Swedish statement at the UN Security Council Briefing on Threats to international peace and security: Middle East
National statement delivered by Ambassador Olof Skoog at the United Nations Security Council Briefing on Threats to international peace and security: Middle East, 14 April 2018, New York.
Muchas gracias Señor Presidente for convening this important meeting and thank you Secretary-General for your briefing this morning.
The conflict in Syria is now in its eighth year – that is longer than the Second World War. President Assad bears the responsibility for one of the worst and most enduring humanitarian disasters of our time. Since the outset, we have witnessed terrible violations and violence and a flagrant lack of respect for international law, particularly from Syrian government forces. We must also of course never forget the atrocities committed by Da'esh.
As you Secretary-General stated yesterday, we have witnessed 'systematic violations of international humanitarian law, international human rights law and international law tout court – in utter disregard of the letter and the spirit of the UN Charter'. Indeed, violations of Security Council resolutions as well as international protocols and conventions are numerous and flagrant.
Chemical weapons have been used repeatedly in Syria. The Joint Investigative Mechanism concluded that the Syrian authorities were responsible for four chemical weapons attacks and Da'esh for two. Their use is abhorrent, intolerable, a war crime and a crime against humanity.
That is why, as has been noted here before, the international community banned their use in international armed conflict over a century ago. Subsequent developments have confirmed the prohibition of the use of chemical weapons as a norm of customary international law.
We will spare no effort to end the use and proliferation of chemical weapons by State or non-State actors anywhere in the world. Those responsible for such crimes must be held accountable. There cannot be further impunity.
The Security Council carries the primary responsibility to act in response to threats to international peace and security. It is our joint responsibility to uphold the prohibition on the use of chemical weapons in armed conflict. And it is our common legal and moral duty to defend the non-proliferation regimes that we have established and confirmed. This is best done through true multilateralism and broad international consensus. In that regard, we welcome the deployment of the OPCW's Fact-Finding Mission to Syria and we look forward to their findings.
It is regrettable that this Council was unable to come together and agree on a timely, clear and unified response to the repeated use of chemical weapons in Syria. We regret that Russia this week again blocked the Council from setting up a truly impartial and independent attribution mechanism. This has contributed to the situation in which we find ourselves now.
The use of chemical weapons a serious violation of international law and it does constitute a threat to international peace and security. Deterrence and prevention of their use is the concern of the entire international community. So we share the rage and anger and are appalled by the repeated use of such weapons in Syria. It is necessary to rid Syria of chemical weapons once and for all and to hold those responsible accountable.
At the same time, as stated by the Secretary General in his statement yesterday, there is an obligation, particularly when dealing with matters of peace and security, to act consistently with the Charter of the United Nations and with international law in general.
We are at a dangerous moment. We call for restraint and to avoid any acts that could escalate or further fuel tensions. We need to avoid the situation spiralling out of control.
Over the last number of days, we have tried to ensure that all peaceful means to respond were exhausted. We worked tirelessly so that no stone be left unturned in efforts to find a way for this Council to shoulder its responsibility in accordance with the UN Charter. We have shared a proposal with Council members to achieve this objective through inviting the Secretary-General to come back to the Council with a proposal.
In order to be successful, diplomacy needs to be backed up by clear demands. The Secretary-General called on this Council to take action. But regrettably, the Council could not unite. It was indeed a missed opportunity. But we stand ready to continue these efforts now.
In light of all that has not happened, it is more critical than ever to avoid escalation and revert to the track of diplomacy for a political solution, in line with resolution 2254.
We reiterate our total support for the UN-led political process – which needs to be urgently reinvigorated – and the efforts of Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura. Full implementation resolution 2401 for a cessation of hostilities and humanitarian access can wait no longer.
A sustainable political solution is the only way to end the suffering of the Syrian people. So let us all rally around that objective. Let us redouble our efforts and put an end to this long, brutal and meaningless conflict once and for all.
Thank you very much Mr President.