B Explanatory memorandum
by Mr Marcenaro, rapporteur
1 Since 1963, Syria, a country of major geostrategic
importance in the Middle East, has been ruled by an autocratic regime
based on the Alawi community, the Baath Party, and, since 1970,
the Assad family. A state of emergency and martial law have been
in force for almost 50 years. Ironically, in April 2011, a law was
passed to lift the state of emergency but had no effect in practical
terms. Repression and corruption are widespread.
In March 2011, the “Arab Spring” reached Syria, when activists
demonstrated against the Assad regime in the southern town of Deraa.
Protests were violently repressed by the authorities and the first
deaths were reported. Since then, protests have spread throughout
the country, and have been met with increasing violence: to date,
more than 11 000 persons have been killed. According to the United
Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates, some 55 000Note
have fled the
country to the neighbouring countries of Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan
and Iraq, putting governments and host communities under increasing pressure.
Another 230 000 are internally displaced. The government keeps claiming
that it is fighting against groups of terrorists.
The humanitarian situation is dire, among accusations of human
rights violations by both sides.NoteNote
At the beginning of March 2012,
the Syrian authorities prevented for several days the UN Humanitarian
Chief, Valerie Amos, from entering the country and the International
Committee of the Red Cross from entering the Baba Amr district in
the city of Homs, which was devastated by a humanitarian disaster.
2 The Syrian society
and the position of minorities following the uprising
4 Syria is home to a wide and diverse range of ethnic
and religious minorities. The Syrian population – estimated at around
23 million – is composed of 90% Arabs, 9% Kurds and 1% Armenians,
Assyrians and others. From a religious point of view, some 74% are
Sunni Muslims; some 16% are Muslims other than Sunni, including
Alawi (12%) and Druze (3%), and around 10% are Christians.
5 The policy of the Syrian regime vis-à-vis minorities has been
marked by the following pattern: on the one hand, it has granted
the Christian community guarantees of a peaceful cohabitation and
even representation in government structures; on the other hand,
it has harshly repressed those minorities, such as for instance Kurds,
which, with their claims for self-government, were putting at risk
the balance of power. The Sunni majority has been substantially
marginalised, whereas the Alawi minority has held the political
and military control.
6 Despite initial hesitations, the Kurds positioned themselves
relatively quickly against the government, although the positions
adopted by the various Kurdish parties vary. Kurdish opposition
groups have not joined the Syrian National Council (SNC), the latter
being dominated by Sunni Muslims, such as the Muslim Brotherhood.
Fifteen Kurdish parties formed, in October 2011, the Syrian Kurdish
National Council (KNC), as a separate opposition group, but other
Kurdish parties did not join the latter. Several attempts aimed
at bringing together the SNC and the KNC in a joint opposition group
have failed, precisely because of diverging positions on the issue
of the extent of Kurdish autonomy in a future post-Assad Syria.
Seemingly, if the two councils were to unite, this could change
the course of events.
7 For their part, the Christians and the Druze, fearing that
their situation would be worse if the Sunni majority (and the Syrian
Muslim Brotherhood) came to power, have hesitated in taking sides.
Both communities are divided. Being under-represented within the
SNC, many Christians fear that in, a post-Assad Syria, they would
risk losing the guarantees of religious tolerance they have enjoyed
until now. It is also true that the Christian community has already
been victim of incidents of religious violence by some extremist
Islamists for not having adhered to the revolt, mainly in Homs and
in Kusayr. While some Druze religious leaders side with the regime,
some Druze activists have joined the SNC.
8 The Alawi, perceived by the other groups as supporters of
the regime (which some undoubtedly are), will be particularly vulnerable
when the regime finally changes.
3 The Syrian opposition
9 The opposition to the regime of President Bashar
al-Assad is not homogenous but rather divided. The SNC is the main
umbrella group in exile and has been recognised by the United States
of America, the European Union and many Arab States as a legitimate
representative of the Syrian people.
10 The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood was established in 1946 and
took part in elections between then and 1961. The Baath Party took
power in 1963 and the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood was outlawed in
1964. After Bashar al-Assad succeeded his father in 2000, he released
some Brotherhood members from prison, some of its leaders were allowed
to return to Syria and the Brotherhood became less critical of the
regime. It was caught by surprise by the Arab Spring, but soon declared
its support for the protesters. In October 2011, the Syrian Muslim
Brotherhood joined the SNC.
