EU-hosted high-level meeting on the Syrian crisis


New York, 24.09.2019 - Address by the Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis at the 74th UN General Assembly - Check against delivery

Speaker: Head of Department, Ignazio Cassis

Madam High-Representative and Vice-President,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Switzerland thanks the European Union and, in particular, High-Representative Mogherini for organizing this meeting on Syria.

I will address three issues that we consider key for the future of Syria:

First, concrete steps in the UN peace process for Syria are now within reach. Under the leadership of UN Special Envoy Geir Pedersen, a Syrian Constitutional Committee is ready to be launched. As the host state of the Geneva process, we are ready to support this Committee. This will be a first step towards a comprehensive peace process under UN Security Council resolution 2254 (“twenty-two, fifty-four”).

The Syrian constitution should be a supreme reference point for all Syrians. Giving Syrian society the possibility to interact with the Committee will be paramount for its legitimacy. The Civil Society Support Room in Geneva, which Switzerland actively supports, can contribute to increasing Syrian ownership.

Secondly, we must approach the Syrian conflict from a regional perspective. By reducing regional conflicts and tensions, we create the conditions for solutions to the Syrian and other conflicts. Switzerland therefore offers its good offices with the aim of promoting peace and stability in the MENA region.
My third point concerns the human rights situation in Syria. Establishing the respect for human rights is indispensable for a peaceful future of Syria, as we all concluded during a high-level discussion co-hosted by Switzerland and Liechtenstein at the Brussels III conference.

Innovative approaches are required to deal with the staggering scale of human rights and International humanitarian law violations in Syria. The International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism in Geneva constitutes a point-in-case of science-diplomacy. This UN-Mechanism leverages digital data and state-of-the art technology in order to collect and preserve evidence of violations committed in Syria.

Finally, allow me to underline the immense scale of humanitarian needs. 12 million people need humanitarian assistance and protection in Syria. Over 5.6 million sought refuge in the neighboring countries. At present, we are particularly alarmed by the humanitarian situation in the North-West of Syria. Attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure, particularly on the medical mission, are of utmost concern, given their special protection under international humanitarian law.

All those affected by the Syrian conflict need our support. Switzerland has provided over CHF 420 millions in aid, both inside Syria and in the region. This is the largest humanitarian operation in our country’s history. In closing, I would like to commend the host countries in the region, which have demonstrated tremendous efforts in supporting Syrians in need.

Thank you

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