Special Envoy Hails Formation of Constitutional Committee as ‘Sign of Hope for Long-Suffering Syrians’ in Briefing to Security Council

Report
from UN Security Council
Published on 30 Sep 2019 View Original

SC/13967

Security Council
8628th Meeting (AM)

New Entity Must Represent Wishes of Syrians, Free of Artificial Timetables, Foreign Interference, Says Permanent Representative

Sketching out the contours of a newly agreed Constitutional Committee for Syria today, the senior United Nations official in that country urged all parties there, as well as Security Council members, to seize that new development as a “sign of hope for the long-suffering Syrian people”.

Geir O. Pedersen, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Syria, briefed the 15-member Council on the Constitutional Committee’s Rules of Procedure and Terms of Reference, noting that Secretary-General António Guterres first announced the agreement on 23 September. Stating his intention to convene the Committee for the first time on 30 October, he said that acceptance of the Terms of Reference by both the Government of Syria and opposition leaders is the first concrete political agreement between the two sides. In addition, it implies a clear acceptance of each other as interlocutors.

Describing the arrangement as a “door-opener to a wider political process”, he said the Committee’s structure is clear, balanced and workable. It will be led by two equal co-chairs representing the Government and the opposition, with a small group of 45 people — 15 Government nominees, 15 opposition nominees and 15 from civil society — preparing and drafting proposals. A larger body comprising three sets of 50 nominees will then discuss and adopt them, he explained. Meanwhile, a decision-making threshold of 75 per cent will mean that no single bloc can dictate the Committee’s outcomes.

Outlining the composition of the so-called “middle third” — namely, the Committee members representing civil society and affiliated with neither the Government nor opposition parties — he said they hail from a range of different religious, ethnic and geographical backgrounds. Emphasizing that they must never be subjected to threat or harassment, he pledged that the United Nations will jealously safeguard the Syrian-owned and Syrian-led nature of the process. “Syrians, not outsiders, will draft their constitution,” he stressed.

As Council members took the floor, many applauded the new agreement and welcomed plans to convene the Constitutional Committee as early as possible. However, several speakers expressed concern over the possibility of attempts to influence the Committee’s work either by internal or foreign actors. Some called attention to the presence of foreign forces inside Syria, warning that they are already working to divide the country and change its demographic makeup.

Sergey Vasilyevich Vershinin, the Russian Federation’s Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and Council President for September, described the establishment of the Constitutional Committee as the beginning of a long road. Pledging his delegation’s support under the auspices of the Astana framework, he said the people of Syria will find their own solutions, emphasizing that it is unacceptable for external actors to interfere with the ongoing Syrian dialogue or to call for artificial timelines or concessions. There can be no truce with terrorism and international efforts must be bound by the quest for peace, not individual agendas, he stressed.

Gholamhossein Dehghani, Iran’s Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, International and Legal Issues, reinforced those points, saying that any assistance to the Committee — even form the United Nations — must be extended only upon the request by the Committee itself and with full respect for Syria’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. All foreign actors whose presence is not permitted by the Government must leave the country, he emphasized, citing the presence of United States forces and aggressions by Israel as constituting violations of sovereignty that further complicate the situation. He went on to warn against politicizing or impeding the return of refugees and internally displaced persons, or Syria’s reconstruction efforts.

China’s representative also spotlighted the crucial principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity, emphasizing that the Committee must maintain its independence and freedom from foreign interference. He went on to point out that rampant terrorism remains a major challenge to Syria’s broader political process, while warning that humanitarian issues must never be used as a bargaining chip in order to exert external pressure on the Government.

Other speakers, including the United Kingdom’s representative, noted that constitutional challenges are not the only ones facing Syrians. In fact, “the problems in Syria were not caused by flaws in its constitution” but by failure to implement it on the part the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad, he said. Against that backdrop, the Constitutional Committee’s work must be accompanied by measures to build trust and confidence while implementing all elements of Council resolution 2254 (2015) in tandem, he stressed.

