Statement by Deputy Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation Sergey Vershinin at the UN Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East
Ladies and gentlemen,
We thank Special Envoy of the Secretary-General Geir Pedersen for his briefing and we thank all the speakers for the assessments and considerations they expressed.
The Security Council addressed political settlement in Syria on many occasions, however today’s session is special. It is the first time we meet being able to say with certain satisfaction that there have emerged real conditions that make it possible to travel the path of lasting and equitable settlement of the Syrian crisis in the interests of all Syrians without exception. Special Envoy Pedersen has just confirmed that the work to establish the Constitutional Committee was finished. Without any doubt, it is a prominent accomplishment for the global community. Let me remind that the idea of building a Constitutional Committee was adopted at the Congress of Syrian National Dialogue in Sochi in 2018, where all segments of the Syrian society were represented.
We agree with G.Pedersen that the establishment of the Committee per se is not an end, but only a beginning of a long way. This is about Syrians deciding what their country should look like in the future. Let me also remind about the key principle of this self sustained work that is embodied in Security Council resolution 2254: promotion of Syria-led and Syria-owned political process.
We welcome the intention to convene first session of the Constitutional Committee in Geneva on 29 October. Russia, jointly with Iran and Turkey has made a landmark contribution to defining the composition and finalizing rules of procedure of the Committee. Thereby we engaged closely with the Syrian sides – the government and the opposition – and coordinated efforts with UN Secretary-General A.Guterres and his Special Envoy for Syria G.Pedersen. Russia will set forth its assistance to launching and ensuring sustained operation of the Constitutional Committee. As you heard, the distinguished representatives of Turkey and Iran also made such commitments. The activity of guarantors of the Astana format will by all means uphold sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Syria. Presidents of the three countries recommitted to it at the fifth trilateral summit in Ankara on 16 September. The practice of holding international high-level meetings on Syria in Astana format will continue. Next such meeting is planned to be held in Kazakhstan’s capital city soon.
We proceed from the assumption that we should treat the inter-Syrian dialogue that will take place in Geneva with great care. We have no doubt that Syrians who represent one of the most ancient and unique countries in the Middle East, that has lived through centuries of peaceful coexistence of ethnic and confessional groups, will be able to find mutually acceptable solutions on their own. Expert capacity they possess will suffice for it. We are convinced that attempts are unacceptable to meddle in inter-Syrian dialogue, impose ready-made solutions that are incompatible with their cultural, religious, and national traditions. It is unacceptable as well to set up deliberate deadlines, to demand concessions of only one of the sides. This is the position the Astana format will stick to, ready, as before, to provide constructive assistance to Syrians in coordination with the United Nations. We invite everyone who is interested in bringing peace back to Syria to join our efforts in a constructive spirit.
It was said today that it was strange to have a representative of Iran here at this table. What seems strange to me is that such a thing was pronounced at all. Iran as part of the Astana troika, has done a lot to defeat terrorism in Syria. While I can hardly recall what the members of the so called “small group” have done in order to launch political process and create favorable conditions for it. There is much talk, and little work. I hope this will improve soon.
As we speak about Syria today, we understand that if we manage to walk the way of reliable and lasting political settlement based on – let me repeat – commitment to its sovereignty and territorial integrity, it will have a beneficial impact on the entire region that we need badly now. It will also promote peace, security, and stability in the Middle East. Now time has come to encourage Syria’s getting back to the Arab family rather than to impede this process.
The Syrian people has gained, i.a. with Russia’s support, the decisive victory over terrorism. Today the main forces of ISIL, ‘Jabhat al-Nusra’ (no matter what you call it) and other terrorist groups, recognized as such by the UN Security Council, have been eliminated. However, the eradication of terrorists, including in such a big hotbed as Idlib, should proceed given maximum concern for lives and safety of peaceful population.
It is regretful that recently, when the situation in Idlib was under discussion, we failed to reach a consensus on the majority of issues. The ones to blame are those, who used a humanitarian pretext to put to vote a deliberately politicized, unpassable resolution.
Of course, we cannot but be concerned about the situation in Syria’s northeast, where ISIL “sleeper cells” become active. We proceed from the assumption that stability and security in these areas can only be achieved if they get back under control of the legitimate government.
What is also unacceptable is attempts to anchor the division lines that unfortunately exist in the present-day Syria, in particular on the pretext of so called nation-wide ceasefire. By definition, terrorists cannot be reconciled, and inter-Syrian issues should be solved via a broad, inclusive dialogue.
The change for the better that we witness today in political settlement creates conditions for providing comprehensive humanitarian assistance to Syria’s post-conflict recovery. This will help strengthen the economy, and create environment for return of refugees and IDPs back to their places of residence. This is what our Western colleagues used to talk a lot about in recent years, when they almost pleaded to help launch the Constitutional Committee as the main condition required to unlock financing for post-war rehabilitation. I believe it immoral to furnish any steps towards Damascus with renewed political demands.
Finally, let me express support for the coherent efforts of the international community if they are truly aimed at fostering political process, rather than at promoting narrow-specific geopolitical agenda. It is my firm conviction that when acting together, we will be able to do more for Syria and Syrians than when acting separately.
I thank you.