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Remarks by Ambassador Heusgen in the Security Council VTC Meeting on Syria (political), June 16, 2020

16.06.2020 - Speech

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Thanks to Geir Peterson for his briefing. I would like to extend a warm welcome to Noura Ghazi. It is very difficult not to become emotional and moved by what both briefers have said about the current situation in Syria. 80 percent live under the poverty line. 10 million are food insecure and there is even a famine looming. Where does the responsibility for the situation in Syria lie? It lies squarely with the regime. Instead of working with the population, reconstructing the country, the regime continues to bomb and fight a war against its own population. This game of blaming others for the misfortune is just cynical.
 
I would like to remind colleagues that the EU is bearing the heaviest load with regard to humanitarian aid to the population of Syria. Since 2011, about 20 billion euros have been spent by the EU, 8 billion alone from Germany for all the Syrian refugees, many of which have come to our country.
 
Let me come back to what Noura Ghazi said, which really has to move us. Women are always affected by conflict, and we see in Syria the worst example of what can happen to women: their husbands are murdered, the women are raped, tortured, disappear, imprisoned with their children, give birth to children in prisons. In many cases, they cannot even bury their loved ones.
 
When Noura [Ghazi] asked to just have Syrian law applied, she said she is not a traitor. I don't consider you a traitor. I consider you a patriot who wants to have a prosperous Syria and Syrian law applied, which does not allow for torture and summary executions.
 
Let me concentrate on one issue which we find extremely important: accountability. I still have in my mind what our colleague from Iraq said yesterday about the need for accountability. We need accountability because this is the only way that wounds can heal. Therefore, we have to work on accountability. Kelly [Craft, PR United States] mentioned the Caesar Act, which involves heavy sanctions, but it is named after the photographer who witnessed horrible crimes committed in Assad's prisons.
 
In Germany now, the first perpetrators of war crimes in Syria are going before the courts. Much more has to be done. In the last few days, we have seen that this is possible. Finally, one of the perpetrators of the Rwanda genocide was found. And yesterday, the International Criminal Court for the first time had a meeting on one of the people responsible for the genocide in Darfur, which I think is a fantastic signal to the victims. In this context, I must say, I very much regret that the US is so opposed to the International Criminal Court, a court which we see as very important, in the historic context of the Nuremberg trials.
 
Let me go back to accountability and what Vasily [Nebenzia, PR Russia] said. I still don't understand why the Russian Federation is continuing to fight accountability, the OPCW, the IIIM, and all fact-finding missions, and is covering up all the crimes that have been committed, saying that all the findings about Russian misbehavior and bombing of hospitals are false. Let's go in front of the courts and see what the facts are.
 
So let me end by appealing to the Syrian regime: stop bombing your own population, free the many detainees, engage in serious political talks. I hear that the constitutional committee is supposed to meet again at the end of August. We have a serious crisis. Millions of people are suffering. The constitutional committee should meet by virtual means as we are meeting. And they should meet tomorrow, not at the end of August. Why doesn't this happen? We are just watching and not pushing the parties to act earlier and talk about the future of the country.
 
We have to come back to reconciliation in this country, and we cannot allow the continuation of the suffering of millions of people.

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