Transcript: Briefing by Lakhdar Brahimi at the U.N. General Assembly on the Syrian conflict

Edited by Jenny Jiang

Transcript of remarks by Lakhdar Brahimi, Joint Special Representative of the United Nations and Arab League, on the Syrian conflict at the U.N. General Assembly on Nov. 30, 2012:

Mr. President, Mr. Secretary General, your Excellencies, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen.

Yesterday, I briefed the Security Council and it is a great honor for me today to appear before this Assembly for the second time to share with you all a few thoughts about the situation in Syria.

The Secretary General has just briefed you on the humanitarian situation in particular. The numbers he gave illustrate eloquently and also very sadly the dramatic situation now prevailing in Syria.

On the ground, however, it is now the security situation that is a major handicap for the delivery of humanitarian aid. An ever greater handicap is the shortage of funding.

As you just heard from the Secretary General, the Syria Humanitarian Assistance Response Plan is only 50% funded and the regional response plan is only 38% funded.

Briefing by Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi, Joint Special Representative of the United Nations and the League of Arab States for Syria, at the General Assembly on Nov. 30, 2012. SOURCE: WebTV.un.org


Mr. President. Military confrontations in Syria have continued unabated. Indeed, fighting has expanded geographically to almost all parts of Syria and intensified very significantly.

Anti-government forces have reportedly achieved gains on the ground in several areas this past few weeks. The areas of territories that they control are expanding and at times with strategic value.

The government for its part, however, remains confident that they will have the upper hand.

At the regional level, tensions have been high for some time now along the border between Syria and Turkey. Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon are equally fearful of the consequences of events in Syria on their respective countries and people.

Palestinian refugees, who number over 500,000, are also concerned that they not be dragged into the conflict raging around and, at times, inside their camps. Hundreds of Palestinian refugees have already been killed, including [incomprehensible audio].

Developments in and close to the Israeli-occupied Golan are also [incomprehensible audio]. It seems that the disengagement agreement between Syria and Israel is also being affected.

The potential for escalation affecting both parties and the larger region, unintentionally or otherwise, cannot be ignored.

In this connection, Mr. President, the deterioration of the security situation in Syria is made even more clear, as the Secretary General just told you, by events yesterday and today when UNDOF convoys carrying soldiers due to rotate in the mission have come under fire close to the Damascus International Airport. Yesterday, 4 U.N. personnel were injured as a result, 2 of whom are believed to have sustained serious injuries. 8 U.N. vehicles were also reportedly damaged in this incident.

In other words, Mr. President, threats to regional peace and stability are neither abstract nor something in the distant future.

Countries in the region are already bearing the burden of hundreds of thousands of refugees and, in many instances, tensions are real and mounting within parts of their respective societies between supporters and opponents of the Syrian regime.

At the political level, a major development has been the creation, just over 2 weeks ago in Doha, Qatar, of the coalition of the Syrian revolution and opposition forces. The event has been welcomed warmly by all governments who support the struggle against President [Bashar al] Assad.

The coalition has reaffirmed the almost unanimous demand of many opposition groups that President Bashar al Assad and his close associates must leave power before any political settlements can be contemplated.

The government’s side, on the other hand, continues to see itself as the legitimate authority in the country and to claim that it is facing mostly terrorist groups armed and funded by a vast regional and international anti-Syria conspiracy.

Mr. President. I recently read in an article by Dr. Kissinger said or wrote sometime ago and I quote, “A conversion of army loses if it does not win. The guerilla army wins if it does not lose.”

This perceptive observation is consistent with developments in Arab Spring countries over this past 2 years. Applied to Syria, 20 months into the present crisis, and taking into consideration the positions of the parties confronting each other, Dr. Kissinger’s formula tells us that the government of Syria shall not win this confrontation and that the opposition shall not lose it.

However, it does not tell us when the confrontation will end and at what price for the people of Syria and also at what price for the entire region and for peace and stability in the world.

In fact, I, for one, remain convinced that in Syria there are only the following alternatives: Either a political process that leads to the creation of a new Syria with a new political dispensation that puts an end to the present tragedy, satisfies the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people to dignity, freedom, democracy, social justice, and equality between all its citizens and preserves the sovereignty and unity of the country or Syria becomes a failed state with all the predictable dire consequences for the people of Syria, for the entire region, and for international peace and security.

Naturally, nobody wishes to see a failed state in Syria. Nobody wants to see the state and its institutions withering away, lawlessness spreading, warlordism, banditry, narcotics, arms smuggling, and – worst of all – the ugly face of communal and sectarian strife take hold of Syria.

Therefore, if we really do not want for Syria the fate that I have just described, the only option everyone should hope for and work for is a negotiated political process.

In Syria itself, there is no trust between the parties. They do not even define the problem in the same terms. Of course, ultimately, they would have to buy into any process. Without a true, sincere, and total national ownership – as you know, Mr. President – the chances of any plan producing lasting peace will be very poor indeed.

Many of the countries in the region used to have closer relations with Syria. After the beginning of the crisis, however, the break-up of Syria and these countries was brutal and total.

Today, the countries concerned make no secret of their hostility to the present regime in Damascus and their strong support for the opposition.

Egypt’s attempt to create a contact group with Turkey, Iran, and Saudi Arabia was a creative idea. It has not – or not yet – produced the expected results.

I have visited the capitols of all the neighbors and near neighbors of Syria. And from the discussions that I have had with the leaders of these countries, I don’t think it is possible for them to put together a workable peace plan in the foreseeable future.

We are left, therefore, with this organization – the United Nations – and, in particular, its Security Council.

Difficult as it has been for the Council to reach consensus on an implementable roadmap for Syria, I nevertheless feel that it is here – and only here – that a credible, implementable process can be put together.

Many, perhaps most, of the building blocks for the political process to end the crisis in Syria already exist. They are in the final communique of the Action Group for Syria, which met in Geneva on 30th of June 2012 at the initiative of my predecessor Kofi Annan.

For the Geneva document to be effective, its substantive parts – together with additional elements as necessary – need to be translated into a Security Council resolution.

I know that first attempt has failed. But that first attempt to craft a resolution failed does not mean it will be impossible for other attempts to succeed. Any peace process must include necessarily a binding agreement on the cessation on all forms of violence.

As I said earlier, there is no trust between the parties. And for fighting to stop, a strong, well-planned observation system must be put in place. Such observation can best be organized through a large, robust peace-keeping force and, naturally, that cannot be [authorized] without a Security Council resolution.

Another necessary building block…is in the process of being realized, and that is the unity of the opposition. As we indicated earlier, the agreement in Doha is an important step in the right direction. The leadership of the new coalition is establishing itself in Cairo and working to widen and to consolidate its internal unity, I think, that also working to develop what I hope will be an ambitious yet realistic and viable political platform.

There are other building blocks that must be part of the package needed to start a political process that would have a real chance of success.

In addition to the measures needed to put an end to violence, other essential and primordial building blocks – also part of the Geneva document – are the transitional government body with full executive powers at the beginning of the process and the election at the end of that process.

Mr. President, this is a time of historic change in the Middle East. Let’s look to ways to work together to focus on collective interests to end this tragedy and make this instead a time of historic opportunity for Syria.

I, once again, thank you, Mr. President and members of this Assembly for your support and for the opportunity you have given me once more of submitting this brief report to you.

Thank you very much, Mr. President.

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