Statement by H.E. Mr. Feridun H. Sinirlioğlu Permanent Representative of Turkey at the General Assembly “High-Level Panel on Syria”

Feridun H. Sinirlioğlu 02.03.2021
Thank you Mr. President,
I would like to take a moment to reflect upon the background of this important and timely meeting.
Ten years ago, on March 15th, the Syrian people stood up peacefully against dictatorship and oppression.
They paid a heavy price in their quest for freedom and dignity, suffered unthinkable agony.
Hundreds of thousands have been killed by the regime and its supporters. Tens of thousands have disappeared.
Millions have been displaced.
The survivors endure multi-faceted hardships: they live, on one hand, under constant threat of imminent attacks from the regime and terrorist organizations.
On the other hand, they struggle to live in a country in ruins without a glimpse of hope for the future. They are freezing and starving. They are traumatized.
Several UN reports reveal that the acts of the regime amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. Stephen Rapp, who served as prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone before, stated that it is the biggest volume of documents since Nuremberg trials.
The Syrian regime’s atrocities and crimes against its own people came in many different forms over the past decade, such as;
• aerial bombings of all kinds, including prohibited cluster and incendiary bombs and chemical weapons;
• psychological and physical torture of the opponents and their family members including women and children,
• arbitrary detention and abductions,
• sexual abuse,
• long-term sieges without access to any humanitarian or medical assistance.
Mr. President,
It is our legal and moral duty to protect Syrian civilians against the regime’s grave atrocities, and hold those who are responsible for the crimes against humanity accountable.
There will be no lasting peace without accountability and transitional justice.
This is how we can prevent the re-occurrence of such crimes in the future.
A genuine political transition and a new Syria can only be built on the sound basis of a closure and the feeling that justice is served.
The Commission of Inquiry, OPCW and the IIIM (International Impartial and Independent Mechanism) have a vital role in ensuring that impunity does not take root in the post-conflict Syria and the crimes will not go unpunished.
Turkey supports and cooperates closely with these bodies towards ensuring accountability for the serious crimes committed by the Syrian regime.
The recent landmark decision of the Koblenz Court in Germany sentencing a former intelligence agent of the Syrian regime to four-and-a-half years in prison on charges of aiding and abetting crimes against humanity, is an important step in the right direction.
Mr. President,
It is clear that Syria remains first and foremost a serious protection crisis. The responsibility of the international community to protect failed big in Syria.
In 2019, we witnessed a relentless military campaign in Idlib under the pretext of combating terrorism which led to unprecedented levels of displacement along our borders.
Due to the March 5th ceasefire agreement, we have been successful in averting the worst humanitarian disaster of the 21st century.
However, the regime continues its violations. And the crisis is getting worse with attacks, combined with the spread of COVID-19 and harsh winter conditions.
While we exert efforts to preserve the ceasefire, we also continue our fight against terrorism without hesitation.
As the only NATO country that engaged in chest-to-chest combat against DA’ESH, we have eliminated more than 4.000 DA’ESH terrorists in Syria. We will not tolerate any terrorist organization to find safe haven right on the other side of our borders.
The separatist agenda, attacks and human rights violations by terrorist organization PKK/YPG and its Syrian ofshoot, the so-called “Syrian Democratic Forces” merit the same level of attention by the international community.
There has been growing evidence in northern Syria about PKK/YPG’s human rights violations such as recruiting child soldiers, intimidating dissidents, demographic engineering and forced conscription in areas under its control. Children are deprived of their right to education as this brutal terrorist group arrests hundreds of teachers who oppose their ideological curricula.
Turkey will continue its efforts to maintain de-escalation on the ground, to vigorously support initiatives for accountability in Syria, to advance the political process through the Constitutional Committee and to achieve a political settlement in accordance with the Security Council Resolution 2254.
Mr. President,
My country continues to host 4 million Syrians, as a result of the regime’s search for a military solution. This corresponds to one fifth of the entire population of Syria before the start of the conflict.
Together with 5 million Syrians living immediately next to our borders, we provide protection and care to 9 million Syrian people.
The international community cannot turn its back on this tragedy and leave it only on our shoulders. 3 million people in the northwest rely entirely on lifeline UN cross-border operations conducted from Turkey.
The mechanism is also the sole instrument for the UN to channel COVID-19 vaccines to the most vulnerable in the region.
I reiterate the call of the General Assembly through its resolution 75/193 on the human rights situation in Syria and urge the Security Council to fulfil its responsibility to enable the continuation of UN cross-border humanitarian operations beyond July 2021.
I also wish to remind the urgent need to consider additional crossing points in order to enable the UN to reach those in need through the most direct routes. This is not a political matter. It is a humanitarian urgency. So, be courageous and extend your helping hand to the Syrian people.
Mr. President,
Throughout the conflict in Syria, civil society has been playing an important role in revealing the gross human rights violations and raising the legitimate aspirations of people.
They constitute the main agents for documenting the most serious crimes committed by the regime. They also play a life-saving role as first responders during regime’s brutal attacks.
It is incumbent upon us to address their requests and give more space to their voices so that they can define their own destiny.
Syrians deserve our collective action and Turkey will continue to do its utmost to bring peace and justice to the brave Syrian men and women who have suffered too much, for too long.
Thank you.