Statement by Turkey at the Security Council Meeting on "the Situation in the Middle East"

Feridun H. Sinirlioğlu 11.09.2018
Madam President,
At the outset, I also would like to pay homage to the memories of the victims of 9/11. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families and loved ones. We should never forget that tragic day; and should never lower our guards and stay always united in the fight against terrorism.
Madam President,
The distinguished Permanent Representatives of the Russian Federation and Iran have briefed the Council about the Tehran Summit held on 7th of September. Upon instructions from my Government, I also would like to share my country’s views on the outcome of the Summit as well as our position on the developments in Idlib.
The Astana format was created in order to help reduce violence across Syria and give impetus to the political process. The importance of maintaining our joint efforts to end the conflict in Syria through a political solution have been reconfirmed in Astana meetings. The most concrete outcome of this format has been the establishment of the de-escalation areas. The Idlib de-escalation area, as a case in point, has dramatically reduced violence in this province.
At the Tehran Summit, Idlib was the main agenda item. The leaders agreed that the situation in Idlib should be addressed in line with the principles and the spirit of cooperation that characterized the Astana format. These shared principles, such as the preservation of the territorial integrity of Syria and the need to find a political solution to the conflict are crucial for our efforts to succeed in Idlib and elsewhere in Syria.
At the Summit, President Erdoğan underlined the need to preserve the de-escalation area and called for an immediate and complete ceasefire in Idlib. This ceasefire, as highlighted by our Minister of Defence yesterday, should include all air and ground attacks. There can be no arbitrary hiearchy of death. While condemning and warning against chemical attacks, we cannot overlook the use of conventional weapons, which continue to cause massive casualties. Our calls for an immediate ceasefire include all military operations and Turkey will continue to work on this basis. We invite the international community to vocally and actively support our efforts to this end.
As pointed out by the members of this Council, there is no doubt that an all-out military operation would result in a major humanitarian catastrophe. Such an operation would trigger a massive wave of refugees and tremendous security risks for Turkey, the rest of Europe and beyond. With all our generosity, we have gone to extraordinary lengths to alleviate suffering of the Syrian people, hosting some 3,5 million refugees, more than any other country in the world. But let us face it: we have exceeded long ago the limits of our capacity.
We simply cannot allow fait-accomplis in Idlib that would endanger the lives of millions of innocent civilians. This is our collective duty as the international community. Today, the people who are watching us with worry in Idlib are not terrorists, but 3,5 million civilians, 1 million of whom are children. We must not fail them.
The Syrian regime seeks to legitimize its attacks on Idlib on counterterrorism grounds. Let us make no mistake: such attacks would not achieve the stated goal. In a complex place like Idlib, traditional counter-terrorism methods would not yield the desired results. On the contrary, they would create further suffering, alienate and radicalize more Syrians. In this sense, a military operation in Idlib would only play into the hands of terrorists.
Only a viable ceasefire would allow the creation of an environment to effectively fight terrorism. This entails employing approaches that require time and patience. This is what Turkey has been working towards achieving through its separation efforts in Idlib. In order for our efforts to succeed, guarantees must be given to civilians and moderate opposition groups that they will not be targeted once they separate from terrorists. This is the underlying objective of the call for ceasefire by President Erdoğan.
In line with the Astana Memorandum, Turkey established 12 observation posts in the Idlib de-escalation area. Our observation posts have prevented violations. Our presence has also contributed to creating conditions for separating terrorists from moderate opposition groups.
Furthermore, Turkey has been at the forefront in the fight against terrorism and we are resolved to combat this scourge without discriminating among terrorist groups. We have reinstated stability and calm in the areas we cleared from terrorists in Syria. We are pleased to observe that hundreds of thousands of Syrians voluntarily return to their homeland and that a responsible approach to counterterrorism can indeed win hearts and minds.
Madam President,
There should be no illusion. There can be no military victory in Syria. A military solution cannot bring any legitimacy or create a lasting settlement.
Legitimacy can only be achieved through a negotiated political solution. The UN-led Geneva Process remains the main venue to this end, in line with the Resolution 2254 and the Geneva Communiqué. And the situation in Idlib will be decisive for the fate of the political process.
At the Tehran Summit, the three guarantors reaffirmed their resolve to continue joint efforts to advance the political process. They reiterated their commitment to help establish and launch the Constitutional Committee. In this framework, senior officials of the three guarantors are currently meeting Special Envoy de Mistura in Geneva to continue their discussion to start the Committee’s work. We attach utmost importance to the establishment of the Constitutional Committee and creating the conditions for holding free and fair elections under UN supervision without further delay.
As President Erdoğan stated in his article in the Wall Street Journal today:
(Quote)“Idlip is the last exit before the toll. If the international community including Europe and the US fail to take action now, not only innocent Syrians but the entire world stands to pay the price. Turkey has done everything in its power to stop the bloodshed next door. To ensure that we succeed, the rest of the world must set aside narrow self-interest and throw its weight behind a political solution.” (end of quote)
Madam President,
Today, we are facing, with our partners in Astana, with this Council under this roof and the overall international community, “the moment of truth” in defence of the values we stand for.
Thank you.