11 The Free Syrian Army was formed in August 2011 by army deserters.
It is based in Turkey and led by Riyad al-Asaad, a former colonel
in the air force. In March 2012, five prominent SNC members resigned
and formed the Syrian Patriotic Front. They complained that the
Muslim Brotherhood exercised too much control over the SNC. The
National Co-ordination Committee for the Forces of Democratic Change
is a Syrian opposition bloc chaired by Hassan Abdel Azim consisting
of about 13 mostly left-leaning political parties and independent
political activists, including three Kurdish political parties,
and youth activists. It is largely based in Syria and operates in
Syria and abroad.
12 In an effort of co-ordination, factions of the opposition
and activists were invited by the chairmanship of the Arab League
to a meeting in Istanbul on the eve of the second conference of
the Group of Friends of the Syrian People. The SNC and the Syrian
Patriotic Front accepted the invitation but the Free Syrian Army
and the National Co-ordination Committee for the Forces for Democratic
Change in Syria did not. As said above, similar attempts to bring
together the SNC and the Syrian KNC have also failed.
13 Many armed groups do not appear to belong to an organised
command structure or to co-ordinate with the SNC or the Free Syrian
14 As, in my opinion, the possibility of outside military intervention
is ruled out, it is up to the domestic opposition to reinforce itself
and unite so as to be considered as the legitimate representative
of the vast majority of the society in a Syrian-led political process.
4 International reactions
4.1 United Nations
15 United Nations Security Council draft resolutions
condemning the Syrian violence were vetoed by Russia and China in
October 2011 and March 2012. The first threatened sanctions against
the Syrian regime if it did not halt its military crackdown against
civilians, while the second called on Mr Assad to stop military action,
to “facilitate a political transition” and to hold free elections
under the supervision of the Arab League. Russia – and others –
has argued that a resolution should be addressed both to the regime
and to the opponents. In addition, they claimed that the United
Nations resolution authorising the use of force to protect civilians
in Libya had been misused by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization
(NATO) and expressed concern about a new resolution being used as
a pretext for armed intervention in Syria.
16 On 17 February 2012, the UN General Assembly voted (137 against
12 with 17 abstentions) a resolution condemning human rights violations
in Syria and calling for an end to the violence.
17 From September to November 2011, a UN Human Rights Council
Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria investigated alleged
violations of human rights. A first report presented in November
2011 concluded that “gross violations of human rights have been
committed by Syrian military and security forces since the beginning
of the protests in March 2011”.
18 Based on these findings, Ms Navy Pillay, UN High Commissioner
for Human Rights, called for urgent action to protect civilians
in Syria and said that President al-Assad should be referred to
the International Criminal Court.
Mr Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, Chairperson of the Independent Commission,
presented a second report at the end of February 2012, which indicated
that Syrian Government forces had committed “widespread, systematic,
and gross human rights violations amounting to crimes against humanity”,
including the use of force against civilians, arbitrary executions,
the killing and persecution of protesters, enforced disappearances, torture
and sexual violence, including of, and against, children.Note
A presidential statement adopted by the Security Council on
21 March came to the same conclusions.Note
21 In March 2012, the UNHCR published the Syria Regional Response
Plan and launched an appeal for 84 million dollars to address the
needs for protection and assistance of refugees fleeing from Syria
into Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq. The plan aims to ensure a
coherent response to humanitarian needs resulting from the crisis
4.2 The League of Arab States
22 In November 2011, the League of Arab States suspended
Syria and imposed economic and political sanctions on the country
over its failure to stop the violence.
23 A team of observers visited the country at the end of December
2011 and announced a deal in which the Syrian Government had agreed
to remove tanks from towns, to free political prisoners and to talk
to the opposition. These promises, like the previous ones, were
not honoured by the regime.
24 In January 2012, the league issued a plan whereby President
Assad should put an end to violence and hand over power to his deputy
and a national unity government should be formed with the opposition
within two months. The plan was rejected by the Syrian authorities.
25 A proposal for a joint Arab League–United Nations peacekeeping
mission was categorically rejected by Syria in February.
