Uprising in Syrian Prison by Detainees with Suspected Ties to Islamic State Sparks Fears of Resurgent Terrorism, Special Envoy Warns Security Council
An attempted prison break by detainees with suspected links to Islamic State groups — and subsequent clashes involving international forces — have once again raised the spectre of resurgent terrorism in Syria’s decade-long civil conflict, the senior United Nations official in the country warned the Security Council today, as he briefed members on recent developments.
Geir O. Pedersen, Special Envoy for Syria, recounted an unprecedented attempt at a prison break in the north-east town of Al-Hasakah by thousands of detainees with suspected links to Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), which sparked clashes with the United States-led global coalition. While most of the ISIL fighters have now surrendered, there is great concern for the safety of civilians, many of whom have been displaced.
“Even if this particular ISIL uprising might have been quashed, this episode brings back terrible memories of the prison breaks that fuelled the original rise of ISIL in 2014 and 2015,” he said, adding that it sends a clear message on the importance of uniting to combat the threat of internationally proscribed terrorist groups and resolving the broader conflict. Civilians also continue to suffer amid shelling, airstrikes, improvised explosive device attacks and terrorist attacks that target them directly, especially in north-east and central Syria.
“In this context, the tragedy of the Syrian people is only deepening,” he said, noting that 14 million civilians now need humanitarian assistance, more than 12 million remain displaced and many are now facing freezing winter conditions. Meanwhile, the Syrian economy has collapsed and criminality and smuggling are flourishing, despite a continued “strategic stalemate” that has kept the conflict’s front lines frozen for more than two years.
Outlining his own diplomatic and mediation efforts, he cited recent visits to Tehran and Doha, as well as a meeting with the Syrian Negotiations Commission and with the Astana Guarantors, all aimed at promoting “step-by-step” confidence-building measures and more frank negotiations. He also noted his plan to reconvene the Syrian-led, Syrian-owned, United Nations-facilitated Constitutional Committee, urging the parties to be prepared to find some common ground on that crucial front “or at least narrow differences”.
Civil society leader Thuraya Hijazi, Director of the organization Release Me in northern Syria, also briefed the Council via videoconference. Noting that the regime continues to operate with impunity, she said 90 per cent of Syrians live below the poverty line and 5.6 million people require humanitarian assistance, the provision of which is constantly politicized. Despite many efforts, the Security Council has so far failed at finding a political solution, leading the Syrian people to lose hope. Meanwhile, no action plan has been laid out to address the serious crimes being committed against Syrian women, which include sexual violence and the inability to make their voices heard.
As Council members took the floor, many expressed deep concern over the incident at the Al-Hasakah prison and its impact on nearby civilians, as well as its potential broader indications regarding the status of ISIL/Da’esh in the region. However, delegates largely diverged on the other threats facing Syria, with some stressing the importance of the constitution-drafting process and others focusing instead on the need to respect national sovereignty and resist imposing external pressure or artificial deadlines on the parties.
The representative of the United States said that his delegation supports the pursuit of lasting peace in Syria, including by sustaining the coalition campaign to prevent the resurgence of ISIL/Da’esh. Noting that recent events at the Al-Hasakah detention centre show that the group remains a real threat, he also emphasized the need to expand full, unhindered humanitarian access across Syria and keep border crossings open.
The representative of Ireland also condemned the recent attack by ISIL/Da’esh in Al-Hasakah and expressed grave concern about the continued uptick in violent incidents, adding: “Intentional attacks against civilians are war crimes.” Calling on all parties to adhere to their obligations under international humanitarian law, she called for full accountability for all crimes committed in Syria, commending Germany and other States that have recently taken domestic action to prosecute crimes committed there under the principle of universal jurisdiction.
China’s delegate echoed concern over the incidents at the Al-Hasakah prison. The international community must take a clear stance against terrorism, respect the Syrian Government’s leadership in that arena and refrain from engaging in double standards, he stressed. Noting the need for an integrated international approach to threats to Syria’s sovereignty and independence, he said such examples as theft of oil from the country’s north-east and the construction of settlements in the Golan Heights both constitute serious violations of Syria’s rights.
