Top envoy appeals for de-escalation in Syria, across Middle East


Anjali Sharma

GG News Bureau
UN Special Envoy to the Middle East Geir Pedersen on Tuesday briefed the Security Council and warned that fallout from conflict in the Middle East and ongoing fighting in Syria are having a devastating impact on civilians inside the country.

He said “Regional spillover is only the latest accelerant to a conflict that is growing in complexity and with each passing year. The situation is worsening on almost all indicators and the status quo is unsustainable and unmanageable,”.

Pedersen noted that multiple airstrikes attributed to Israel were carried out this month in Syria, including on residential areas of Homs and Damascus, which resulted in civilian and military casualties, including advisors from Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

US launched retaliatory strikes on dozens of Iran-linked targets in Syria and Iraq following a deadly drone attack on its troops in Jordan, he stated.

“Meanwhile, all other vectors of the Syrian conflict itself continue, and remain the biggest cause of civilian casualties and displacement,” he said.

The entire north of Syria has seen multiple frontline skirmishes this month. Exchanges of artillery, rocket and sniper fire, and pro-Government drone strikes along with strikes by the HTS fundamentalist militant group have also been reported, as well as Turkish drone strikes.

ISIL attacks continued to rise, both in quantity and impact, particularly in the central and northeast regions, while southern Syria remains violent and unstable, he said.

“Plainly the tensions in the region need to be urgently de-escalated, starting with the immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza that the Secretary General has called for,” Mr. Pedersen said.

He underlined the urgent need for de-escalation in Syria.

He called for the protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure, adding that “Security-Council listed terrorist groups must be fought in a manner that is cooperative and firmly

Mr. Pedersen updated the Council on his efforts to convene the stalled Syrian Constitutional Committee, which brings together representatives from the Government, the opposition and civil society for meetings in Geneva.

He added that the Committee met in June 2022 and its ninth session, scheduled for last July, did not take place “because, as Russian Foreign Minister (Sergey) Lavrov confirmed this month, Russia no longer considers Switzerland a neutral venue, and the Syrian Government did not accept Geneva as a result.”

He agreed on location for meetings, per the Committee’s Terms of Reference, and “that the process should take place without foreign interference.”

As facilitator, he would explore all possible alternatives, and support the choice of another venue provided there was consensus.

He noted that various venues were put forward, including his proposal of the UN Office at Nairobi, no consensus was reached.

“Having left no stone unturned to find an alternative venue, I believe the only way forward at this time is to reconvene in Geneva at least as a bridging proposal while there is no consensus on an alternative venue, while also remaining open to an alternative venue for future sessions if consensus is found,” he said.

Mr. Pedersen announced that he was issuing formal invitations that day for a ninth round in Geneva in April.

“I believe it is important for the Constitutional Committee to meet as soon as possible and to continue its work. An indefinite hiatus can only undermine the Constitutional Committee’s credibility and work,” he warned.

He addressed the bleak humanitarian situation in Syria a year after deadly earthquakes that struck the north and neighbouring Türkiye, killing thousands and displacing millions.

UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths briefed the Council stressed that much more is still needed to address the long-term impact of the earthquakes and the

He said 16.7 million people in Syria, nearly three-quarters of the population, now require humanitarian assistance – the highest number in need since the war started.

Mr. Griffiths welcomed the Government’s recent decision to allow the UN to deliver aid to northern Syria through two border crossings with Türkiye – Bab al-Salam and Al Ra’ee for an additional three months, through 13 May.

The extension follows the equally welcome decision in January to extend permission to.

UN and partners moved over 5,000 trucks carrying essential aid through the crossings in 2023 and 40 cross-border missions have been carried out since January this year.

He said “This has allowed us to provide essential aid to 2.5 million people every month and to administer over one million medical procedures,”.

Mr. Griffiths underlined the humanitarian community’s commitment to assist people all across Syria but stressed the need for funding.

He said last year’s Humanitarian Response Plan for the country received less than 40 per cent of the required funding – the smallest total since the start of the conflict.

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