Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Statement by Ambassador Vassily A. Nebenzia, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, at the Security Council meeting on the situation in Syria

We are marking a sad date today, and we have just come from memorializing the unfortunate victims who died in that terrible tragedy.

Across the street from the Russian Mission in New York are a police station and a fire station whose employees took part in rescuing people on 11 September 2001. Today I went up to the fire station chief to offer my sympathy and appreciation for the heroism of the firefighters and police who helped in that rescue.

I also want to remind the Council that on that day of 11 September, President Putin was the first of the foreign leaders who called President George W. Bush to express his condolences, support and readiness to help combat the monstrous phenomenon that we were witnessing. Russia is familiar with international terrorism, and not merely by reputation, unfortunately.

We continue to reach out to every country and to believe that it is our duty to fight this evil together, as our proposal to create a genuinely broad international coalition to combat international terrorism testifies.

Seeing the interest that has been shown in the third summit of the Astana format guarantor countries, held in Tehran on 7 September, we have decided to speak about its main conclusions in the forum of the Security Council. The meeting was a major milestone on the road to the restoration of peace and the establishment of a durable long-term settlement in the Syrian Arab Republic. Together with our Iranian and Turkish counterparts, we have circulated the concluding joint statement as an official document of the Security Council.

The three Presidents’ addresses to the summit, and their press conference and joint statement, send a clear message to the international community that Russia, Iran and Turkey are ready to do everything in their power to continue to contribute to the final destruction of terrorism on Syrian soil, putting an end to civilian suffering and establishing post-conflict reconstruction and real progress with the political process, enabling the Syrians themselves to determine their future. It is also important that the guarantor countries reaffirmed their commitment to Syria’s sovereignty, unity, political independence and territorial integrity as the basis for all their actions in the context of this crisis.

There was a substantive discussion in Tehran of the situation in Idlib, where tens of thousands of militants from Jabhat Al-Nusra, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant and other groups that the Security Council has declared outlawed as terrorists are concentrated. It was with that in mind that Russia, Iran and Turkey expressed their shared determination to completely eliminate these remnants of terrorism all over Syria that are threatening the security of the region, while giving maximum attention to preventing civilian casualties.

We should not pass up the chance of reconciliation for those who are ready for dialogue, and we hope that those in Idlib will hear that call. We are demanding that the armed groups stop shelling peaceful towns and villages, something that is going on regularly. Just the other day, nine people, including children, were killed, and dozens injured in a rocket and mortar attack on the town of Muhradah in northern Hamah province, and three people died when several rocket missiles were fired at the neighbouring town of Al-Suqaylabiyah. The joint statement noted the urgent need to dissociate the members of the armed opposition that have chosen the path of a political settlement from the terrorists. In the view of the summit participants that separation will be decisive in ensuring the safety of the civilian population.

That is why those in Tehran have appealed to all the members of the international community with the ability to influence the armed groups in Idlib to cooperate in separating them from the terrorists. At the same time, we cannot allow the terrorists to indefinitely hold hundreds of thousands of civilians in Idlib hostage and use them as human shields. As every United Nations resolution stipulates, there can be no coexisting with terrorists, and it is impermissible to let them off the hook. After all, these are all offshoots and varieties of the same Al-Qaida that we all launched a joint fight against in the wake of the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, and from which we can expect the worst possible brutalities anywhere in the world.

We are remembering those tragic events this very day. The Tehran summit again affirmed the fact that there can be no alternative to a political settlement in Syria. We hope that the three guarantor countries’ message will be heard by all. That position takes on special significance today against a backdrop of threats to resort to military intervention in Syria and strike Government facilities in the guise of a response to claims of Damascus’s use of toxic substances and allegations that President Al-Assad has ordered the use of chlorine. The Syrian authorities are not about to do this. They have no chemical weapons.

We are once again asking the Council to listen: from a military point of view there is no justification for the use of chemical weapons by Damascus, while both militarily and politically it would be damaging insofar as it would be an invitation to the Western troika to strike at Syria, which they are threatening to do on that same pretext of the use of chemical weapons. Meanwhile, there is a strong possibility of provocations from those of Damascus’s opponents who are counting on the forceful support of their foreign patrons, and we have incontrovertible evidence of preparations for that. The third Astana summit contrasted such dangerous and vain military attempts with the work of activating a political process led and implemented by the Syrians themselves, without dictation or pressure from outside.

In accordance with instructions from their three Presidents, high representatives of Russia, Iran and Turkey were to hold consultations on 10 and 11 September with Staffan de Mistura, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria, with the goal of establishing the most representative possible constitutional committee in Geneva as soon as possible, capable of reflecting the interests and aspirations of every Syrian and of beginning work in accordance with the decisions of the Congress of the Syrian National Dialogue, held in Sochi on 30 January, and with resolution 2254 (2015).

Much attention in Tehran was focused on the work of post-conflict reconstruction in the Syrian Arab Republic. The conditions are ripe. The people’s acute humanitarian needs are enormous, from food problems and humanitarian mine clearance to the restoration of basic infrastructure facilities. But none of this should involve the political blackmail that many Western capitals openly invoke. Promises of bread and butter in exchange for political regime change in Damascus do no honour to those who talk about Syria’s humanitarian problems at donor conferences but obstruct the provision of genuine assistance to the Syrian people and maintain unilateral sanctions.

An important item on the summit’s agenda was the three guarantor countries’ discussion of the issues related to facilitating the mass return of Syrian refugees and internally displaced persons to their original homes. As we know, the Syrian Government has given the relevant security guarantees, and there is great interest in this on the part of Syria’s neighbours.

We definitely think that at a suitable point a major international conference, to be developed by Russia, Iran and Turkey, will be convened for the purpose of making a significant contribution to that task. The unanimous acceptance of the effectiveness of and need for the Astana format was one of the most results of the Tehran summit. Russia, Iran and Turkey have shown — not in words but in deed — that we can compromise on the most difficult situations when required.

Our interaction has enabled us to stop large-scale violence in Syria, provide for long-term stabilization, create the conditions necessary for a genuine start to the settlement process, and achieve a political transformation that would benefit all Syrians. In Tehran, it was stated very clearly that work of that kind will continue and cover the broadest possible range of issues in Syria. The next summit will be held in Russia.