26 Against this background of repeated refusals by the Syrian
regime to comply with calls of the international community to put
an end to the violence and while the latter was escalating, the
United Nations and the Arab League decided to join efforts. They
thus appointed, on 23 February 2012, the former Secretary-General
of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, as joint special envoy on the
Syrian crisis with a mandate to bring an end to the violence and
human rights violations and promote a peaceful political solution.
Mr Annan was asked to work with parties in and outside Syria to
end the violence and the humanitarian crisis and facilitate “a peaceful
Syrian-led and inclusive political solution that meets the democratic
aspirations of the Syrian people through a comprehensive political
dialogue between the Syrian government and the whole spectrum of
the Syrian opposition”.
4.3 Kofi Annan’s peace plan
Two and a half weeks after his appointment, the special
envoy of the United Nations and of the Arab League proposed the
following six-point peace plan:
political process to address the aspirations and concerns of the
- UN-supervised cessation of armed violence in all its forms
by all parties to protect civilians;
- all parties to ensure provision of humanitarian assistance
to all areas affected by the fighting, and implement a daily two-hour
- authorities to intensify the pace and scale of release
of arbitrarily detained persons;
- authorities to ensure freedom of movement throughout the
country for journalists;
- authorities to respect the freedom of association and
the right to demonstrate peacefully.
28 This plan received the support of the international community
in general, but also that of the Russian Federation and China, which
is one of its main merits. In March 2012, Mr Annan was in Syria,
where he spoke with Mr Assad, and, reporting back to the Security
Council on 27 March, he announced the acceptance of his plan by
the Syrian regime. For the state of implementation of the peace
plan, see below.
4.4 European Union
29 On 23 March 2012, the Council of the European Union
strongly condemned “the continued brutal attacks and systematic
human rights violations by the Syrian regime” and adopted restrictive
measures against persons and entities associated with the repression
or supporting or benefiting from the regime. The persons targeted
were banned from entering the European Union and their assets in
the European Union were frozen, as were the assets of the targeted
entities. Such measures were tightened in February and again in
March and in April, bringing the number of targeted persons to 126
and that of entities to 41. As a direct consequence, deliveries
of fuel oil to Syria halted at the beginning of April.
30 On 17 April 2012, the European Parliament held a debate on
the situation in Syria following a declaration by Ms Catherine Ashton,
EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs. Further sanctions were
approved by the European Union Council on 23 April 2012.
4.5 Group of Friends of the Syrian
31 When Russia and China vetoed the second Security
Council resolution on Syria, a Group of Friends of the Syrian People
was set up. A first conference was held in Tunis on 24 February
2012, with the participation of more than 60 ministers of foreign
affairs and representatives of international organisations such
as the United Nations, the League of Arab States, the European Union,
the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the Arab Maghreb Union,
the Gulf Cooperation Council and the African Union, to discuss a
possible co-ordinated plan of action to address the crisis in Syria.
It condemned the repression in Syria; supported the League of Arab States’
proposals for a peaceful resolution of the conflict; and supported
the Syrian National Council as “a legitimate representative of Syrians
seeking peaceful democratic change”.
32 A second conference, attended by more than 80 countries, took
place in Istanbul on 1 April. It called on Kofi Annan to set up
a timeline for the implementation of his peace plan, including a
return to the UN Security Council if the massacres continue, and
warned Mr Assad that he had very little time to comply with the
peace plan. Hillary Clinton, United States Secretary of State, warned
that there was “no more time for excuses or delays”. The Friends
of the Syrian People also announced that they wanted to set up a
working group on sanctions to adopt against the regime. According
to the French Foreign Minister, Alain Juppé, “the objective is to
co-ordinate US, European and Arab League sanctions and to convince
all countries that are friends to Syria to apply these sanctions
and toughen them up”. The conference also urged the Syrian opposition
to unite behind the SNC.
33 No reference to the arming of the opposition was made in the
conclusions made by the Friends of the Syrian People. However, the
President of the SNC announced that they would pay the salaries
of the Free Syrian Army. Reportedly, some Arab Gulf States are paying
millions of dollars into this programme.
