Statement delivered by the Permanent Representative of South Africa to the United Nations, Ambassador Jerry Matjila, during the United Nations Security Council Briefing on the political situation in Syria, 28 February 2019

Mr President,

The South Africa delegation would like join others in thanking the Special Envoy for Syria, Mr Geir Pedersen, for his insightful and forward-looking briefing.

As this is the first time that my delegation participates in the political briefing on Syria, please allow me to join my colleagues in congratulating you on assuming your important role as the facilitator of the political process in Syria.

You have a challenging task ahead of you. Our responsibility as this Council, together with the backing of the international community, is to provide you with all the support necessary in order to successfully facilitate a Syria-led, UN-sponsored political process as outlined in resolution 2254. We welcome your determination to build upon the solid progress that has already been achieved by your predecessor, Mr Stefan de Mistura.

Mr President,

Next month will mark 8 years since the crisis in Syria began. We are extremely concerned about the devastating and tragic consequences that the war in Syria continues to have on the people of Syria. It is also having an increasingly destabilising impact on the wider region, through the displacement of people, the exacerbation of political and sectarian differences and the spread of extremism.  It is the responsibility of this Council to ensure that there is political progress and a return to normality in Syria. The people of Syria deserve a future that is stable and prosperous.

Mr President,

Since the Syrian conflict erupted, South Africa has maintained a principled position by reiterating the protection of the fundamental interests and rights of the Syrian people; the maintenance of peace and stability in the Middle East region; and, upholding the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and basic norms governing international relations.

Mr President,

We reiterate our view that the only sustainable solution to the Syrian question remains the achievement of a political solution through an inclusive Syrian-led dialogue aimed at achieving a political transition reflective of the will of the Syrian people with guaranteed protection for all groups in Syrian society. We therefore call upon the Council to unite towards the full implementation of resolution 2254 of 2013, as the roadmap towards a long-term political solution in Syria.

Mr President,

We welcome the extensive consultations that Mr Pedersen has undertaken with the Government of Syria, the opposition parties and key partners in the region since January 2019. These comprehensive and in-depth engagements are critical in building trust between the people of Syria and the region and to move the process forward. Equally important to the success of the political process in Syria, is the need to respect the cease-fire and de-escalation agreements and to continue to fight terrorism.

South Africa furthermore commends the efforts by Mr Pedersen to continue overseeing the deliberations on the establishment of the Constitutional Committee. We call upon all relevant parties to make every effort to support Mr Pedersen in this endeavour.

Finally, Mr President,

The Council as well as the international community should support a political solution to the situation in Syria as a matter of priority and continue to support the United Nations, including the Special Envoy, as well as other mediation efforts aimed at resolving the conflict. South Africa continues to maintain that democracy is an unassailable right of the Syrian people and therefore remains convinced that in a complex and diverse society such as Syria, there can be no military solution to the conflict.

I thank you.

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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