotiated process in search
of a political horizon. Until then, and until any of the freeze zone examples have produced
some action, myself and my team will pursue a regular and enhanced engagement with all
relevant interlocutors in the region and well beyond. But do hope the right time for such a
convening of stakeholders will come.
20. Which brings us back to where I started: the points of convergence and common
ground. In Moscow, Tehran, Kuwait City, I heard a shared sense of urgency in the face of
Daesh' threat. In Beirut, Baghdad, Amman, Ankara I sensed a palpable anxiety and shared

their feeling that the solution starts with resolving Syria first. The end result of all my rounds
was an unfailingly consistent and genuine desire to pursue some type of dialogue with an
openness to any credible ideas. In Damascus too, which was my very first stop, there was a
realization that counterterrorism had to come hand in hand with a credible concrete political
process. Whatever the definition of that process, it has become apparent to most that it has to
be accelerate.
Madame President,
21. The UN has consistently pointed to the risks of a prolonged impasse and the
consequences of inaction. And we will continue --allow me to use an informal phrase--to
"beat the drum". We have seen in Kobane how the world's attention can be effective in
averting a human catastrophe -though we are not yet in the clear. Kobane has become
symbolic as proof that Daesh is not unstoppable. Now is the time to refocus our energy on
comparable areas. But this requires determined reengagement. And the attention span, as you
know, of the international community and global public opinion is short, given naturally
competing priorities and demands in the region and elsewhere.
22. We must also not lose sight of the ultimate objective. Any credible political initiative
must in equal measure attempt to redress grievances, rebuild the country's institutions --not
destroy them--and social fabric, and pave the way for Syria's democratic transformation, on
the foundational building blocks already laid out, and with every Syrian having a say. The
Secretary General has said it many a times: Syrians must come first. This has been and will
remain our guiding compass.
MadamePresident, Members of the Council,
23. Let me end with a few bottom lines: First, the Geneva Communique remains the broad
framework. Second, we must use the wake-up call presented by Daesh to promote
incremental freeze zones, such as in Aleppo. Thirdly, we must use these incremental freeze
zones to allow for a return to normalcy in the living conditions of Syrians in those areas.
Fourthly, these concrete examples should be the building blocks to promote initially a local
and ultimately a national political process with no initial preconditions other than the
reduction of violence. Lastly, any intra-Syrian political process must be matched by a
regional/international support mechanism that could take the form of a support group to the
efforts of the Secretary-General or his Special Envoy.
Thank you.