34 Further to the meetings of the Group of Friends of the Syrian
People in Tunis and Istanbul, the International Working Group on
Sanctions held its first meeting on 17 April in Paris in order to
increase pressure on the Syrian regime. The 14 ministers for foreign
affairs who attended the meeting considered that Mr Annan's mission
was going through “a critical phase because of the refusal of Damascus
to implement its commitments”. They insisted on the need to keep
the pressure on the regime through the implementation of agreed
sanctions. These were not addressed against the Syrian people but
against the individuals and institutions responsible for the repression.
Russia, which did not take part, criticised the meeting as being
4.6 Council of Europe
On 4 October 2011, the Assembly adopted Resolution 1831 (2011)
on co-operation between the Council of Europe and the
emerging democracies in the Arab world.Note
the terms of this resolution:
Assembly is particularly disturbed by the situation in Syria, where
the authorities have launched brutal repression against their own
people resulting in thousands of deaths. It unequivocally condemns the
use of violence against the population and urges its immediate cessation.
It calls on the authorities of the Council of Europe member States
to impose firm and effective sanctions on those who have contributed
or are contributing to violence against the people. There must be
no impunity for crimes against humanity, whoever committed them.
The Assembly therefore calls on the international community, including,
as appropriate, the International Criminal Court, to ensure that
all such crimes are investigated and punished.”
36 On 24 November 2011, the Bureau of the Assembly condemned
violence in Syria and expressed support for the Arab League plan.
37 One week later, the Chairperson of the Assembly Committee
on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons declared that the situation
in Syria had become intolerable and called for sanctions against
the Syrian regime.
38 On 15 February 2012, the Secretary General of the Council
of Europe made a statement calling on the international community
to agree on a united and effective response which would help to
end the violence, protect human rights and facilitate a search for
a peaceful political resolution of the crisis. On 23 February, the Ministers’
Deputies supported the statement.
39 On 23 February 2012, Jean-Claude Mignon, President of the
Parliamentary Assembly, said that he was deeply shocked at the death
of the French photographer Rémi Ochlik and the American journalist
Marie Colvin, working for the Sunday
Times, who were both killed in the bombardment of Homs.
40 On 29 February 2012, President Mignon called for a “strong
partnership” between the Council of Europe and the organs of the
United Nations in dealing with crises, such as the current situation
in Syria, during a meeting in New York with UN Secretary-General
Ban Ki-moon. He also proposed increased co-operation between the
two organisations, including greater co-ordination of their positions
on international crises such as Syria, and consultations ahead of
Assembly debates on such issues.
41 On 9 March 2012, the Assembly, meeting in Paris at Standing
Committee level, upon my proposal, adopted a statement on the situation
in Syria expressing its dismay at the deterioration of the situation
in Syria, noting that a government which systematically bombs and
slaughters its own population cannot claim any legitimacy. The Assembly
called for an immediate end to the killings and related atrocities
and emphasised the urgency of addressing the humanitarian needs,
facilitating the effective delivery of assistance and ensuing safe access
to medical treatment. The Assembly joined UN Secretary-General Ban
Ki-moon in denouncing the international community’s failure in its
duty towards the Syrian people. Joining its own president, Jean-Claude Mignon,
in his hope that “Russia does not forget its commitments within
the Council of Europe”, the Assembly called on Russia not to veto
any future resolution on the subject within the UN Security Council.
The Assembly also insisted on the need to spare no effort to reassure
all Syrian citizens that, in combating the dictatorship of Assad,
“it will be possible for them to live together, Christians and Muslims,
Kurds and Arabs, Sunni and Alawi, in a peaceful and pluralist democracy”.
42 A few days later, on 14 March 2012, the Committee on Political
Affairs and Democracy, meeting in Paris, held an exchange of views
with the participation of Ambassador Nassif Hitti, Director of the
Mission of the League of Arab States in Paris. After this exchange,
the committee decided to request that a debate under urgent procedure
on the situation in Syria be held during the April 2012 part-session
of the Assembly and appointed me as rapporteur (subject to a decision
by the Assembly to hold an urgent debate). The committee also decided
to organise a hearing on the situation in Syria during the April
43 On 9 April 2012, the Secretary General issued the following
statement: “The attack by Syrian forces on a refugee camp inside
the Turkish border is a blatant violation of international law.
It is deeply worrying that the Syrian regime is escalating the conflict
at a time when the international community is intensifying efforts
to broker a peaceful, political solution. President al-Assad must
work with UN Secretary General's Special Envoy Kofi Annan on immediate,
full and unconditional compliance with the peace plan.”
