At Security Council, Ban and UN special envoy outline ‘way forward’ on political solution for war-torn Syria

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses the Security Council meeting on the situation in Syria. UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses the Security Council meeting on the situation in Syria. UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Syria, 29 July 2015 – Describing the more than four years of “slaughter” in Syria as a “shameful symbol of the international community’s divisions and failure,” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today appealed to the Security Council to endorse his Special Envoy’s recommendations on reaching the political solution that “all parties claim to support.”

“On March 28, I instructed my Special Envoy for Syria, Mr. Staffan de Mistura, to intensify efforts…to find a political settlement to the conflict,” reminded Mr. Ban, who specifically asked him to work to “operationalize the Geneva Communiqué.”

Laying out key steps in a process to end the violence, Geneva Communiqué, adopted in 2012 by the first international conference on the issue and later endorsed by the Security Council, calls, among others, for the establishment of a transitional governing body, with full executive powers and made up by members of the present Government and the opposition and other groups, as part of agreed principles and guidelines for a Syrian-led political transition.

After extensive consultations, Mr. de Mistura came up with what the Secretary-General called a “viable alternative,” which the Special Envoy presented himself this morning to the 15 Council members, a day after the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Stephen O’Brien, addressed the 15-member body, painting a grim picture of the situation on the ground in Syria.

“What I am today proposing is to deepen the Geneva consultations format. I now intend to invite Syrians to parallel thematic discussions through intra-Syrian working groups addressing the key aspects of the Geneva Communiqué,” safety and protection for all; political and constitutional Issues; military and security issues; public institutions; and reconstruction and development.

These working groups will start generating movement towards a “Syrian-owned framework document” on the implementation of the Geneva Communiqué, explained Mr. de Mistura, convinced that this effort should be led by a “Steering committee” composed of Syrians from these thematic groups and possibly elsewhere.

“The framework document will also provide for a transitional governing body, procedures for a national dialogue, the constitution drafting process and transitional justice issues,” continued the Special Envoy.

In that regard, he stressed, the support of the Security Council will be “critical” to convince all Syrian and regional players to get involved.

“Syria is the world’s largest humanitarian crisis,” stated the Secretary General. “At least a quarter-million Syrians have been killed. Almost half the country’s people – 12 million men, women and children – have been forced to flee their homes. In a massive cross-border exodus, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq are hosting an ever growing number of refugees, and increasing numbers of Syrians making desperate flights across the Mediterranean in so-called ‘death boats.’”

Atrocious crimes are now almost an hourly occurrence, fed by a lack of accountability for the major human rights violations committed over the past four years and through decades of repression, he went on to say. The Syrian people have been exposed to chemical weapons and to new, indiscriminate killing devices such as barrel bombs and hell cannons, Mr. Ban deplored, as much as the fact that the conflict has given rise to terrorist groups such as Da’esh (also known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL) and Al Nusra Front, and fuelled sectarianism and radicalization.

The Security Council unanimously endorsed the Geneva Communiqué, which remains the only internationally agreed basis for a political settlement to the Syrian conflict, he emphasized.

“[Mr. de Mistura]’s consultations made clear that the major stumbling block in the political process remains the issue of forming a Transitional Governing Body, with full executive powers that can create a suitable environment and safety for all during the transition,” the UN chief acknowledged.

The Secretary General said he stands ready to convene a “high-level international conference” to endorse any recommendations or agreement that the Syrian-led political process his Special Envoy intends to initiate may reach, including on the issue of the Transitional Governing Body.