Germany’s representative said the Committee’s efforts must result in a working constitution, with all parties fully committed to a process free from threats and intimidation. He also reiterated calls for the release of arbitrarily detained persons.

Sedat Önal, Turkey’s Deputy Foreign Minister, described the Constitutional Committee’s formation as an important first step, emphasizing: “We have an obligation not to fail to deliver this time.” The Committee’s work is the beginning of a formidable task, he said, urging the international community — the Security Council first and foremost — to continue to support it. Recognizing the need to address the presence of radical elements inside Syria, he nevertheless rejected any targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure, emphasizing that there can be no military solution to the conflict.

Syria’s representative highlighted the active role played by Damascus in the talks to establish the Constitutional Committee, stressing that it must represent the wishes of Syrians without artificial timetables and foreign interference. While expressing the Government’s readiness to engage further in that process, he expressed concern about potential foreign intervention and violations of the United Nations Charter being committed in his country. Unfortunately, some States continue to use the Council as a platform to defame the Syrian Government and to prevent refugees and displaced people from returning home, he said.

Also speaking were representatives of the United States, Kuwait, France, Dominican Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Indonesia, Poland, South Africa, Belgium, Peru, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

The meeting began at 10:10 a.m. and ended at 12:51 p.m.

Briefing

GEIR O. PEDERSEN, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria, said he intends to convene 150 Syrian men and women in Geneva on 30 October for the launch of a Syrian-owned, Syrian-led, credible, balanced and inclusive Constitutional Committee facilitated by the United Nations. “This should be a sign of hope for the long-suffering Syrian people,” he added, noting that it comes after the agreement by the Government of Syria and the Syrian Negotiations Committee to a package deal on nominations to the Committee as well as the Terms of Reference and the Core Rules of Procedure to guide its work. Urging Council members to take stock of the significance of that development, he said it is the first concrete political agreement between the Government and the opposition to set a schedule for a new constitution and implies a clear acceptance of each other as interlocutors.

“This can be a door-opener to a wider political process that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people,” he continued, while emphasizing that it will not be easy to seize the opportunity. Trust and confidence among the parties is currently almost non-existent, he pointed out. Respect for the Charter of the United Nations, Council resolutions and for Syria’s sovereignty, unity, independence and territorial integrity must underpin the new process, he stressed. It must include elections supervised by the United Nations and recognize the need for a broader political process to implement Council resolution 2254 (2105). In addition, any constitutional reform adopted by the Committee must be popularly approved and transposed into the national legal order by a means that is yet to be agreed, he said.

Outlining the Committee’s “clear, balanced and […] workable structure”, he said two equal co-chairs from the Government and opposition will proceed by consensus and exert the prerogatives needed to ensure the body’s smooth functioning. A small body of 45 people – 15 Government nominees, 15 opposition nominees and 15 from civil society - will prepare and draft proposals, while a larger body of three sets of 50 nominees will discuss and adopt them. Noting that the agreement promotes consensus within the Committee where possible, he said there is also a decision-making threshold of 75 per cent. No one bloc can dictate the outcome, he emphasized, adding that there will be an incentive to reach out to the middle ground across the divide. The names of the 150 members will be released by the United Nations once they have all formally confirmed their participation, he said, noting that the middle third group hails from a range of different religious, ethnic and geographical backgrounds. “The result is a negotiated compromise, and like all compromises, no one is completely satisfied,” he stressed.

He went on to report that the parties have guaranteed their efforts to ensure that no members of the Committee — nor their relatives or organizations — will be subject to threat or harassment, noting that activists across Syria have worked hard to create a “public space” for democratic and civic debates. While not all of them could be placed on the Committee, their voices will continue to be heard. The United Nations will jealously guard the Syrian-owned and Syrian-led nature of the process, he said, declaring: “Syrians, not outsiders, will draft their constitution.”. Underlining that the Constitutional Committee process alone will not resolve the conflict, he pointed out that a humanitarian crisis continues in Idlib Governorate and many other parts of Syria. Terrorist groups, including Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, continue to metastasize, touching all communities.

