Statement by H.E. Mr. Feridun H. Sinirlioğlu Permanent Representative of Turkey at the Security Council Meeting

Feridun H. Sinirlioğlu 15.03.2021
Madam President,
I would like to thank Special Envoy Pedersen and Mr. Duhaime for their briefings.

Today marks ten years since the beginning of the Syrian war. We should all take a moment to recount the tremendous human toll and immense suffering this decade-long conflict wrought upon Syrian people.

There is not a single Syrian family untouched by this human-made disaster. Millions of innocent civilians paid a heavy price in their quest for democracy, freedom and dignity.

Over the years, the regime’s atrocities and crimes have come in many forms:
aerial bombings with chemical weapons, cluster and incendiary bombs, deliberate attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructures, torture, arbitrary detention, abduction, forced disappearances, sexual abuse, sieges, denial of humanitarian and medical aid and more.

Half a million died in the hands of the Assad regime and its backers. Half of the population has been either internally displaced or forced to flee their beloved country.

Turkey alone hosts nearly 4 million Syrians. This is almost one fifth of the entire population of Syria before the start of the conflict. 13,4 million Syrians in the country are in need of humanitarian aid. 5,9 million people are homeless. By far, the Syrian conflict is the gravest humanitarian tragedy of the century.

Yet, despite growing humanitarian needs, scope of the cross-border mechanism has been downsized over the course of the years from four border-crossings to mere one. As the Secretary-General emphasized, “more humanitarian access is needed. Intensified cross-line and cross-border deliveries are essential to reach everyone in need everywhere.”

Madam President,
The conflict had a staggering impact on children. While their peers elsewhere learned how to read and write, Syrian children had to learn how to take cover and survive. The war has left the lives and the future of a generation of Syrian children hanging by a thread. Almost 12,000 children were killed or injured throughout the conflict. Only last week, two children were killed when a munition left over from previous shelling exploded while they were playing in suburbs of Raqqa.

Nearly 90 per cent of children are in need of humanitarian assistance. This signifies a 20 per cent increase in the past year alone. More than half a million children under the age of five in Syria suffer from stunting due to chronic malnutrition. Almost 2,5 million children in Syria are out of school. Number of children displaying symptoms of psychosocial distress doubled in 2020, as continued exposure to violence and trauma has had a significant impact on children’s mental health.

Madam President,
The use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime has been part of its brutal war against its own people, with devastating humanitarian consequences. Emboldened by a growing sense of impunity, the regime has repeatedly resorted to chemical weapons on at least seven occasions, as established by the OPCW.

The Syrian conflict also had a profound impact on the fragile regional security and stability. Neighboring countries had to cope with both the humanitarian fallout and the terrorist threat emanating from Syria.

Over the course of the conflict, terror groups established their own so-called states in Syrian territory because the tyrant in Damascus has denied Syrian people their basic rights. By releasing terrorists from prisons, ceding territory to and purchasing oil from them, the Assad regime has bred, raised and nurtured the extremist and separatist terrorists that flourished in our doorstep.

Today PKK/YPG poses a real and present threat to Syrian civilians and the country’s unity. PKK/YPG, following in the footsteps of regime, is releasing DAESH fighters and their families, effectively paving the way for resurgence of DAESH. When will some member states learn that there is no such thing as a “good terrorist”? If we are genuine about the stability of Syria and the wider region, it is time to put an end to this. There can be no lasting peace in Syria for as long as the country remains a safe haven for terrorists.

Madam President,
As the Secretary-General pointed out, it is impossible to fully fathom the extent of the devastation in Syria, but its people have endured some of the greatest crimes the world has witnessed during this century. Without an end to the atrocities, there cannot be an end to the war. International community may be tired of the Syrian conflict, but the Syrian people are determined. Their demands and expectations are still valid. They will persevere in their struggle for dignity and freedom.

That is why there should be no illusion: The regime can never achieve military victory. A military solution cannot bring any legitimacy or create a lasting settlement. Legitimacy can only be achieved through a negotiated political settlement that meets the aspirations of Syrian people.

Constitutional Committee’s work is critical to achieve this ultimate goal in line with the Security Council Resolution 2254. At previous Council meetings, I emphasized the necessity to fend off regime’s stonewalling tactics. We regret that progress could not be achieved in the fifth round of talks due to regime’s obstruction.

We broadly agree with Special Envoy Pedersen’s assessment. In Geneva, we followed the meetings closely, encouraging the opposition to be constructive and flexible. It is obvious that the opposition has performed remarkably during the last round and over the last 15 months since the establishment of the Committee.

The international community should recognize the strong commitment of the opposition. The Committee meetings must be conducted seriously and deliver concrete outcomes swiftly.

We understand that Special Envoy Pedersen had useful meetings in Damascus, Moscow, Istanbul and that the Syrian parties exchanged ideas for the conduct of the next round.

If the sixth round could be convened, it is imperative to start going into the substance of the constitution. This is essential for the continuation of this process. Now is the chance for the regime to prove that it truly wants a political solution.

Let me remind you that the Constitutional Committee is the sole functioning mechanism for the implementation of Resolution 2254. Therefore, this Council has a special responsibility to support its work and not allow the regime to backtrack again.

Madam President,
The mere presence of the regime representative here is an affront to millions of Syrians who suffered countless crimes at the hands of the regime for a decade. His hallucinatory statement and delusional accusations do not merit a response. Lest he claims again to be my legitimate counterpart, I will tell him this: His regime has blood of innocent people on its hands and lost its legitimacy a decade ago. The answer to the criminal regime he represents will be given by the Syrian people, when they will save and rebuild Syria.

Madam President,
We remember the first day the Syrians took the streets and asked for their freedom. We can easily tell the history of the conflict. And we know how this conflict can come to a peaceful end. But we can never have the unique perspective of a Syrian who has been suffering in the hands of the regime.

It is the innocent Syrian people who have to live with constant fear; who have to bury their loved ones, and who have to live without any hope in sight. It is the innocent Syrian people, who must run for their lives, survive bombings and starvation.

After ten years, we must feel a sense of urgency about it. In Dr. King's words, the fierce urgency of now, because people are being killed, as we speak. The hopes for a better life are dying, as we speak.

After ten years, what is happening in Syria is a crime against humanity. What is happening in Syria is a crime against everything the United Nations Charter stands for. It is a crime against the very purpose of this Council.

And we can still do something to stop it. The constant excuses for inaction no longer suffice. It is time to stop talking about how sorry we are. It is time to remember the last killed Syrian. And it is time to do something to prevent the next killing.

This human-made catastrophe will not end before the people of Syria have a legitimate government, in accordance with resolution 2254, that truly represents their will and that enjoys their full consent. It is not going to end until the Syrians live in a democratic, secure, prosperous and secular Syria. Until then, Turkey will continue to stand by the innocent people of Syria and their legitimate aspirations.

Thank you.