The representative of the Russian Federation emphasized that no alternate exists to a Syrian-led, United Nations-supported political process free from foreign interference and artificial deadlines. Pointing out that Damascus stands ready to engage in the next round of Constitutional Committee talks, he added that natural ties must be resumed with Syria’s neighbours. He also echoed expressions of concern over the attack on the Al-Hasakah prison, stressing that the Council needs additional information on the situation unfolding in north-east Syria.
Syria’s representative said the situation in Al-Hasakah requires the Council’s attention, including because it reflects the broader problem of the continued United States presence in Syria. Noting that his country stands committed to finding a political solution based on national dialogue and full respect for sovereignty, he rejected outside attempts to impose artificial timelines on the Constitutional Committee process. Meanwhile, he pointed out that the Council held not one session to condemn Israel’s recent aggression against his country.
Also speaking were the representatives of Gabon, the United Arab Emirates, Mexico, Albania, United Kingdom, France, Ghana, Kenya, India, Brazil, Norway, Turkey and Iran.
The meeting began at 3:07 p.m. and ended at 4:55 p.m.
GEIR O. PEDERSEN, Special Envoy for Syria, said violence continues and Syrians are still suffering deeply, having recently witnessed shelling, deadly airstrikes in Idlib, improvised explosive device attacks, a flareup of hostilities in the north-east, Israeli airstrikes at Latakia port and a growing number of security incidents related to drug smuggling. Attacks by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) against civilians and humanitarian actors also continue in north-east and central Syria.
He said the last few days have also witnessed an unprecedented attempt at a prison break in Al-Hasakah by thousands of detainees with suspected ISIL links, sparking clashes from the United States-led global coalition. While most of the ISIL fighters have now surrendered, there is great concern for the safety of civilians, many of whom have been displaced. “Even if this particular ISIL uprising might have been quashed, this episode brings back terrible memories of the prison breaks that fuelled the original rise of ISIL in 2014 and 2015,” he said, adding that it sends a clear message on the importance of uniting to combat the threat of internationally proscribed terrorist groups and resolving the broader conflict.
“In this context, the tragedy of the Syrian people is only deepening,” he continued, noting that 14 million civilians now need humanitarian assistance. More than 12 million remain displaced and many are now facing freezing winter conditions. Tens of thousands are detained, abducted or missing, the Syrian economy has collapsed, and criminality and smuggling are flourishing. The country remains de facto divided and society is deeply fractured. “Syrians see no concrete progress towards a political solution,” he warned. Meanwhile, a strategic stalemate continues to hold, with no shifts in the conflict’s frontlines for nearly two years.
Recounting his recent visits to Tehran and Doha, as well as his meeting with the Syrian Negotiations Commission, he said that on 24 January he briefed a foreign ministers meeting in the European Union Foreign Affairs Council. In addition, in late December, Deputy Special Envoy Khawla Mattar attended an Astana format meeting, where she met senior officials from the Russian Federation, Turkey and Iran, the Syrian Government and opposition and regional observers. During a meeting of the Working Group on the Release of Detainees/Abductees, some positive proposals were made which could mark genuine progress if implemented, he said, urging all stakeholders to follow up on them.
“More broadly, I am calling anew for serious diplomatic discussions on a range of steps that could begin to impact the conflict dynamics, build some trust and confidence […] and make progress step-by-step,” he said, outlining plans to meet with a range of international partners and other actors in the coming weeks. Addressing those various interlocutors, he asked them to identify not only their demands but also what they are prepared to put on the table and expressed hope that they will begin to identify and agree on incremental, reciprocal, mutual, realistic, precise and verifiable steps in a range of critical areas.