Meanwhile, the spectre of regional conflagration still looms over Syria, he continued, reiterating the importance of respecting the country’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence. Tens of thousands of Syrians are still detained, abducted and missing, he said, adding that millions of others remain displaced or living in poverty. Against that backdrop, the parties and their backers should think more broadly and inclusively, he emphasized, urging them to seize upon the momentum generated by the Constitutional Committee to take concrete actions, while building trust and confidence. Step by step, the parties as well as international actors must begin to build the kind of safe, calm and neutral environment needed to make Syrians feel that the political process will be able to restore their country and respond to their obligations, he said.

Statements

KELLY CRAFT (United States) said the constitution to be discussed must reflect the aspirations of all Syrians inside and outside the country. Emphasizing that there is no military solution to the conflict she said the Security Council must vigorously support the Special Envoy’s meeting in October, adding that all parties must continue to engage, in good faith, in the days ahead. However, Iran continues to act in bad faith, and if Tehran genuinely wished to promote progress, it would leave Syria without delay, she said, emphasizing that the Assad regime and its allies must not use discussions about the Constitutional Committee as a pretext to delay progress on the ground. Furthermore, the truth must be told about what continues to happen, as aerial bombardments continue to terrorize the population, she added, stressing that her delegation will continue to speak the truth about the Syrian regime’s atrocities. She went on to express concern about more than 100,000 people who remain arbitrarily detained.

MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait), calling upon all parties to work with the Special Envoy in furtherance of his mandate at this critical time ahead of discussions in Geneva, expressed hope that the October meeting will be the first step towards meeting the aspirations of Syria’s people. Emphasizing the need to respect the country’s territorial integrity, he said the process must be accompanied by confidence-building measures, with tangible progress on such issues as detainees. Turning to the situation in Idlib, he expressed concern that massive displacement and related developments there might overshadow political progress. He went on to underline that there can be no lasting peace without justice for perpetrators of the crimes committed, expressing support for the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism.

NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) said the Constitutional Committee must be a point of departure, emphasizing the need to respect all members fully and the importance of strong actions to drive forward credible peace negotiations in accordance with resolution 2254 (2015). Expressing concern about the situation in Idlib, where a military operation has resulted in civilian deaths, he called for an immediate ceasefire in there and across Syria. Only a cessation of hostilities can allow the creation of favourable conditions for discussions on the Constitutional Committee and for opening humanitarian access, he emphasized. He went on to stress that the fight against Da’esh and Al-Qaida must also be a priority but should not serve as a pretext for indiscriminate attacks. He also underlined the urgent need for progress towards full implementation of resolution 2254 (2015) with a view to establishing an inclusive political solution and opening a path to peace and reconciliation.

JOSÉ SINGER WEISINGER (Dominican Republic) said that in this new phase, parties involved in discussions about the Constitutional Committee at all levels must demonstrate a spirit of compromise, flexibility and mutual respect, with the Syrian people and their aspirations remaining at the heart of any decisions taken. Women must participate on an equal footing in all steps of a broad political process because the Committee stands as a cornerstone representing the fundamental freedoms of all citizens, he said. Indeed, the path towards political and national reconciliation is long and complex, he cautioned, reiterating that clear provisions must be established to include women. However, trust must be built among all parties through urgent steps on the ground, among them protecting Committee members and their families and establishing protection measures for civilians in north-eastern Syria.

