Statement by Ambassador Vassily A. Nebenzia, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, at the Security Council meeting on the political situation in Syria
We thank Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura for his briefing on the state of the political situation in Syria.
On 18 December there was an important breakthrough in that area in Geneva. It is a pity that a number of members of the Security Council have preferred not to notice it. After intense, painstaking and difficult work based on the decisions of the Syrian National Dialogue Congress and with the active assistance of the Astana troika, the composition of the constitutional committee was decided on and a very important step taken on the path to a settlement of the Syrian crisis on the basis of resolution 2254 (2015). On the same day, the Foreign Ministers of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Russian Federation and the Republic of Turkey, as guarantors of the Astana format, held a trilateral meeting, as well as consultations with Mr. De Mistura, at which they handed over the list of civil-society candidates to be included on the constitutional committee.
I want to emphasize that the list has been approved by both Damascus and the Syrian opposition. I should remind the Council that the Government and opposition lists for the committee were sent to Mr. De Mistura in May and July. These efforts were greeted with great appreciation by the Special Envoy, who noted the considerable contribution that the Astana troika has made to getting the process to this point, and we heard about that again today.
The Ministers adopted a joint statement that was circulated yesterday as an official Security Council document. It notes that at the meeting in Geneva, the Foreign Ministers of the three countries affirmed their commitment to assisting in launching the work of the constitutional committee, including by working with the Syrian parties and the Special Envoy to define its general guiding principles. They particularly emphasized that a spirit of compromise and constructive participation on the part of its members is an essential condition for ensuring that the committee’s decisions enjoy the greatest possible support from the Syrian people.
It was agreed that every effort would be made to hold the constitutional committee’s first meeting in Geneva at the beginning of 2019, which would be an important step in the preparations for constitutional reform in Syria, which is the basis on which general elections are to be conducted, in accordance with resolution 2254 (2015).
We firmly believe that those steps represent the beginning of a viable, long-term political process, led and implemented by the Syrians themselves, with assistance from the United Nations and in line with resolution 2254 (2015) and the decisions of the Syrian National Dialogue Congress held in Sochi.
We are grateful to Mr. De Mistura for his active efforts to advance the political process in Syria and the help he has given the Astana format, which made a considerable contribution to the shift from armed confrontation to the political arena. We are particularly grateful to our partners from Kazakhstan for their contribution to the launch and functioning of the Astana platform. We are aware that there are some who may be unhappy with the achievements of the cooperation between Russia, Turkey and Iran. But they are always dissatisfied.
There is always something that they do not like. First among them are those who deep down still cherish hopes for so-called regime change based on their plans for reshaping the Middle East according to a design that suits them. At first, they said that not having a constitutional committee was a bad thing.
Now that the list has been agreed on, they say it is unbalanced and no good anyway. We do not see the logic in that. We call on everyone who is not bent on denying the genuine desires of the Syrian people by promoting scenarios based on geopolitical engineering to help the three guarantor countries of the Astana format to get to work on the comprehensive political process that Syria, the Middle East and the entire international community needs, based on the decisions of the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi and the Security Council’s resolutions on Syria.
At the same time, it will be important to make sure that the results on the political front are supported by genuine rather than hypothetical steps to resolve the Syrian Arab Republic’s humanitarian problems and its postconflict reconstruction. We have frequently heard, and continue to hear, particularly from our Western partners, that increased cooperation and the lifting of unilateral sanctions will be possible only when real progress has been made on the settlement process.
That moment has come, and we hope that our colleagues will not go back on their word and come up with new politicized conditions. We are not trying to create the impression that all is well in Syria. There are many problems that will have to be resolved in the future, first and foremost in Idlib, where our Turkish partners are making serious efforts based on their existing commitments to separate terrorist and moderate groups.
We once again urge all who have influence with those groups to counsel them. But the fact is that the situation in Syria has indeed changed, and for the better. Many Governments have acknowledged those changes. We have seen positive steps on the part of States in the region that want to normalize their relations with Damascus.
We hope that the desire for the full-fledged restoration of relations between the Arab countries and Syria and Syria’s speedy return to the Arab family will provide material support to the settlement process in Syria, based on the fundamental principles of international law and the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations. We, the three guarantor States, have succeeded in doing what we were urged, persuaded, pressured and even threatened to do.
Tell me, could anyone else have done it? Does anyone suppose that it could have been done simply by compiling our own list and handing it to Mr. De Mistura? I want to emphasize that the legitimate list was not going to be one that the small group had given its consent to but rather the list that the representatives of the Syrian parties, both Damascus and the opposition, agreed on, and that is exactly what happened. We firmly believe that we all have a chance to launch a genuine political process for a reliable, lasting settlement in Syria.
Logically, it will be based on the results of the work already done by the Astana troika. The Astana troika, in close coordination with the United Nations, stands ready to energetically work on this issue. At the same time, it is our view that the last word has to remain with the Syrians themselves.