As part of that process, he noted his plan to reconvene the Syrian-led, Syrian-owned, United Nations-facilitated Constitutional Committee. The challenge is to ensure that delegations not only table constitutional texts but are prepared to revise them in light of the discussions and to try to find some common ground or at least narrow differences. Noting that he is currently engaging with both Co-Chairs, he expressed his readiness to convene a seventh session of the Committee in Geneva as soon as understandings are in place. He also pledged to spare no effort to engage the Syrian Government and opposition, and all sectors of Syrian society, men and women, and all key international stakeholders, in pursuit of his mandate.
THURAYA HIJAZI, Director of the Release Me organization in northern Syria, briefing via videoconference, said the Syrian regime continues to operate with impunity for its actions. Syria has effectively turned into “four Syrias”, with 90 per cent living below the poverty line and 5.6 million people needing assistance, the provision of which is constantly politicized. Despite the efforts made, including those by the Special Envoy, the Council has so far failed at finding a political solution, making Syrians lose hope. Those in power, supported by the Russian Federation and certain Middle Eastern States, want a solution benefiting them. Meanwhile, deals are proposed, such as the Arab gas line and the push for Syria’s return to the League of Arab States, and the Special Envoy, in his briefing, has encouraged engagement with the regime.
As a witness to actions targeting women, she said their problems extend to United Nations reports, which document the extent of crimes against them. However, no action plan has been recommended to address these serious concerns, she said, adding that sexual violence is also a chronic problem. Meanwhile, organized crime, drug smuggling and other illegal activities, some of which support the regime, persist alongside other threats. Outlining steps to address these concerns, she called upon the Council to, among other things, support the release of the detainees, to pressure the regime to end impunity for perpetrators of crimes and to push forward the political process, with the active participation of women. Supporting the criminalization of violations against women, she encouraged the Council to start a truly inclusive process. Women should be able to participate in all political activities and have their voices heard, she said.
RICHARD M. MILLS, JR. (United States), expressing support for the Special Envoy’s engagement with the Women’s Advisory Board, called for implementation of resolution 1325 (2000). Ahead of the eleventh anniversary of the Syrian uprising, the United States supports the pursuit of lasting peace through various avenues, including by sustaining the coalition campaign to prevent the resurgence of ISIL/Da’esh, which remains a real threat, as demonstrated by the ongoing situation at the detention centre in Hasakah. Further, sustaining local ceasefires is essential to keep the levels of violence down. It is also important to expand full, unhindered humanitarian access across Syria and open border crossings to ensure that growing needs across the country are met. Stressing the need for an inclusive, Syrian-led political process, in line with Council resolution 2254 (2015), he noted that some States had offered “less than constructive comments” about Special Envoy Pedersen’s efforts and encouraged all stakeholders to support his work towards a political solution to the conflict. Concerned about the many Syrians who were arbitrarily detained or disappeared, he called for pressure to be applied on the Assad Government so that it provides information to families. Those responsible for attacks on health-care workers and medical facilities must cease such attacks. Expressing concern about the continued destruction of civilian infrastructure in Idlib, including damage on 2 January to a water station, which affected the water supply of 250,000 Syrians, he urged the Syrian Government and its Russian backers to cease attacks on the vulnerable region.
DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation), emphasizing that there is no alternate to a Syrian-led United Nations-supported political process, without foreign interference and artificial deadlines, stated that the Syrian Government is ready to travel to Switzerland for the seventh session of the Constitutional Committee. Recalling that the Russian Federation convened the latest meeting of interested parties in the Astana format in December in Nur-Sultan, he hoped that the Special Envoy will conduct meetings of the Constitutional Committee without being distracted by other initiatives that are not supported by Damascus. Long-term peace in Syria can only be achieved by fully rebuilding the country’s sovereignty and reinforcing its borders and control of resources while combating terrorists. Expressing concern about the recent attack on the prison in Al‑Hasakah, where jihadis were held, he said the Council must receive additional information on the situation unfolding in north-east Syria. Natural ties must be resumed with Syria’s neighbours. He went on to express regret about the unnecessary resources expended on discussing various aspects of the situation in Syria for two days in a row “when our Western colleagues are in charge”, and called for quality of meetings to be prioritized over quantity.
