As the conflict enters its ninth year, Syrians continue to suffer from one of the worst conflicts of our time. Hundreds of thousands have been killed, many more maimed physically and psychologically, millions remain displaced, tens of thousands are detained and missing, hundreds of thousands have died and Syrians in the northeast and northwest remain under constant fear of yet another humanitarian catastrophe unfolding.
I issue four urgent appeals to all parties.
First, I urge all sides to maintain their commitments and uphold the ceasefire arrangement in Idlib. I am extremely concerned about reported increased military operations in the last few weeks. Counter-terrorism operations cannot override responsibilities to protect civilians. A ceasefire in Idlib is a necessary step to pave the way for a nation-wide ceasefire.
Second, where any form of military operation by any actor is contemplated, planned or executed, international humanitarian law needs to be fully respected and human rights protected. Innocent civilians, the majority of them women and children, have paid the highest price in this conflict because of the blatant disregard for International Humanitarian and Human Rights Law.
Third, sustained humanitarian access remains critical, with 11.7 million people in need of protection and assistance. I was encouraged with the international solidarity in the context of the Brussels III Conference on “Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region” and spoke forcefully of the need to address the needs of the Syrian people. I thank the generous support of international donors who have pledged a record $7 billion for 2019 for Syrians inside the country and outside.
Fourth, strengthened international support is urgently required if the parties to the conflict are to seriously move towards finding a political solution that meets the legitimate aspirations of all Syrians. I fully support my Special Envoy, Geir O. Pedersen, to facilitate a Syrian-led and Syrian-owned political process to implement Security Council resolution 2254 (2015) and the June 2012 Geneva Communiqué.
It is a moral obligation and a political imperative for the international community to support Syrians to unite around a vision for their common future that protects civilians, alleviates suffering, prevents further instability, addresses the root causes of the conflict and forges, at long last, a credible negotiated solution.
New York, 15 March 2019