Statement Attributable to the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Mr. Geir O. Pedersen on the Anniversary of the Syrian Conflict

15 Mar 2024

Statement Attributable to the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Mr. Geir O. Pedersen on the Anniversary of the Syrian Conflict

This solemn anniversary of the conflict is tragically marked by heightened regional tensions and concerning developments throughout Syria, as it enters its fourteenth year without a political solution in sight. Syrians have long endured unspeakable violence and devastation, indiscriminately impacting the young and old, men and women, across all societal strata.

Syria's humanitarian crisis continues to intensify. An astounding 16.7 million individuals need humanitarian assistance - the highest number of people requiring assistance since the conflict began. There more than five million refugees living in neighboring countries and more than seven million internally displaced inside Syria. And Syria’s economy has collapsed. I salute the resilience and courage Syrians show in the face of their deepening suffering. But at the same time, my message is clear: only the unwavering pursuit of a political solution to end this conflict can restore hope to the Syrian people.  

This starts with ending violence. I again appeal to all parties to the conflict to immediately cease all violence and fulfill their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure, and to pursue a comprehensive nationwide ceasefire, and to work for a cooperative and strategic approach to counter-terrorism in line with international law.

I also appeal to all parties to the conflict to immediately and unconditionally release all persons held arbitrarily in their custody. Addressing the plight of detainees, abductees, and missing persons comprehensively and at a scale commensurate with the scale of the tragedy is essential. Doing so is vital for rebuilding shattered lives, reuniting families separated for far too long, relieving other families from living in the limbo of the unknown, and for ensuring the credibility of any political path to a lasting peace.

Refugees and internally displaced persons continue to lack the necessary conditions for a safe, dignified, and voluntary return. Their critical concerns regarding protection and livelihoods, central to this matter, remain unresolved.

In these and other fields, including the economy, the opportunity exists to pursue genuine steps among the various parties involved in the conflict in Syria, and that opportunity should be seized without further delay.

In this regard, the international community needs to unite to push for political process in line with Security Council resolution 2254 (2015), including confidence-building measures, the resumption of the Constitutional Committee – and ultimately the comprehensive addressing of the full range of issues that would need to be resolved to end this conflict. We must prioritize peace. If we do not do so, the grim downward trends across nearly all indicators in Syria will only continue in the year ahead. The Syrian people deserve better than this.

We will continue to work to enable the Syrian people to realize their legitimate aspirations and to restore the sovereignty, unity, independence, and territorial integrity of Syria as mandated in Security Council resolution 2254 (2015).