MICHEL XAVIER BIANG (Gabon) called for the restoration of a ceasefire in Syria, the restoration of State authority over the entire territory and the resumption of a dialogue in which all parties negotiate in good faith. Warning that the political process should not be considered a “blank cheque for immobility”, he underlined the need for Syria to finally emerge from its isolation. Women have an important role to play in that process, he stressed, while also urging all parties to keep in mind the first paragraph of resolution 2254 (2015) on the preservation of Syria’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence.
ZHANG JUN (China) expressed support for the advancement of Syria’s political process and his hope that the next round of the Constitutional Committee will soon be held, free of external interference. The international community needs an integrated approach to the issues that threaten Syria’s sovereignty and independence, he said, noting that no foreign troops are permitted to be deployed in Syria and that both the theft of oil from the north-east and the construction of settlements in the Golan Heights constitute serious violations of the country’s rights. Meanwhile, he voiced deep concern over the recent attack on a prison housing terrorists and pointed out that the existence of terrorism in Syria cannot be regarded as normal. The international community must take a clear stance against terrorism, respect the Syrian Government’s leadership in that arena and refrain from engaging in double standards. In addition, serious consideration should be given to combining the Council’s three monthly meetings on Syria into one session, which would make better use of the organ’s limited resources, he said.
MOHAMED ISSA ABUSHAHAB (United Arab Emirates) said the international community must develop a new approach to deal with the Syria crisis, primarily by opening channels of communication and building bridges. He highlighted the recent visit to Damascus by Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, as part of his country’s bridge-building endeavours aimed at overcoming the current stalemate and shifting the general perception on the ground towards resolving the crisis. He stressed the importance of strengthening the Arab role in a way that supports the Special Envoy. He agreed with the Special Envoy’s emphasis on creating opportunities for gradual and tangible steps, which requires a collective effort to support and reinvigorate the Constitutional Committee. Ending foreign interference in Syrian affairs, which has been excessive in the past several years, is essential to create an environment conducive to peace and stability, he said, also supporting the call for an immediate and sustainable national ceasefire in Syria. Counter-terrorism efforts in the country must continue, as terrorist activities are among the most destabilizing factors in the country and region, he said, expressing alarm about the dangerous developments in the Ghuwayran neighbourhood in Al-Hasakah in recent days and the continued targeting of areas of Deir Ezzor and eastern Homs.
ENRIQUE JAVIER OCHOA MARTÍNEZ (Mexico) regretted that despite advances in the political process, progress is very limited. Concerned that the security situation continues to deteriorate, he said the recent attack on Al-Sina’a prison demonstrates that ISIL is gaining ground. He expressed grave concern about the well-being and safety of hundreds of children detained in the prison, who are victims of terrorism, and called on States to repatriate them as soon as possible. With regard to justice for perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity, he highlighted a 13 January verdict handed down in a court in Koblenz, Germany against the officer in charge of Al-Khatib prison in Damascus, who was found guilty of crimes against humanity, saying that such rulings are delivering a measure of justice to victims. They are also critical to ending impunity for perpetrators. Turning to other concerns, he called on Israel to halt all construction of settlements in the occupied Syrian Golan.
FERIT HOXHA (Albania), expressing full support for the Special Envoy, said incremental and verifiable steps can build the necessary trust to advance the political process, but they represent the floor, not a ceiling. Albania would also like to see a workplan with concrete and measurable indicators to assess how bilateral consultations with relevant stakeholders have contributed to advancing the political process, where the obstacles lie and what the Council should do to overcome them. Transitional justice is also essential, as is an overhaul of the structures that have allowed radical evil to take root in Syria. What has befallen on Syria must never happen again in Syria or anywhere else and that can be averted by fighting impunity. Albania supports all international and national efforts to hold the perpetrators of the heinous crimes to account, including through the referral of the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court, and the application of universal jurisdiction by national courts, he said, adding that: “This is the least that can be expected of us.”
