Statement by Ambassador Jerry Matjila, Permanent Representative of South Africa to the United Nations, during the Security Council Video Teleconference Meeting on the Political Situation in Syria, 29 April 2020

Thank you, Mr President,

I would like to also thank Special Envoy Geir Pedersen for his comprehensive briefing on the political situation in Syria.

Political situation

South Africa is encouraged that the 5 March ceasefire agreement between Turkey and Russia continues to hold, despite sporadic instances of shelling. In this regard, we call on all parties to work, especially during these challenging times, towards a permanent nationwide ceasefire, that will pave the way to a conducive environment in which an inclusive Syrian-led dialogue can be held.

For Syria to attain peace, it would be necessary for all external interference in Syria to come to an end and for all unauthorised foreign forces to have left. Additionally, we wish to reiterate that all states have the sovereign right to address the threat of terrorism in their countries. However, any action to counter terrorism must be in line with international law, including international human rights and international humanitarian law obligations.

The ultimate goal should be a lasting political solution that is reflective of the will of the Syrian people, and brings sustainable peace and stability to the country, as well as an opportunity to rebuild its economy and to repair the damage that 10 years of war have caused.

Mr President,

With regard to developments pertaining to the Constitutional Committee, South Africa welcomes the Co-Chairs agreement on the agenda for its next meeting, as reported by the Special Envoy in his last briefing to the Council. We urge all parties to continue to engage substantively and constructively in the Constitutional Committee process, as part of the wider political process supported by the Special Envoy.

As we have learnt through our own constitutional drafting process, engagement and confidence-building are essential components in finding a sustainable and peaceful solution to the crises in Syria.

Resolution 2254 (2015) remains the framework for the political process in Syria and it will be important that it be fully implemented. The Security Council should continue to support the work of the Constitutional Committee and the role of the United Nations and the Special Envoy in the mediation process.

Mr President, South Africa has noted the release of the summary by the Secretary-General of the Syria Board of Inquiry report into incidents in northwest Syria. We welcome the Secretary-General’s intention to appoint a senior independent adviser to consider how best to interact with the recommendations contained in the report.

Mr President,

COVID-19 impact – detainees and the lifting economic measures

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, and reports of 3 COVID-19 related deaths, South Africa fully supports the Joint Appeal by the UN Secretary-General’s Envoys to the Middle East.

We reiterate our full support to the Special Envoy’s call for a ‘complete and immediate’ nationwide ceasefire throughout Syria to ensure that the necessary supplies, equipment and personnel are able to efficiently and effectively respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The conditions in parts of Syria raise the risk of COVID-19 spreading quickly. In these parts of the country, the fragile health system, overcrowded IDP and detention centres, the lack of adequate access to water and sanitation infrastructure, access challenges for the delivery of humanitarian aid and continuing conflict, are all factors in impeding efforts to stop the spread of the virus.

As we address the humanitarian consequences of the pandemic, it is vital that economic measures placed on Syria should be eased. This is necessary to ensure that the required supplies and equipment are provided to combat the pandemic. We also support the Special Envoy’s consistent call for the substantive release of prisoners and detainees, particularly women, children, the elderly and those with disabilities. Given the challenging conditions in detention centres, this appeal is even more relevant and necessary today.

Mr President,

The situation in Syria requires the international community to support both the political and humanitarian tracks. These processes are interlinked, and progress must be supported in both tracks to create the necessary conditions for a sustainable and peaceful settlement to the conflict.

I thank you.

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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