GBOLIÉ DÉSIRÉ WULFRAN IPO (Côte d’Ivoire), emphasizing that the forthcoming October meeting in Geneva must focus on finding a political solution to the conflict, commended the Russian Federation and the Government of Syria for their part in declaring a truce in Idlib on 31 August. Expressing hope that the parties will respect the ceasefire and allow humanitarian agencies to deliver assistance to people in need, he called upon all actors to respect human rights and international law, particularly in relation to attacks against civilian infrastructure. Establishing a credible and inclusive Constitutional Committee is a step in the right direction, he said.

JOB OBIANG ESONO MBENGONO (Equatorial Guinea) said today’s meeting is one of historic significance, marking political progress more than eight years into the conflict in Syria. Describing recent developments as a source of renewed hope for the Syrian people, he nevertheless emphasized the need for dedication and resolute commitment on the part of all parties. The Constitutional Committee’s Rules of Procedure must ensure that its members are able to act independently and without any political pressure. Warning against dividing Syria into zones of influence, he expressed concern that five different armies are currently present in the country, sharpening the risk of escalating violence and a broader conflagration potentially spilling over into neighbouring States and beyond.

JAMES PAUL ROSCOE (United Kingdom) called the latest developments to be followed by transitional arrangements and free and fair elections, saying that “problems in Syria were not caused by flaws in its constitution” but by failure to implement it on the part the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad. The Constitutional Committee’s work must be accompanied by measures to build trust and confidence, he said, adding that all elements of resolution 2254 (2015) must be implemented in tandem. The Committee must represent the free views of the Syrian people and its members must not be subjected to fear or intimidation, he emphasized. As for the dire situation in Idlib, he pointed out that it has dominated the Council’s work over recent months, declaring: “Idlib is the Syrian conflict in microcosm”, with thousands of civilians targeted by regime forces either killed or forced to flee. Deploring the recent vetoes by China and the Russian Federation of an important humanitarian draft resolution, he stressed the moral imperative of ensuring that the ceasefire holds and that civilians are protected.

WU HAITAO (China), joining other speakers in welcoming the breakthrough on the political track, he noted that it resulted in large part from the work of the Astana guarantor States. The Constitutional Committee must maintain its independence and freedom from foreign interference, he said, underlining the importance of respecting Syria’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. Members of the Constitutional Committee must work to reach consensus at an early date, he added, urging the international community — including Council members — to provide support. He went on to point out that rampant terrorism remains a major challenge to the political process, warning that, if not addressed, it will continue to impact Syria’s progress in all arenas. However, humanitarian issues must not be used as a bargaining chip in order to exert external pressure on Syria, he insisted, stressing that the legitimate concerns of neighbouring States must be considered when addressing the matter of returning refugees. Calling for the lifting of sanctions, he rejected the reference to his country in the intervention by the United Kingdom’s delegate, underlining that all of China’s decisions are made independently.

MUHSIN SYIHAB (Indonesia) echoed the expressions of support for the planned convening of the Constitutional Committee, welcoming it as an encouraging development in Syria’s political process. A strong and genuine commitment from all parties are needed to ensure the Committee’s success, he said, while underlining that Syria’s sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity must not be taken for granted. All parties must agree to work in a cooperative manner in addressing future challenges. Meanwhile, the political process should move forward in parallel with a ceasefire. The Council’s support for both processes is needed now more than ever, he said, adding: “The road ahead is not going to be easy, but reaching the destination is indeed possible.”

JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland) said any sustainable solution to the conflict requires a genuine political transition, as outlined in Council resolution 2254 (2015) and the 2012 Geneva Communiqué. Describing the plan to convene the Constitutional Committee as a “definite step forward”, she emphasized the paramount importance of ensuring that positive developments on the ground, especially a cessation of hostilities, move forward in parallel with the Committee’s work. All parties must engage in confidence-building measures, she added, stressing the importance of releasing detainees and finding missing persons. “Progress in this area would help raise the level of confidence between the parties,” she said, also underlining the need to ensure humanitarian access and full respect for international law.

