Statement by the Permanent Mission of South Africa to the United Nations, during the United Nations Security Council Meeting on the Political situation in Syria, 18 September 2020

Mr President, let me begin by thanking Special Envoy, Geir Pedersen, for his comprehensive briefing today and congratulate him and his office for successfully holding the third round of discussions of the Constitutional Committee in Geneva.

South Africa believes that the Constitutional Committee plays a pivotal role in enabling political discussion among various sectors of Syrian society which can pave the way towards a Syrian-led and Syrian–owned political process.

We urge the parties to engage in open and frank dialogue to foster a culture of cooperation and compromise which is vital to any sustainable peace process. In this regard, we call on the parties to capitalise on the momentum gained from this most recent meeting, to work together, in good faith, on finalising the agenda and date for the fourth round of Constitutional Committee discussions.

While we all know that this process has not been easy, particularly due to the delay caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, momentum in the right direction towards long-term peace and stability must be encouraged.

From South Africa’s own national experience in negotiating constitutional drafting, we do acknowledge the challenges of such a process. Ultimately, trust between the parties must be developed and the external interference of outside parties must be mitigated.

The responsibility therefore lies with us as Council members to continue to support the work of the Constitutional Committee and the role of the UN in the mediation process.

Mr President,

South Africa welcomes the relative calm in Syria. However, the precarious air of volatility that persists in parts of Syria is worrying. Reports of the resurgence of ISIL and other armed groups are particularly disconcerting and has the propensity to lead to further conflict.

We must be clear that States have the sovereign right to address the threat of terrorism in their own countries and any action taken in this regard must be in line with international human rights and international humanitarian law obligations.

Additionally, South Africa remains concerned at the continued presence of external armed forces in Syria and their undue influence in the areas in which they operate.

Their continued disregard for Syria’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence raises tensions and makes the prospect of a sustainable peace more elusive.

Mr President,

The cessation of violence and hostilities is important, in order to allow the work of the Constitutional Committee to continue towards long-term peace in Syria. A permanent ceasefire would in this regard create an environment conducive for an inclusive Syrian-led dialogue to take place.

In this context, South Africa continues to support the Special Envoy’s call for a ‘complete and immediate’ nationwide ceasefire.

Mr President,

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a disturbing impact on the people of Syria, who are already under severe humanitarian strain, as we heard from Under-Secretary-General, Mark Lowcock, on Wednesday. The exponential increase in positive COVID-19 cases is greatly concerning; therefore South Africa calls on the international community to continue to support the UN and its partners in ensuring that Syria is able to combat this virus with the necessary medical equipment and supplies.

This includes the lifting of all unilateral coercive, economic measures imposed on the Syrian Government. Syria’s unique circumstances, including the after-effects of a nine-year conflict on health and social services and infrastructure, the deteriorating economy and the increasing need for humanitarian assistance, have been further impacted by the imposition of unilateral sanctions. This is impacting on the efforts of the Syrian Government to effectively respond to this devastating pandemic. These additional burdens exacerbate the dire humanitarian situation, including those who so desperately need humanitarian aid and assistance.

In conclusion, Mr President, South Africa reiterates its position that there can be no military solution to the conflict in Syria. The conflict can only be resolved through an inclusive Syrian-led and Syrian-owned political process in line with Resolution 2254 (2015). Additionally, South Africa firmly believes that the political and humanitarian tracks in Syria are interlinked and call on the international community to promote progress in both tracks, to ensure a sustainable and peaceful settlement to the conflict.

I thank you.

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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