Since March 2011 the Syrian people have endured bloodshed and brutal force at the hands of the Syrian regime. Syrian security forces have killed 5,000 civilians, the majority of whom were unarmed, while thousands more are missing. Over 10,000 civilians are being arbitrarily held in detention and tens of thousands have been displaced internally or across Syria’s borders in fear of military assaults.
The Syrian regime has shown complete disregard for its obligations under applicable international law. Access of humanitarian agencies has been blocked and there has been no cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The regime has yet to heed calls from the UN and the wider international community to cease all bloodshed and violence and to implement genuine reform. This view is shared by neighbouring and other Arab countries as well as Western governments.
It is clear that there is no justification for the excessive use of force by the Syrian regime. Through its brutal repression, refusal to meet the aspirations of its people and failure to respect their basic human rights, the Syrian regime is creating instability and guaranteeing its own demise.
Latest developments in New York
On 30th August 2012 Foreign Secretary William Hague attended a French-chaired Ministerial meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss Syria, focusing on the humanitarian situation, where he delivered this statement.
Ahead of the meeting, the Foreign Secretary held a Joint Press Conference with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. He highlighted the worsening humanitarian crisis, called for increased contributions to the UN’s humanitarian relief fund, and announced an additional £3 million in aid to Syrian refugees on top of the £27.5 million already contributed by the UK.
On 3 August 2012, following Russian’s and China’s 19 July vetoes of a draft Security Council resolution (see below) – the third use of Russian/Chinese vetoes on Syria in just nine months – the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution that:
The resolution was adopted by 133 votes to 12: 70% of the membership of the General Assembly voted in favour. UK Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant spoke to the press after the adoption of this resolution, and Foreign Secretary William Hague issued a statement.
Security Council Action
On 23 February 2012, Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan was appointed as the UN/Arab League Joint Special Envoy on the Syrian crisis. Mr Annan quickly developed a six-point proposal for addressing the Syrian crisis. On 21 March, the Security Council issued a Presidential Statement expressing support for the proposal aimed at end to all violence and a Syrian-led political transition to a democratic, plural political system.
On 5 April, the Security Council issued a further Presidential Statement calling on the Syrian government to implement its immediate commitments under the six-point proposal – namely to (a) cease troop movements towards population centres; cease all use of heavy weapons in such centres and (c) begin pullback of military concentrations from in and around population centres. It called upon the government to fulfil its commitments by no later than 10 April and called upon all parties to cease all forms of violence within 48 hours of implementation of these commitments. The Statement also requested the Secretary-General to provide options for a UN monitoring mechanism.
On 14 April, following two-days of a relative decrease in levels of violence, and upon a recommendation of Joint Special Envoy, Kofi Annan, the Security Council unanimously adopted Security Council resolution 2042 authorising the deployment of an advance team of unarmed military observers to monitor a cessation of violence. It laid out the conditions of operation of the observers and any future, larger force, including freedom of access and movement and freedom to interview any individuals without retaliation against those individuals. It also condemned the human rights violations committed by the Syrian government and reiterated the need for the Syrian government to fulfil its commitments on troop movements and heavy weapons.
Ambassador Lyall Grant spoke at the UN Security Council 'Stakeout' following the session.
On 21 April, the Security Council unanimously adopted Security Council resolution 2043 authorising the deployment of a UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) for an initial period of three months, consisting of up to 300 unarmed military observers as well as an additional civilian component. The Mission’s mandate was to monitor a cessation of violence and to monitor and support the full implementation of the Joint Special Envoy’s six-point proposal. Resolution 2043 also called again upon the Syrian government to fulfil its commitments, including an additional commitment to withdraw troops and heavy weapons to their barracks.
Following the adoption Ambassador Lyall Grant delivered the UK Explanation of Vote and spoke at the Security Council 'Stakeout':
The Syrian regime failed to fulfil its obligations under resolutions 2042 and 2043. In view of this, the ever-increasing level of violence and the risk to UN personnel, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2059 on 20 July, which decided to end the UNSMIS mandate in 30 days unless the regime ceased the use of heavy weapons and there was a reduction in the overall level of violence. Neither condition was met. The UNMIS mandate therefore ended on 19 August.
Vetoed Security Council Resolution
Since November 2011, we and our partners on the Council have pursued tougher Council action aimed at ensuring that the Syrian regime ends its brutal repression. Russia and China blocked a draft Security Council resolution on 4 October and a further draft resolution on 4 February 2012, just hours after the bloodiest day of repression in Syria. Most recently, on 19 July 2012, Russia and China vetoed a further draft resolution aimed at securing compliance with resolutions 2042 and 2043. By vetoing for a third time, Russian and China demonstrated their unwillingness to apply any pressure to the Syrian regime even in the face of its complete disregard for the very resolutions for which Russia and China had voted in favour (indeed Russia had itself authored one).
The UN’s role in securing a better future for Syria
The UK wants the Syrian regime to stop its repressive behaviour immediately. Despite the vetoes of the latest attempt at Security Council action, we will continue – with our partners inside and outside the Security Council – to press for a resolution of the crisis and a better future for Syria’s people. Although Kofi Annan announced on 18 July his resignation from the position of Joint Special Envoy, the UN continues to play an important role. Lakhdar Brahimi was appointed Special Representative of the Secretary-General, following Kofi Annan’s resignation and is beginning work in his new role.