JERRY MATTHEWS MATJILA (South Africa), joining other speakers in expressing support for convening the Constitutional Committee’s first meeting as soon as possible, expressed hope that the commitment to 30 per cent representation by women will be upheld, while calling also for active female participation at all levels of the peace negotiations. Underlining the importance of ensuring the safety and security of the Committee members, he said it is also crucial not to forget Syria’s larger political process, of which the Constitutional Committee is one part. Indeed, the new body’s work must be accompanied by active engagement by all parties. He went on to call for the release of civilians from detention, especially women, children, the sick and the elderly.

CHRISTOPH HEUSGEN (Germany) said the Committee’s efforts must result in a working constitution, with all parties committed fully to a process free from threats and intimidation. The Council should support the process, he added, expressing hope that the Committee will open the door more broadly to involving women. He also reiterated calls for the release from arbitrary detention of children, the elderly and persons with disabilities, and underlined the importance of ending impunity for perpetrators of crimes. Turning to the draft resolution recently considered, he expressed regret that China and the Russian Federation vetoed the text.

MARC PECSTEEN DE BUYTSWERVE (Belgium) noted that the new developments represent the first time during the conflict that the United Nations is facilitating direct talks between the parties. The Constitutional Committee has the potential to serve as a key opening the door to a political process, as outlined in resolution 2254 (2015). Expressing “prudent optimism”, he described the Committee as a means to a peaceful conclusion to the conflict, pointing out that much time has already been lost in this regard. The Committee must work towards progress without obstacles or intimidation, he said. The Government of Syria has a special obligation to establish a safe, stable and calm environment in the country, he added, calling for an end to violence in Idlib and around the country. Calling attention to the issue of arbitrary detentions, he urged the Special Envoy to redouble his efforts to resolve the issue, and Damascus to recognize that resolving it is a sign of good faith.

LUIS UGARELLI (Peru), highlighting the role played by the Astana guarantors and the constructive participation of the Government and opposition groups, said a new constitution must represent the aspirations of all Syrians. There are reasons to be optimistic that the new Committee can diligently and effectively fulfil its mandate with tangible results given the urgency of the grave ongoing humanitarian situation and terrorist activities in Syria, he noted. However, the parties must demonstrate genuine commitment to flexibility and constructive dialogue, he said, emphasizing that Committee must represent all sectors of society, with women making up at least 30 per cent of the membership. Meanwhile, progress is needed to ensure the voluntary and safe return of millions of displaced persons and to resolve the issue of detainees, he emphasized.

SERGEY VASILYEVICH VERSHININ, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation and Council President for September, spoke in his national capacity, noting that today’s meeting represents the first time that preconditions exist for finding a lasting solution to the conflict in Syria. Describing the establishment of the Constitutional Committee as the beginning of a long road, he said the Astana guarantor countries worked closely with Syria and the United Nations. Pledging his delegation’s support for the Committee’s role in continuing to hold high-level meetings, he said there are plans to hold an Astana format conference in Kazakhstan. Describing Syria as one of the oldest countries in the Middle East, he said its people will be able to find their own solutions. However, it is unacceptable for external actors to interfere with the ongoing Syrian dialogue or to call for artificial timelines or concessions, he said, emphasizing that the Astana format remains a constructive way forward. He added that it was strange to hear a colleague question Iran’s participation in today’s meeting, when that country has played a role in the current progress and in addressing the conflict in Syria. He went on to express regret the discord over the related draft resolution, saying it contains language of a humanitarian nature and thus had little chance of being adopted. By definition, a truce with terrorism cannot exist, he said, stressing that international efforts must be bound by the quest for peace and by not individual agendas.

Mr. WU (China), taking the floor a second time, referred to the comment by Germany’s delegate to the effect that Beijing did not support the draft resolution under consideration today. Emphasizing his delegation’s grave concern about the situation in Syria, he said that is why China and the Russian Federation worked on another text relating to counter-terrorism measures.

