After more than a year of brutal violence inflicted by the Government of Syria on its own people, after close to 10,000 deaths, after driving almost 45,000 Syrians out of their country and many more out of their homes, and after the grotesque destruction by Syria’s own armed forces of Syrian towns and neighborhoods, the Syrian government has claimed it is finally ready to step back from its murderous policies. Today, with this resolution, the Security Council has indicated it will judge the Syrian regime by its actions, not its words. The Council has authorized an advance group of monitors to verify the Syrian government’s compliance. In doing so, the Council has taken a step towards fulfilling its own responsibilities. And it’s about time.
On Thursday, the Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States, Kofi Annan, reported that a “fragile calm appears to be prevailing” in Syria. We all hope it will continue to prevail. But we are under no illusions. Two days of diminished violence after a year of murderous rampage hardly proves that the regime is serious about honoring its commitments. Just today, Syrian forces resumed their brutal shelling of Homs, and shot innocent mourners at a funeral in Aleppo. This resumed violence casts serious doubts yet again on the regime’s commitment to a cessation of violence. Despite this aggression, the Syrian opposition has largely refrained from responding and has honorably sought to extend the fragile calm. The regime’s tanks, heavy weapons, and troops maintain their choke hold on population centers, ready to resume attacks at any time. Towns and large areas remain cut off, and the Asad regime maintains snipers and roadblocks throughout Syria. Reports continue to come in that protesters have been killed and arrested, and thousands of activists remain detained. The Syrian government must meet all of its commitments, not the bare minimum. And it must do so now.
The suffering of the Syrian people has gone on far too long. For many months they protested peacefully, only to be met with violent retribution from their own government. When some protesters finally dared to respond in self-defense, the retribution got immeasurably worse. The Arab League proposed a way forward to end the violence and meet the aspirations of the Syrian people. The regime of Bashar Asad responded with broken promises, only to be followed by intensified violence. In the final days before April 12th, we saw an outrageous escalation of violence by the Asad regime, including the stepped up use of heavy artillery on civilian areas and Syrian forces firing across borders into Turkey and Lebanon.
This horrific cycle has lasted way too long. The Syrian people must be allowed to exercise their rights and freedoms peacefully, without fear of attack, detention, torture, or death. We commend the opposition for the restraint it has shown in observing the ceasefire, after the brutality it has endured. And we demand that the Syrian government at last honor its commitments. Those commitments are plain to everyone. Both this Council and the League of Arab States have fully endorsed Mr. Annan’s Six Point Plan. As Secretary Clinton noted, the plan is not a menu of options. It’s a comprehensive set of obligations that requires visible and verifiable actions by the Government of Syria.
The resolution just adopted reaffirms the Council’s support for all elements of the Envoy’s plan, including an immediate end to violence, securing humanitarian access, and a Syrian-led political transition that meets the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people. The resolution stresses that the Syrian government must immediately fulfil its remaining obligations to bring about a full cessation of violence. It emphasizes the necessity of the Syrian government immediately withdrawing all its troops and heavy weapons from population centers and returning its soldiers and their equipment to their barracks. It authorizes the Secretary-General to send an initial team of up to 30 observers to verify that the Syrian government is doing what it is obliged to do, including ensuring that the full monitoring mission can do its job, unimpeded, with full freedom of movement, full access to people and institutions, and unobstructed communications. The resolution also expresses the Council’s intention to establish a larger observer mission once the Secretary General presents a blueprint and if it is clear that the cease-fire is holding and the government is cooperating.
We see this advance team’s deployment as an important test of the Syrian government’s intentions. If the government obstructs their work, it will raise serious concerns about moving forward with the establishment of the full mission. We await the Secretary General’s proposal for a full observation mission and express our willingness to work quickly with Council members to authorize such a mission, if indeed the Syrian government fulfils its commitments.
The United States expresses its appreciation again to Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan for his dedicated work to try to stop the violence, respect the rights of the Syrian people, and begin a transition towards a stable and legitimate governance. The opportunity is there; the burden is now on the Syrian government to seize it.