JAMES KARIUKI (United Kingdom) said as the conflict and humanitarian crisis in Syria enters its twelfth year, 13.4 million people need humanitarian assistance, while more than half of the population has been displaced by violence. During this time, the Syrian regime has perpetuated appalling violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, he said, stressing that without political progress and a cessation of attacks on civilians, “an unrepentant Syrian regime cannot be considered fit to govern”. He condemned the ongoing targeting and destruction of civilian infrastructure in north-west Syria. Developments in north-east Syria over the past week highlight how — even without territory — ISIL/Da’esh and its poisonous ideology continues to pose a threat in Syria, Iraq and the wider world. The United Kingdom looks forward to the briefing on Thursday by the Under-Secretary-General for Counter-Terrorism, Vladimir Voronkov, on the issue, and a detailed and constructive Council discussion. Turning to the political process, he said any “step-for-step” process must be fully compliant with resolution 2254 (2015) and should be accompanied by a clear process of verification. The United Kingdom stands ready to support such a process, “assuming the Syrian regime and its backers are willing to engage in good faith”.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) said that renewed bombings by the Syrian regime, supported by Russian aviation forces, are proof that war is not over. Noting that the attacks destroyed civilian infrastructure, including farms and a water station, he went on to condemn the bombings, as well as the 20 January attack by ISIL/Da’esh on a prison in north-east Syria. France reiterates its call for the cessation of hostilities at the national level and for the protection of civilians to be made an absolute priority. On the political solution to the conflict, he emphasized the need to fully implement resolution 2254 (2015), which constitutes a road map to lasting peace. France held bilateral consultations with the Special Envoy on 12 January on his “step-for-step” approach, he said, calling on all stakeholders to assume their responsibility, particularly the Syrian regime, “which for the time being has taken no action”. The lack of action since 2018 on disappeared persons is proof. Expressing regret over the “systematic obstructions by the Syrian regime” during the sixth meeting of the Constitutional Committee, he stressed that there is no reason to normalize relations with Syria, without a solid political solution. Therefore, France’s position on sanctions remains unchanged, he said, adding that reconstruction will take place at the end of the political process, and not ahead of it. The systematic violation of the rights of returnees shows that the conditions for the safe, voluntary and dignified return of refugees have not been met.
HAROLD ADLAI AGYEMAN (Ghana), pointing to the violent clashes in the north-eastern city of Al-Hasakah over the past week following attacks carried out on the Ghwayran prison by ISIL to release detained members of the armed group, stressed that terrorism in Syria continues to counteract the already difficult process of a peaceful resolution. “The international community must be relentless in the fight against terrorism and hold the perpetrators accountable,” he said. Affirming his country’s support for a political solution and a nationwide ceasefire, he emphasized that the work of the Constitutional Committee remains an important aspect of the transitional process which should not be obstructed under the pretext of procedural challenges. The real issue is the lack of trust, he noted. Welcoming the approach of making women a part of the solution to the crisis, he noted that women constitute nearly 30 per cent of the Constitutional Committee. The Special Envoy’s consultations in Geneva with the Women’s Advisory Board must also be sustained as part of the measures to involve women in the wider political process. He also called for an end to the persistent human rights violations and abuses and highlighted the issue of enforced disappearances as well as the arbitrary detention of persons, including children, in violation of international law.
JAYNE JEPKORIR TOROITICH (Kenya) underscored the need for progress that delivers peace for Syrians, a charge more compelling and urgent than ever. She called for a Syrian-led and owned political dialogue, bolstered by international support, stressing that progress by the Constitutional Committee is crucial for unlocking the political track and expressing regret over the lack of agreement on the convening of a seventh round. She reiterated Kenya’s plea for parties to agree to this undertaking and to engage constructively in the interests of “millions of Syrians who are counting on their leadership”. She took note of the Special Envoy’s “transactional diplomacy” approach aimed at incremental and verifiable steps, calling more broadly on regional and international stakeholder to do more in the context of Council resolution 2254 (2015) with a focus on missing persons and detainees, early recovery activities, social conditions and mitigating the impact of sanctions. They must also engage in a coordinated manner to foster the political process. She encouraged the inclusion of economic and social empowerment programmes targeting women, internally displaced persons and refugees, condemning reported air strikes in the north-west, notably improvised explosive device attacks in Afrin and Dara’a, and underscoring the need to collectively combat ISIL/Da’esh and Tahrir al-Sham.
