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UN Special Envoy: Syria Remains Deeply Divided

UN Special Envoy: Syria Remains Deeply Divided

Thursday, 26 January, 2023 - 09:15
The United Nations Special Envoy to Syria, Geir Pedersen, with Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal al-Mekdad in Damascus, Dec. 07, 2022 (file photo: AFP)

The United Nations Special Envoy to Syria, Geir Pedersen, confirmed on Wednesday that Syria remains tattered and deeply divided, facing massive economic hardships of “epic proportions.”

Pedersen determined six priorities to proceed with a political process based on Resolution 2254, led by the UN, which requires unity from all parties of the international community.

Speaking at the Security Council meeting in New York to discuss the political and humanitarian situation in Syria, the envoy said the Syrian people are still facing a profound humanitarian, political, military, security, economic, and human rights crisis of “great complexity and almost unimaginable scale” in a country that remains de facto divided into several parts.

He noted that five foreign armies, multiple Syrian armed groups, and Security Council-listed terrorists are all active in Syria.

Serious abuses and violations of international humanitarian law and human rights continue across Syria, said the envoy.

He added that over a decade of destruction and war, corruption, sanctions, the Lebanese financial collapse, the recent COVID-19 pandemic, and the war in Ukraine have contributed to “a twin humanitarian and economic crisis of epic proportions.”

Pedersen explained that roughly half the pre-war population remains displaced, warning that Syria is witnessing growing reports of the illicit drug trade.

A solution was not imminent, said the envoy, but stressed his efforts to reach concrete measures that can establish confidence-building measures among parties and establish an actual process for implementing Resolution 2254.

The envoy reviewed his meetings with the Syrian parties, indicating that he will return to Damascus in February to hold meetings with Foreign Minister Faisal al-Mekdad and the co-chair of the Syrian Constitutional Committee nominated by the government, Ahmed al-Kuzbari.

Pedersen previously met with the Syrian Negotiations Commission (SNC) President, Badr Jamous, and the co-chair of the Syrian Constitutional Committee, Hadi Albahra, in Geneva.

He also met Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, Faisal bin Farhan, in Davos, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, and other envoys, explaining that he has priorities, namely a nationwide ceasefire remains essential to resolving the conflict.

Pedersen also prioritized renewing the framework in this Security Council on the humanitarian front, thanking the members of the Council for their unanimous adoption of Resolution 2672, which allowed a cross-border aid delivery mechanism into Syria through a crossing point on the Turkish border.

The third priority called for resuming the work of the Constitutional Committee and achieving more substantive progress in Geneva.

Pedersen called for advancing the file of missing persons and abductees, stressing that substantive steps must be taken to ensure the protection and rights of detainees.

The envoy also prioritized achieving step-by-step confidence-building measures, calling for taking verifiable steps that can positively affect the lives of Syrians.

He concluded that the diplomatic effort requires the involvement of all relevant Syrians and international actors, calling for a joint effort to unite behind a process owned and operated by the Syrians with UN facilitation.

During the meeting, Deputy Director of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Ghada Mudawi discussed the humanitarian situation in Syria, saying it was one of the “most complex humanitarian and protection emergencies in the world.”

Mudawi asserted that the Office needs renewed commitment from all parties, better access, sustained donor generosity, and rapid, substantial, and unearmarked pledges, expressing her hope that the Council will uphold its moral duty to support people in Syria.

- Western envoys

Meanwhile, representatives of France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States met at the envoys level in Geneva with the UN Special Envoy to discuss the crisis in Syria.

They issued a joint statement reaffirming their steadfast support for Pedersen’s efforts to reach a political solution to the Syrian conflict in line with UN Security Council Resolution 2254.

“We expressed our firm commitment to the implementation of all aspects of UNSCR 2254, including a nationwide ceasefire, the release of any arbitrarily detained persons, free and fair elections, and the need to build conditions for the safe, dignified, and voluntary return of refugees and internally displaced persons, consistent with UN standards,” read the statement.

They stressed that UNSCR 2254 remains the only viable solution to the conflict.

The representatives concluded that they look forward to working with partners in the region and opposition to engage fully under this framework, including the reciprocal step-for-step process, through the UN Special Envoy to ensure that a durable political solution remains within reach.

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