As Syria marks the ninth year of the armed conflict, Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis and UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen expressed their concern about the situation, which remains highly volatile, in particular for civilians. Mr Cassis and Mr Pedersen focused their discussions on recent events in north-eastern Syria in particular. "It's a violation of international law. We hope that the latest ceasefire will be respected and taken as an opportunity to negotiate a de-escalation and political solution," emphasised Mr Cassis. From Switzerland's perspective, added Mr Cassis, there is no military solution to the conflicts in Syria. That is why Switzerland has not only repeatedly called for an end to the hostilities in north-eastern Syria and stated that Turkey's intervention was in breach of international law, but has also appealed to all parties to work towards a negotiated political solution.
Mr Pedersen said that the establishment of a Syrian constitutional committee announced by UN Secretary General Guterres at the UN General Assembly last month can be a door opener to just such a political solution.
The constitutional committee will be composed of 150 Syrian delegates and is set to hold its first meeting in Geneva at the end of October. It is tasked with drafting a new constitution for Syria.
Mr Cassis assured Mr Pedersen that as the constitutional committee's host state, Switzerland would lend it its full support to the committee's work. He had already expressed Switzerland's support in a meeting to find a peaceful solution to the conflict in Syria at the UN General Assembly in New York at the end of September. He added that Switzerland would also continue to provide political, financial and logistical support for the UN process, as it has done since 2012. To promote the participation of Syrian civil society in the process, Switzerland has established a platform in Geneva, the Civil Society Support Room, which has enabled over 400 Syrian organisations and individuals to participate in the peace process to date. In addition, noted Mr Cassis, Switzerland has seconded a Swiss expert to Mr Pedersen's team who is now helping to find out what has happened to large numbers of people thought to be detained or missing in Syria.
Mr Cassis reiterated that, in addition to its peacebuilding efforts, Switzerland would continue to provide wide-ranging humanitarian aid for those in need in Syria and neighbouring countries. Since 2011, Switzerland has provided over CHF 430 million – its biggest humanitarian undertaking to date. Switzerland also has a humanitarian office in Damascus.
Mr Cassis concluded by reaffirming that Switzerland would continue to work to promote international humanitarian law and ensure compliance with it and to call for those responsible for violating international law to be brought to justice.
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