RAVINDRA RAGUTTAHALLI (India) welcomed the Special Envoy’s “step by step approach” and expressed his hope that is will soon bear fruit. Underlining the importance of building mutual trust among all parties — including external players — he praised the recent diplomatic engagement between Damascus and other capitals in the region as well as the decision by the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries members to host its 2024 conference in Damascus. Reiterating India’s longstanding view that imposing external solutions cannot help resolve the conflict in Syria, he voiced concern about the overall situation in the country, including incidents of ceasefire violations in the north-west, and called on all sides to desist from such actions. Further, the growing influence of terrorist groups in internally displaced persons camps such as Al‑Rukban and Al‑Hol must be urgently addressed. Meanwhile, designated terrorist groups such as ISIL/Da’esh and Hayat Tahrir al‑Sham continue to gain strength, he said, condemning their attacks and stressing that the global fight against terrorism must not be compromised for narrow political gains.
GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland), commending Special Envoy Pedersen for his ongoing engagement with the Women’s Advisory Board, underlined the need to prioritize the inclusive and meaningful participation of women activists, peacebuilders and human rights defenders, such as the briefer, Ms. Thuraya, and called upon the Syrian authorities to engage meaningfully with the Constitutional Committee, in line with resolution 2254 (2015). She strongly condemned the recent attack by ISIL/Da’esh in Al-Hasakah and expressed grave concern about the continued uptick in violent incidents in the north-west, adding: “Intentional attacks against civilians are war crimes.” Noting that the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported the killing of two children and injury of five others near Idlib in the first four days of January alone, she called on all parties to adhere to their obligations under international humanitarian law and to take definitive measures to prevent child casualties. There must be accountability for all crimes committed in Syria, she said, commending Germany and other States who have taken domestic action to prosecute crimes, including war crimes. Turning to the issue of refugees, she called on parties to end the abuse of returnees and urged refugee-hosting countries to respect their obligations under refugee law, including the principle of non-refoulement. Syria does not yet offer a safe environment for refugee returns and all returns must be safe, voluntary and dignified. Expressing grave concern about the tens of thousands of unlawfully detained and forcibly disappeared people in Syria, she called on all parties, particularly the Syrian Government, to unilaterally release the unlawfully detained and clarify the fate and whereabouts of missing persons.
JOÃO GENÉSIO DE ALMEIDA FILHO (Brazil) said his Government remains convinced that only a Syrian-owned and Syrian-led, United Nations-facilitated political process will bring lasting peace and alleviate the suffering of the Syrian population. Resolution 2254 (2015) provides a road map that could restore Syria’s unity and sovereignty, he noted, urging members of the Constitutional Committee to bridge their differences and engage seriously in drafting a new constitution. Echoing the Secretary-General’s call for a national ceasefire, he pointed out that the growing and continuous presence of terrorist groups in the country is particularly worrisome. Pointing to the Ghwayran prison break attempt, in particular the situation of the 850 children in detention, he echoed UNICEF’s call on all parties in Syria to keep children out of harm’s way. Amid a harsh winter, he also noted Brazil’s support for the United Nations cross-border humanitarian operations as essential to provide help to the most vulnerable people in Syria. Additionally, humanitarian exemptions for any sanctions must be observed to ensure essential supplies are provided.
MONA JUUL (Norway), Council President for January, spoke in her national capacity, saying that the international community and stakeholders must do more to move beyond the current stalemate. Urging all actors to work constructively to advance on the political track, she commended the Special Envoy’s “step for step” work. Indeed, the political process must make progress for the Syrian people, their neighbours and the international community and must include all stakeholders, including women’s direct participation at all levels. At the same time, the recent ISIL attack demonstrates that it is a threat that the world must continue to fight against, she said, expressing concern about the people of Al‑Hasakah. In closing, she reiterated Norway’s pledge to work towards finding a political solution to the conflict.