44 On 10 April 2012, following the violence which erupted the
previous day leading to the death of more than 100 people, as well
as the incidents on the Turkish borders, the President of the Assembly
and myself, in my capacity of Chairperson of the Assembly’s Committee
on Political Affairs and Democracy, issued a joint statement on
the latest developments in Syria regretting that “[a] regime without
any future, stripped of all legitimacy and credibility, both internally
and internationally, continues to hold the Syrian people hostage
and to block a peaceful outcome”. We called on both the international
community and domestic opposition to unite with a view to offering
all Syrian citizens, whatever their ethnic origin, culture or religion,
the prospect of a peaceful, democratic and pluralist Syria.
45 On 23 April 2012, our committee held a hearing with the participation
of Mr Mohammed Hatem Drak Sibai, member of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent,
Mr Malaz Alatassi, founder and board member of the Syrian Sunrise
Foundation, Mr Joseph Bahout, political expert, Centre for International
Studies and Research, SciencesPo, Paris, and Mr Alain Délétroz,
Vice-President Europe, International Crisis Group, Brussels. The testimonies
of our Syrian guests, as well as the analysis provided by the invited
experts, helped me to better understand the dramatic situation on
the ground and the main challenges for the future.
5 The way forward
5.1 The progress of implementation
of Kofi Annan’s peace plan
46 In spite of the acceptance of Kofi Annan’s peace
plan by the Syrian regime, the killing of protesters by Syrian security
forces has continued and the opposition is sceptical about Mr Assad’s
47 On 30 March 2012, Mr Annan pointed out that the deadline for
the Syrian Government to comply with the plan “was now” and on 2
April he told the Security Council that the Syrian Government had
agreed for the first time to a withdrawal of government troops and
weapons from population centres by 10 April, to be followed by an
end of rebel operations within forty-eight hours. The ceasefire
was to come into effect on 12 April.
Only one day before the announced withdrawal of troops, on
9 April, more than 100 deaths were reported, including at least
30 civilians who died during a Syrian army bombardment in the central
province of Hama.Note
That day, one of the bloodiest days
of the uprising, the violence also spilled over into Turkey, which houses
some 25 000 refugees from Syria. At least two people died and many
were injured – including journalists and refugees – after Syrian
forces opened fire across the border. This was the first such attack
since Turkey began housing refugees from the unrest. Attacks have
also been reported on Lebanese territory where refugees from Syria
have also fled.Note
49 By 11 April, government troops and weapons had not been withdrawn
from population centres and the violence continued.
50 On 12 April, a fragile ceasefire entered into force, with
violations and victims being reported by both sides.
51 Although violent incidents continued to be reported on the
ground with the two sides accusing each other, on 14 April, the
UN Security Council took note of the assessment of the Joint Special
Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States, Kofi
Annan, that, as of 12 April, the Syrian parties appeared to be observing
a cessation of violence, and that the Syrian Government had started
to implement its commitments.
52 Against this background, the UN Security Council managed,
for the first time since the beginning of the uprising, to adopt
unanimously a resolution authorising the sending of an advance team
of up to 30 unarmed military observers to Syria to report on the
implementation of a full cessation of armed violence, pending the deployment
of a fully fledged United Nations supervision mission that would
be tasked with monitoring the ceasefire.
In its Resolution
, the UN Security Council called on all parties to guarantee
the safety of the advance team and ensure its freedom of movement
and access, stressing that the primary responsibility for carrying
out those requirements lay with the Syrian authorities. Members
of the Security Council condemned the widespread violation of human
rights by the Syrian authorities, as well as any other human rights
abuses committed by armed groups, stressing that those responsible
would be held accountable. They expressed profound regret over the
death of thousands of people.
The Security Council reiterated its call to the Syrian authorities
to allow immediate, full and unimpeded access of humanitarian personnel
to all those in need of help, in accordance with international law
and the guiding principles of humanitarian assistance. It also urged
all parties, in particular the Syrian authorities, to co-operate
fully with the UN and relevant humanitarian organisations to facilitate
the delivery of relief. The Security Council requested that the
Secretary-General report to it on the implementation of Resolution 2042
by 19 April, and expressed its intention to assess the
implementation and “to consider further steps as appropriate”.
