Statement by Ambassador Jerry Matjila, Permanent Representative of South Africa to the United Nations, during the United Nations Security Council Video Teleconference Meeting on the Political situation in Syria, 16 June 2020

Thank you, Mr President,

Allow me to begin by thanking Special Envoy, Geir Pedersen and Ms Noura Ghazi for their briefings today.

The Syrian civil war has been raging for over nine years. Nine years in which thousands have died, been injured and have been displaced. What has compounded this conflict and no doubt prolonged it, has been the interference of outside role-players, including foreign powers and armed groups. A peaceful stable country became a battlefield for geopolitical rivalry and the ambitions of terrorist groups.

As we reach the final stages of this conflict, the Syrian parties themselves as well as all international role-players must commit to a peaceful settlement based on the commitments made including the Roadmap agreed upon in Security Council Resolution 2254 of 2015.

In this regard, South Africa calls on the parties to work towards a permanent ceasefire that will pave the way for an enabling environment, in which an inclusive Syrian-led dialogue can take place, aimed at achieving a lasting political solution, reflective of the will of the Syrian people.

As we move towards this process, there is an urgent need to address instability and tension in the north of Syria. Moreover, the presence of armed groups in the east pose an imminent threat to local and regional stability. We reiterate that peace cannot be achieved for as long as there is external interference and support to armed groups in Syria. This must come to an end. The sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Syria must be respected.

Mr President,

The continued efforts of Special Envoy Geir Pedersen and his team in finding a lasting solution to end the conflict in Syria, despite the restrictions and challenges caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic must be supported. This Council meets monthly to receive updates from the Special Envoy on progress made in moving the parties towards peace. While we all commit in words to support the efforts to peace, this must be followed-up by action.

Mr President,

We are encouraged about reports that the Government and Opposition sectors of the Constitutional Committee have agreed to reconvene in August 2020 at the earliest, should the COVID-19 travel restrictions be lifted. The convening of the Constitutional Committee is the resumption of a vital political process and, as Mr Pedersen has stated, it is necessary for building trust and confidence amongst the parties committed to this process.

South Africa reiterates that the political and humanitarian tracks in Syria are interlinked and therefore, we call on all stakeholders to promote progress in both tracks to ensure a sustainable and peaceful settlement to the conflict.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all of us, developed and developing countries alike. However, its impact is exacerbated in countries affected by conflict. While the Security Council’s inability to adopt an outcome calling for a global ceasefire in the time of the pandemic is unacceptable, we must at the very least support Special Envoy Pedersen’s calls for an immediate and nationwide cessation of hostilities in Syria and for the Secretary-General’s call for the lifting of economic measures to ensure that Syria is fully able to respond to the virus.

Syria remains at a high risk for the spread of the virus and all parties; the Syrian Government, the international community, NGOs and humanitarian agencies must all do their part to contain the spread of the virus. This includes the continued safe and unimpeded access of humanitarian aid and medical supplies to combat the virus and to ensure that all those who require assistance, wherever they are, receive it throughout Syria.

All sides must be encouraged to undertake trust and confidence building measures and these include progress in the release of civilians detained, particularly vulnerable groups such as women, children, the elderly and those with disabilities. 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. At the very least, humanitarian exemptions must be expedited and impediments for allowing these exemptions must be eased to ensure the delivery of supplies that are required.

Mr President,

In conclusion, Security Council Resolution 2254 (2015) remains the Roadmap for the political process in Syria and we call for its full implementation and for the Council’s continued support of the work of the Constitutional Committee, the Special Envoy and his office and the various stakeholders participating in the mediation process.

As we have seen by our own experience in South Africa, the only path to a sustainable peace is through dialogue, negotiation and reconciliation. Today, South Africa commemorates youth day, a day in which in 1976, the youth of South Africa rose up against oppression and injustice. We remember the youth of Syria and elsewhere who have suffered for a long time and deserve the right to live in peace.

I thank you.

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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