Transcript of Remarks by United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Mr. Geir O. Pedersen for the Mediterranean Dialogues 2020
I’m sorry for not being able to connect with you live today, and that we are not together in Rome. As you may know, we just started with the 4th Session of the Syrian Constitutional Committee today. Let me thank Paolo Magri and his team at ISPI, in particular, as well as Foreign Minister DiMaio and his Syria envoy, Paolo Dionisi, for their virtual hospitality - and for their support to the UN’s efforts on Syria.
As 2020 draws to a close, the situation of Syria is deeply concerning on almost every level. The political process is moving far too slowly. The suffering of the Syrians inside is growing as the economy collapses – and the suffering of the refugees outside continues too.
The only silver lining is that there has been a relative calm since March of this year, despite many violations, and there is a nascent Syrian-Syrian political process in the form of the Constitutional Committee, which, as I told you, is meeting right now in Geneva, and will meet again in January, COVID-19 permitting.
But the dangers of renewed conflict are ever-present. And meanwhile, the Constitutional Committee’s work has not yet built the kind of trust or seen the kind of substantive progress needed on its mandate to prepare and draft for popular approval a constitutional reform.
I have appealed to the Syrian parties to seize the opportunity of these two meetings to find some meaningful common ground and begin to chart a path forward on the constitutional track. I am also appealing to all international players to encourage the parties to move forward – and to join me in reflecting on where we really stand on implementing resolution 2254.
With the conflict highly internationalised, with five foreign armies active in Syria, we cannot pretend that the solutions are only in the hands of the Syrians alone – or that the UN can do it alone. We need a constructive international diplomacy on Syria, and that is why I continually seek to facilitate. In that spirit, in the past month or so, I’ve been in Syria, Turkey, Egypt, Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia, and holding remote contacts with many other stakeholders too. And I am looking forward to engaging a new US Administration when it is in place as well.
It is clear that no one actor or group of actors can impose their will on Syria or settle the conflict -- and thus they must work together. And despite their differences, the truth is that there are common interests among key international players – in stability, in containing terrorism, on refugees, on preventing further conflict. We surely must be able to collectively build on these.
I particularly believe we need to encourage Russia and the new US Administration to re-engage and find common ground, step by step, concretely, on the way forward. Turkey and Iran are crucial players too and must be at the table. The Europeans and the Arab world also have vital interests and contributions to make, and we need China.
As I continue to urge international players to work in support of a Syrian-led and owned process, I will continue to involve and consult Syrian women – nearly 30% of the Constitutional Committee are women, and I am in regular contact with theWomen’s Advisory Board to hear their insights on all aspects of the political process including gender concerns.
And I stress the importance of engaging a broad cross section of Syrian civil society through the Civil Society Support Room. The views and aspirations of Syrians from all walks of life must be taken into due consideration for any political solution to gain long term support and stand the test of time.
This is a time of huge global and regional challenges. We must ensure that addressing the crisis in Syria is high among our shared priorities. Syria is a country with a great and proud history, and it is enduring the most profound tragedy. If we cannot begin to unlock progress, step by step, in a reciprocal and mutually reinforcing manner, along the path of 2254, the dangers to Syria’s civilians, to Syria as a state, and to the region, will only grow. This cannot be acceptable to any of us. That’s why I count on the support of all key actors for maintaining calm nationwide, supporting confidence-building, and moving the political process forward.