With no shifts in the frontlines in almost two years, the UN Special Envoy for Syria warnedt he Security Council about “a strategic stalemate” in the nearly 11-year-old war.
For Geir Pedersen, despite the continued violence and suffering, it is clear that “a military solution remains an illusion”and no combatant can determine the outcome of the conflict.
Mr. Pederson also said that Syrians continue to suffer deeply.
Just last month, they had to deal with airstrikes, more crossfire and shelling across front-lines, a flare up of hostilities in the northeast, continued violence in the South, a growing number of security incidents related to drug smuggling, and ISIL terrorist attacks, among other threats.
In recent days, an unprecedented terrorist attempt at a prison-break for thousands of detainees with suspected ISIL affiliation in Hasakah, sparked major clashes, with airstrikes reportedly causing dozens of fatalities.
According to the Special Envoy, the Syrian Democratic Forces which run the prison, have taken back control in the last few hours, and all or most of the ISIL fighters seem to have surrendered.
Despite the positive development, Mr. Pederson remainsvery concerned for the safety and security of civilians caught up in this situation, many of whom have been displaced.
He’s also aware of reports of ISIL members being holed up in dormitories for minors, in effect, using boys as human shields, putting hundreds of children in detention at risk.
“Even if this particular ISIL uprising might have been quashed, this episode brings back terrible memories of the prison breaks that fueled the original rise of ISIL in 2014 and 2015”, he said.
For the Envoy, this is “a clear message” of the importance of uniting to combat the threat of international terrorist groups, and to resolve the broader conflict in which terrorism inevitably thrives.
In the meantime, the tragedy of the Syrian people is deepening, he said.
About 14 million civilians now need humanitarian assistance.More than 12 million remain displaced – and many are right now facing freezing winter conditions.
Tens of thousands are detained, abducted or missing. The economy of Syria has collapsed. Criminality and smuggling are flourishing.
Education is fragmented and severely degraded, as are institutions and infrastructure across the board. There are also reports of young people seeking any opportunity to leave the country, sometimes falling prey to traffickers and warlords.
“The country remains de facto divided and society is deeply fractured. Syrians see no concrete progress towards a political solution”, Mr. Pederson informed.
In visits this past month to Tehran and Doha, the Special Envoy has continued to engage with all parts to the conflict.
Mr. Pederson has also been convening senior officials from key stakeholders in bilateral consultations in Geneva.
“My question to all interlocutors is the same: can you identify not only what you demand, but also what you are prepared to put on the table, in exchange for steps from the other side?”, hetold Council Members.
The Special Envoy said he would welcome any “fresh ideas” on issues such as detainees;humanitarian assistance and recovery; conditions for refugee returns; and repairing the economy and social fabric.
Theultimate goal, he explained, remains to create an environment where a constitutional political process canbe agreed, and elections can take place administered under UN supervision, as envisaged in Security Council resolution 2254.
As part of this process, Mr. Pederson istrying to reconvene the Syrian-led, Syrian-owned, UN-facilitated Constitutional Committee, but he said the Committee’s work “remains disappointing” so far.
“It is an enormous challenge to make real progress that can make a difference to the Syrian people, but that is what we must do”, he concluded.