Statement to the United Nations Security Council on Syria
New Zealand has convened today’s high level meeting on Syria for one simple reason: no other issue more urgently demands the attention of world leaders.
The Syrian civil war is the most devastating conflict of the 21st century.
We see a country shattered, terrorism and extremism rampant, and the daily horrors of the deliberate displacement, starving and killing of civilians.
We join the Secretary-General in condemning Monday’s attack on a humanitarian convoy. There is no justification for attacking those who are trying to save lives.
Longer term, we will need to hold to account those most responsible for the appalling atrocities we have witnessed. This includes those responsible for chemical weapons attacks.
The scale of the Syrian refugee crisis has shocked the world. It has impacted millions of people in the region and beyond.
The conflict has created security threats that reach well beyond Syria’s borders.
After more than five years of violence, Syria has become a byword for failure.
Failure of the parties and their supporters to put peace, and the lives of innocent people ahead of self-interest and zero-sum politics.
Failure to respond to the crisis early to prevent this tragedy.
And a collective political failure, including by this Council, to do what must be done to end the conflict.
Today’s meeting is a chance for an open and honest discussion on how peace can be achieved.
It is critical that we rewrite this narrative of failure, and help set Syria on a path to peace.
Let’s be clear: no one will benefit from a continuation of this conflict.
The Syrian Government, which bears responsibility for starting this war, cannot win.
Nor can the many others whose support is allowing the conflict to continue.
Ultimately, Syrians must reach agreement on their future government. But at this point it is clear that Syrians by themselves cannot end this war.
The problem is not a lack of direction. The pathway for ending this conflict was set out by the Security Council in Resolution 2254 last December.
That resolution identified the steps required; a nationwide ceasefire, negotiations on a political transition, and a united front for fighting ISIL and other terrorist groups.
It also established a timetable for implementing them.
But that timetable was never implemented.
Today we all need to commit to restoring the cessation of hostilities, delivering aid to those who need it, and restarting political talks.
Last week’s arrangement between US Secretary of State Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov represents the best hope we have seen in some time.
We encourage Russia and the US to show sustained leadership and not let this opportunity slip away.
The next few days will be critical in restoring the cessation of hostilities and getting humanitarian aid flowing.
We urge the Syrian parties to abide by the arrangement.
This Council should unite to back those efforts.
A political solution needs to address the causes of the conflict and establish a new form of inclusive government.
And it must provide more than just cosmetic change with regard to the central question of President Assad’s future.
A political solution will involve unpalatable choices for both sides. It will take courage and pragmatism.
Anyone who insists on political red lines that block the necessary compromises will have to measure the delay they cause in terms of more lives lost, more refugees and more suffering.
Those with influence must reinforce to the parties – and to the Syrian Government – that a political solution is the only way out of this conflict.
And they must back these words with their actions.
This means encouraging the parties to seek outcomes around the negotiating table, rather than on the battlefield.
That also means not using the fight against terrorism as an excuse to shift our focus from achieving a political solution. Terrorism is a major consequence of the Syrian war. But it did not cause it.
Those countries with greatest ability to influence events have a particular responsibility in this regard. I speak in particular of those the Secretary-General identified in his UNGA address last year as being key to resolving this conflict: the US, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
We call on these countries to work together to restore the cessation of hostilities over the next few critical days.
Advancing a political solution must be the priority in the weeks ahead.
The people of Syria deserve this much.