Statement by the Permanent Mission of South Africa to the United Nations during the UN Security Council Briefing on the Political Situation in Syria, Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Thank you Mr President,

Let me begin by thanking Special Envoy Geir Pedersen for his informative briefing on the political situation in Syria. I would also like to express South Africa’s full support for Special Envoy Pedersen and commend his efforts to unlock the current impasse.

Mr President,

On the reports of increased violence in northwest Syria

While we recognise the right of the Syrian Arab Republic to restore its control over the whole of its territory, South Africa is concerned about the conflict in the northwest region of Syria, particular its impact on the humanitarian situation.  We urge all parties to seek a peaceful resolution of the conflict. Such a peaceful resolution requires a cessation of hostilities and a solution which upholds Syrian sovereignty and territorial integrity.

In this regard, external support for armed groups must cease immediately, as we cannot allow external role-players to use this devastating conflict in Syria as a proxy for their own interests.
 
On the deterioration of the humanitarian situation

This increase in violence has a direct impact on the humanitarian situation in Syria, with thousands of civilians fleeing the hostilities to already overcrowded refugee and IDP camps. South Africa reiterates its call for all parties to adhere to their international law and international humanitarian law obligations, particularly with regard to the protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure. In addition, we call on the relevant authorities to ensure safe, unimpeded and impartial delivery of humanitarian aid and assistance to all who require it. The severe winter conditions have given further impetus to the need to provide essential humanitarian aid, including winterisation and shelter packages. Civilians must also be assured access to humanitarian corridors.

Mr President,

On the political process

The only sustainable solution is the attainment of a political solution, through an inclusive Syrian-led dialogue aimed at achieving a political solution that is reflective of the will of the Syrian people. In this regard, we welcome and encourage the active participation of women and religious groups in these peace talks, as all groups have unique perspectives to offer.
 
South Africa has and continues to welcome the formation of the Constitutional Committee, as a representation of all Syrian people; the Government, the opposition and civil society, as well as the drafting committee, in carrying out their mandate to draft a new constitution for Syria.

South Africa urges all members of the Constitutional Committee to make a concerted effort towards agreeing to an agenda for genuine discussions on the drafting of a constitution that would form an essential component of a sustainable solution to the conflict Syria.

The work of the Constitutional Committee is but one aspect of the larger political process in Syria, as laid out in Council resolution 2254, which must be fully implemented and respected by all parties.  For it to be sustainable the political process must be Syrian owned and Syrian led. External interference in this process is detrimental to its success.

Mr President,

On confidence building measures

In order for these peace negotiations to make credible progress, the parties must have confidence in each other. In this regard, South Africa encourages all side to undertake trust and confidence building measures. These could include progress in the release of civilians detained, particularly vulnerable groups such as women, children, the elderly and those with disabilities. My delegation has noted the recent meeting of the working Group on detainees and missing persons in Geneva and look forward to its outcome and urge the working group to make every effort to achieve real progress in this matter.

As part of these confidence building measures to promote progress, the easing of economic measures placed on Syria should be considered if there is progress on the political front.

In conclusion, Mr President,

South Africa is of the strong belief that the humanitarian and political situations in Syria are inter-linked, with credible progress in one area leading to credible progress in the other. We must do all we can to promote progress on both these tracks, in order to achieve a comprehensive and peaceful settlement to the conflict. The Syrian people deserve nothing less.

I thank you.

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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