55 The members of the Security Council expressed their intention
to establish, immediately after consultations between the Secretary-General
and the Syrian Government, a UN supervision mission in Syria to
monitor a cessation of armed violence by all parties. The Security
Council called on the Syrian authorities to ensure that the supervision
mission received the support it needed to deploy its personnel and
required assets, including unimpeded and immediate freedom of movement;
allowing its unobstructed communications; and allowing it to freely
communicate with individuals throughout Syria without retaliation
against any person as a result of interaction with the mission.
56 The UN Security Council's resolution was welcomed by all parties
to the conflict, as well as the international community. Although
several voices from the West cast doubt on the willingness of the
regime to implement the UN Security Council resolution, respect
the ceasefire and allow unhindered access to UN observers, one should
not underestimate the importance of the fact that, for the first
time since the beginning of the uprising, the international community
spoke with one voice. This should at least increase hopes for a sustainable
cessation of violence.
However, despite the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 2042
, and while the first handful of international observers
arrived in Syria mid-April to oversee the implementation of the
ceasefire, fighting and shelling continued. On 16 April, the Syrian
Observatory of Human Rights reported that, since the UN-backed ceasefire
came into force at dawn on Thursday 12 April, at least 55 people,
mostly civilians, had been killed.Note
of the ceasefire and an increased number of deaths were reported
on the following days, in particular in the cities of Hama and Khattab,
while the shelling of Homs continued. On 23 April, the total number of
deaths since the ceasefire began reached 200, including 20 Syrian
58 On 18 April, the UN Secretary-General called for a 300-member
unarmed UN ceasefire observation mission to be sent to Syria. Even
though Syrian troops had not withdrawn from cities and violence
had escalated since the ceasefire began, “with reports of shelling
of civilian areas and abuses by government forces”, the UN Secretary-General
said that “an opportunity for progress may now exist, on which we
need to build”. Violence levels have indeed “dropped markedly” since
the ceasefire began. But, in the words of the UN Secretary-General,
the government “has yet to fully implement its initial obligations
regarding the actions and deployments of its troops and heavy weapons,
or to return them to the barracks”. Mr Ban Ki-moon said that only
“partial” action had been taken on other parts of the six-point
plan. Protesters had been fired upon, the status and circumstances
of detainees across the country remained unclear and there continued
to be worrying reports of significant abuses. Mr Ban Ki-moon confirmed
violent incidents when the few UN observers present in Syria went
to the Arbeen suburb of Damascus, where an opposition crowd forced
their vehicles to a checkpoint.
59 On 19 April, the United Nations and the Syrian Government
signed an agreement on the arrangements for the deployment of the
expanded UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMS).
60 On 21 April, the UN Security Council unanimously approved
the deployment of the expanded mission of 300 UN observers for three
months. The vote took place while the few monitors who are already
present in Syria were allowed, for the first time, access to the
city of Homs. In a debate on the conditions of deployment, European
States were in favour of deployment only once the government had
honoured its commitment to send troops and tanks back to the barracks,
while Russia simply called for a quick deployment. Finally, the resolution
leaves it to the UN Secretary-General to decide when and how the
deployment is to take place.
61 In the meantime, a humanitarian forum for Syria met on 20
April in Geneva to mobilise the resources required to fund humanitarian
operations for the estimated one million people affected by the
crisis in Syria. The forum agreed to a draft plan to provide 180
million dollars for food, medicine and other supplies to these people.
This aid will come in addition to humanitarian assistance provided
to the tens of thousands of refugees who have fled Syria, mainly
to Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.
5.2 Main challenges for the future
It is clear that, in the short term, with at least
one and a half million people in need of urgent humanitarian help
in Syria, the main priorities are the end of violence and humanitarian
assistance, especially in areas which have seen heavy fighting.
In this respect, as the UN Under-Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs,
Valerie Amos, has stressed, it is extremely important that negotiations
to enable humanitarian organisations in Syria to deliver aid remain
separate from other efforts to resolve the crisis. Emergency humanitarian
supplies and services should be made available to people in a way
that protects civilians and aid workers.Note
63 Unconditional support should also be given to the implementation
of the other points of Kofi Annan’s peace plan. It is important
to stress that the latter is not just about establishing a UN-supervised
ceasefire. It is also about the full withdrawal of government troops
from population centres; it is about respect for the right to demonstrate
peacefully and, above all, about engaging in a political process
which should eventually lead to free and fair elections.
