First of all, let me thank Deputy Special Envoy Khawla Matar for her briefing, which among other things, also mentioned the concerns over military operations in Idlib province North-West of Syria.
As we said in the morning, Estonia joins those countries, calling for an immediate ceasefire in Idlib, and across Syria.
Looking at the Constitutional Committee, it is clear that challenges surrounding its work are growing. Little – not to say no progress – have been made since last month’s briefing in this Chamber.
We are four months into the Committee’s meetings, but even the proper agenda is yet to be agreed upon. Is this really the progress, which should satisfy the Syrian people, as well as this Council?
The apparent deadlock is a direct result of Syrian authorities’ unwillingness to commit themselves fully to the political process, as set out in the resolution 2254. Instead, Damascus has gradually distanced itself from the provisions of the Council, despite the continuous efforts of the UN Special Envoy, who was in Syria only today.
There are those, who insist, “not to set artificial deadlines” to the work of the Constitutional Committee. However, let us be absolutely clear:
no deadlines should not mean no results. No deadlines cannot mean no results.
We use this opportunity to ask our Syrian colleagues: what could be done to bring Damascus behind the negotiations table, to actually seek a comprehensive solution? If the undermining of the work of Constitutional Committee continues, then we must be ready to look at other pending issues. Fortunately, the resolution 2254 is rich of means to enhance the political process.
In this regard, we also want to underline the crucial role of Confidence Building Measures, which can give the political process more substance.
Ordinary Syrians, as well as Mrs. Matar, have highlighted the issue of arbitrarily detained and missing people. Syrians – both inside the country and abroad – want to know the fate of their friends and relatives, demanding the release of those, who have been arrested without any just reason.
We acknowledge the working group of Astana format for their efforts on the mutual release of detainees. And we welcome the announcement of a joint committee with the UN. However, equal exchanges are not sufficient due to the imbalance of detainees. The Syrian government holds eight times more prisoners than other groups and parties combined – eight times more!
In this light, it is clear that equal prisoner exchanges are not sustainable long-term. What is instead required – is a unilateral release of arbitrarily detained people, especially political prisoners, women, and minors.This act of unilateral release would help to restore the trust of Syrians into state institutions, send a positive message to the Syrians abroad, and support the political process, as well as the work of the Constitutional Committee.
Thank you Mr. President