9 December 2016, New York – Statement on behalf of the European Union by H.E. Mr. João Vale de Almeida, Head of the Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations, United Nations General Assembly 71st session on Agenda item 31: Prevention of armed conflict
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The Candidate Countries the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, Montenegro* and Albania*, as well as Ukraine and Georgia, align themselves with this statement.
The European Union welcomes today’s meeting on the situation in the Syrian Arab Republic. The General Assembly cannot remain silent in the face of the dramatic situation in Syria.
We demand an immediate and complete end to all attacks on civilians and civilian objects in Aleppo and elsewhere in Syria, as well as an immediate end to all sieges in Syria.
The escalating violence in Aleppo is causing untold and unacceptable suffering for thousands of its inhabitants. Since the beginning of the offensive by the regime and its allies, notably Russia, the intensity and scale of the aerial bombardment of eastern Aleppo is clearly disproportionate and the deliberate targeting of hospitals, medical personnel, schools and essential civilian infrastructure, as well as the use of barrel bombs, cluster bombs, and chemical weapons, constitute a catastrophic escalation of the conflict and have caused further widespread civilian casualties, including amongst women and children and may amount to war crimes.
The Syrian regime has the primary responsibility for the protection of the Syrian population.
The EU therefore strongly condemns attacks by the regime and its allies, both deliberate and indiscriminate, against civilian populations, humanitarian and healthcare personnel and civilian and humanitarian infrastructures, as well as all disproportionate attacks, and calls on them to cease indiscriminate and disproportionate aerial bombardments.
The EU condemns the continued systematic, widespread and gross violations and abuses of human rights and all violations of international humanitarian law by all parties. The EU looks forward to the findings of the internal UN board of inquiry on the targeting of a UN humanitarian convoy on 19 September – a clear violation of international law, which requires full investigation.
Those responsible for such violations and abuses must be held accountable through fair and independent investigations and prosecutions at the domestic and international level, including through a referral to the International Criminal Court. The EU renews its call to the UN Security Council to take action in this respect.
An immediate cessation of hostilities in Aleppo and in all other parts of Syria to be monitored by a strong and transparent mechanism, the immediate end to all sieges and full unhindered sustainable country-wide humanitarian access granted by all parties are essential steps to save civilians and lay the ground for a resumption of credible intra-Syrian talks to provide security for the entire population of Syria.
In this context, regional actors bear special responsibility, particularly neighbouring countries.
The EU will continue intensive humanitarian diplomacy and seek ways to improve access and protection as well as to promote humanitarian principles and local consensus on guidelines for the delivery of aid.
The EU calls upon all parties, especially the Syrian regime, to provide full and unhindered countrywide access to all those in need and to end all obstruction to the delivery of humanitarian aid. We urge the Syrian regime to deliver without delay authorisations for crossline humanitarian convoys to be delivered, including to Eastern Aleppo. The use of starvation of civilians through the besiegement of populated areas for which the regime bears the greatest responsibility, as a tactic of war, and forced population transfers for other purpose than provided for under international humanitarian law, are a clear breach of international humanitarian law and must stop. Providing immediate relief to the suffering is imperative.
It calls on all partners and all parties to the conflict to protect civilians, including humanitarian and medical structures and personnel in all parts of the country and to help facilitate the work of the UN and other humanitarian organisations on the ground.
The EU stresses the importance of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) and its humanitarian taskforce to achieve concrete results and alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people.
The EU firmly believes that there can be no military solution to the conflict.
The EU reiterates its commitment to the unity, sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of the Syrian state.
The EU actively participates in the ISSG and its taskforces and fully supports the UN Special Envoy de Mistura in the efforts to create the conditions for resumption of intra-Syrian talks, noting his proposal for Eastern Aleppo. The EU recognises the efforts made to re-establish a full cessation of hostilities and regrets that they have not yet succeeded and encourage further attempts to do so.
The EU deplores that two UN Security Council Resolutions to establish a ceasefire in Aleppo, restore the cessation of hostilities and allow humanitarian access throughout Syria, and in particular in Aleppo, were vetoed in only two months.
A renewed cessation enabling efforts to find a political solution in line with the provisions of UN SCRs 2254, 2268 and the Geneva Communique of 30 June 2012 cannot wait further, in order to allow all parties to reengage in negotiations for a genuine political transition. Such a transition must include a broad, transitional governing body with full executive powers formed on the basis of mutual consent. The EU will continue to support the efforts of the Syrian opposition, in particular the High Negotiations Committee (HNC) as the opposition delegation in the UN-brokered talks in Geneva.
There cannot be a lasting peace in Syria under the current regime and until the legitimate grievances and aspirations of the Syrian society are addressed.
The EU condemns in the strongest terms the confirmed use of chemical weapons (as detailed in the JIM report) and widespread attacks on civilians and human rights violations and abuses by the Syrian regime and Da’esh. The findings of the JIM report require strong action by the OPCW and UNSC.
All those responsible for crimes involving violations of international law, in particular of international humanitarian law and human rights law, some of which may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity, must be brought to justice, including those committing crimes against religious, ethnic and other groups and minorities. Impunity for such crimes is unacceptable and thus the EU will continue to support efforts to gather evidence in view of future legal action.
In this context, the EU will act swiftly, according to established procedures, with the aim of imposing further restrictive measures against Syria targeting Syrian individuals and entities supporting the regime as long as the repression continues.
The EU condemns the atrocities committed by Da’esh and other UN-designated terrorist groups, and reaffirms its strong commitment to combat them. The EU continues to support the efforts of the Global Coalition to counter Da’esh in Syria and Iraq. Da’esh and other UN-designated terrorist organisations constitute a threat for the future of Syria as well as to the interests and values of the EU. The EU calls for a well-coordinated and comprehensive international approach to prevent material and financial support reaching individuals, groups, undertakings and entities associated with these UN-designated terrorist groups and the dissuasion of any party from collaborating with them. The EU calls for the expeditious separation of all combatants not designated as terrorist entities, from those designated as such. The EU reiterates that combating terrorism can never be used as an excuse for violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law.
Only a political solution will enable a decisive defeat of Da’esh and other UN-designated terrorist organisations in Syria.
We thank the UN Secretary-General and his Special Envoy for their ceaseless efforts.
Only once an inclusive political transition is in place will the EU be able to assist with the reconstruction of the country directly and through international organisations, an EU objective that will enable the millions of Syrians who have been forced to flee their homes to return to them and live in peace and security in their own lands.
Lastly, we would like to reiterate our support for the resolution put forward by Canada and urge for its immediate implementation.
* The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.
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