64 If there is strong concern about the likelihood of full implementation
of Kofi Annan’s peace plan, most seem to agree that, as long as
this plan is the last solution before a fully fledged civil war,
it should be given every chance of success. Thus, the deployment
of an important UN observation mission on the ground could increase
such chances of success.
65 In this respect, I hope that Russia – an old ally of Syria
which houses the sole Russian military basis in the Middle East
– will now use all its influence to convince the Syrian ruling government
to allow the observation mission full access and freedom of movement
to the whole territory of the country and take measures to ensure respect
for the other points of the plan aiming at a peaceful and inclusive
66 That said, it seems more and more clear that the present Syrian
dictatorship has no future. The social and political coalition on
the basis of which it built itself and maintained its power for
decades is over. As the Assembly has put it “a government which
systematically bombs and slaughters its own population cannot claim any
legitimacy”, either internally or internationally. It is not clear
today how long this will take, but both the Syrian people and the
international community should already now prepare themselves for
the post-Assad era. The mediation offered by Kofi Annan on behalf
of the United Nations and the Arab League and the resolutions adopted
by the United Nations Security Council recognise that a peaceful
solution requires a negotiation which must involve all representative
forces of the Syrian society, including those which still side with
Assad. But the presence of these forces does not change the political
reality that, as the Syrian uprising has demonstrated, the ruling
regime is running out of steam. This very fact constitutes, on the
one hand, the weakness of Assad, despite his military superiority,
and, on the other, the strength of the opposition, despite its internal
divisions or other unresolved problems.
67 And it is precisely this weakness of the regime that makes
it fear that if it gives up even a little power and makes minor
concessions, the whole edifice, built on corruption and internal
suppression, will start to crumble, as ethnic, religious and regional
differences surface. The regime thus prefers to play on the fear
of the population both of the brutality of the security services
and of the chaos which civil war and religious conflict could bring.
68 Therefore, the main challenge lying ahead of us is what will
happen next and how to reassure the population in Syria, including
ethnic and religious minorities, that there can be a peaceful future
in a post-Assad Syria. The aim should include a pluralist and democratic
Syria, with its territorial integrity maintained, and where its
cultural, ethnic and religious minorities can live in peace side
by side. Minorities have indeed a decisive role to play for the
future of Syria, be they ethnic or religious.
69 In this respect, the international community and domestic
opposition bear a heavy responsibility. Both need to unite themselves
urgently. The international community should unite and seek effective
action with determination. Pressure on the Syrian regime must continue,
including through the implementation of agreed sanctions. These
are not directed against the Syrian people but against those responsible
for the repression, be they individuals or institutions.
70 But the domestic opposition should also unite in order to
be considered as a legitimate alternative offering all Syrian citizens,
irrespective of their ethnic origin, culture and religion, the prospect
of a peaceful, democratic and pluralist Syria. The international
community should support initiatives aimed at the unification of
the opposition along such lines, but should also be cautious vis-à-vis
those forces which, for specific geopolitical interests or sectarian
reasons – in Syria as in other countries of the Arab Spring – are
providing political and financial support to extremist groups.
71 For our part, we should contribute to the unity of the international
community, offer unconditional support for the Kofi Annan peace
plan and support all efforts, both at international and domestic
level, to build a new, democratic and pluralist Syria, respectful
of human rights and the rights of ethnic and religious minorities.
This is the main challenge and it is not going to be a simple task.
72 In this respect, I would like to underline that the time factor
is very important. As Ambassador Nassif Hitti, Director of the Mission
of the League of Arab States in Paris, told the Committee on Political
Affairs and Democracy on 14 March in Paris, what could have been
done six months ago is no longer possible and what is possible to
achieve today will not be possible in six months’ time.
73 Then comes of course the need for justice: no impunity can
be allowed for those who committed crimes against humanity, whoever
they are, as the Assembly already stressed in October 2011. Crimes
must be investigated and perpetrators must be brought to justice.
The International Criminal Court will certainly have an important
role to play in this context.