BASSAM SABBAGH (Syria), recalling the Council’s recent meetings related to his country, wondered if the organ had become a platform to give some countries the opportunity to raise allegations. Meanwhile, not one emergency session has been held to condemn Israel’s aggression against Syria. What is happening in Al‑Hasakah certainly requires the Council’s attention, as the situation reflects broader problems, including the United States presence in Syria, but some States attempt to deviate from what is really happening. For its part, Syria is committed to a political solution based on a national dialogue and on full respect for its sovereignty and territorial integrity. Syria continues to contribute to this process despite Turkey’s actions and anticipates progress in discussions in the Constitutional Committee, he said, reiterating his delegation’s rejection of efforts to impose artificial timetables. It is dangerous to turn a blind eye to challenges related to the humanitarian situation, he said.
To address these and other concerns, he called on the Council to firmly and swiftly ensure respect for its resolutions on the occupied Syrian Golan and put an end to Israel’s plans to build settlements there. The Council must also work to end the Turkish occupation of Syrian territory and its aggressive actions, including using potable water as a tool of war, the United States presence in the north-west of Syria and unilateral sanctions that are harming Syrians. In addition, the Council must act swiftly to counter any violations of the United Nations Charter, he said.
ÖNCÜ KEÇELI (Turkey) stressed that conflict emerged in Syria when its people overcame fear and sought democratic rights, freedoms and a democratic constitution. The international community cannot pretend that once hostilities cease, the Syrian people would be happy to return to the pre-conflict status quo. “The international community must listen to the Syrian people. The root cause of the conflict is still out there: restriction of fundamental rights and freedoms by the Assad regime”, he said. The only way to normalize the implementation of the universal human rights for the Syrian people is by advancing the political process through the Constitutional Committee and achieving a political settlement in accordance with resolution 2254 (2015). Stressing that “thus far we have not seen any good will on the part the regime”, he said its attacks in Idlib specifically target civilians and civilian infrastructure, including attacks on a Arshani pumping station and a farm. These are grave violations of international humanitarian law.
He went on to reiterate concerns that Da'esh members are being released in exchange for bribes, which will only aid the group’s resurgence. The prison break and subsequent clashes proved once again the impotence and unreliability of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party/People’s Protection Units (PKK/YPG)-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces. Pointing to the acts of aggression by the PKK/YPG, including a recent rocket fire attack in which 7 civilians, 5 of whom were children, were killed and 30 civilians were injured, he assured the Council: “PKK/YPG will pay for these atrocities. We will not tolerate any terrorist organization nor will they find safe haven along our borders.” In order to establish a lasting political solution in Syria, there should be no support from the international community to the regime, nor to the terror organizations, he said.
MAJID TAKHT RAVANCHI (Iran) recalled the calm security situation in Syria in 2021, marked by improved bilateral relations, along with the convening of the fifth and sixth rounds of the Constitutional Committee, which raised hopes among the parties. Yet, Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity were seriously violated by the occupation and aggression of Israel and terrorist groups. Stressing that the crisis has no military solution and cannot end without ending the occupation and confronting terrorism, he said all uninvited forces must leave the country without delay. The Council meanwhile should denounce the meeting of Israel’s Cabinet in the Syrian Golan and press Israel to end its occupation of that area. He stressed that any actions aimed at changing the legal and demographic character of that area are null and void, recalling a statement by the Astana parties condemning Israel’s attacks in Syria, which violate international law and endanger regional stability. On the political track, he expressed support for the Special Envoy’s efforts to soon hold the next Constitutional Committee meeting, noting that it must be truly Syrian-led and owned, with the United Nations role to exclusively facilitate the process. He also called for the full and balanced implementation of resolution 2585 (2021), including for early recovery projects and the removal of sanctions, underscoring Iran’s support for Syria’s efforts to restore its unity and territorial integrity.