SEDAT ÖNAL, Deputy Foreign Minister of Turkey, described the establishment of the Constitutional Committee as an important first step that would not have been possible without the constructive engagement of the Syrian parties with the Astana framework. It will create new momentum to reach a political solution in accordance with Council resolution 2254 (2015) and also raises the expectations of Syrians both inside and outside the country for a stable, secure and prosperous future. “We have an obligation not to fail to deliver this time,” he emphasized. The Committee is the beginning of a formidable task that the international community — the Council, first and foremost — should continue to support, he said, expressing Turkey’s commitment to that end. The upcoming round of negotiations in Geneva can hardly yield any positive outcome without ensuring a conducive environment on the ground, he said, citing Idlib as a case in point. Pledging to continue Ankara’s support for implementation of the Sochi Memorandum within the Astana format, he stressed that preserving the status quo in the governorate remains crucial.

However, whereas Turkey recognizes the presence of radical elements there, as well as the necessity to address the threat they represent, it rejects the targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure, he said, underlining that there can be no military solution to the conflict. He went on to reiterate that the political process must be Syrian-owned and Syrian-led, vowing to work through the Astana format’s working group for the release of abductees and detainees while helping to push forward other critical confidence-building measures. Pointing out that Turkey hosts 3.6 million Syrian refugees and spares no effort in facilitating humanitarian assistance to those inside Syria living in dire conditions, he said the time has nevertheless come to think seriously and begin to create the conditions for their safe and voluntary return.

GHOLAMHOSSEIN DEHGHANI, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, International and Legal Issues of Iran, joined others in welcoming the Constitutional Committee’s formation, describing it as a clear sign of the Astana format’s effectiveness. Iran will actively support Syrians in the Committee’s launch, he said, calling upon others to do the same while avoiding any and all forms of external pressure or the setting of artificial deadlines. He went on to emphasize that any possible assistance to the Committee — even from the United Nations — must be extended only on request by the Committee itself, in accordance with its Rules of Procedure and with full respect for Syria’s sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity. Recalling the recent Astana format Summit’s reaffirmation of those principles, he noted that it also rejected all attempts to create new realities on the ground under the pretext of combating terrorism, including illegitimate self-rule initiatives, and expressed the determination of the guarantor States to oppose separatist agendas.

Accordingly, all foreign forces whose presence is not permitted by the Government of Syria must leave the country, he continued. United States forces continue to support and shield terrorist groups under the mask of combating terrorism, he noted, while describing Israel’s aggressions against Syria as obvious violations of the principle of sovereignty and a further complication of the situation. The international community must compel Israel to end such aggressions and violations. Reaffirming the Syrian Government’s sovereign right to decide how and when to exercise its inherent right to individual or collective self-defence, he said Israel’s occupation of the Occupied Syrian Golan is illegal and the recognition of its annexation by the United States is null and void, underlining that the territory is part and parcel of Syria. He went on to warn against politicizing or impeding the return of refugees and internally displaced persons or Syria’s reconstruction efforts.

MOHAMED FATHI AHMED EDREES (Egypt) expressed hope that convening the Constitutional Committee will be instrumental to ending the Syrian people’s suffering. Hailing the Special Envoy’s key role in that significant achievement, he called upon all parties to support the Committee’s launch as soon as possible, avoiding procrastination. He also urged them to avoid using the Committee’s work as a pretext not to take other important steps forward. All parties should continue to fight terrorist groups in the region, he said, warning them against being taken in by the latter’s blatant attempts to camouflage themselves by periodically changing their names. Deploring attempts to provide such groups with support or political cover, he warned that thousands of terrorists from Syria have spilled into Libya as well as neighbouring countries, calling upon the Council and its relevant subcommittees to shoulder their responsibilities to halt the flow of terrorists and foreign terrorist fighters. Indeed, certain infamous parties continue to provide the groups with safe havens and to help them continue their subversive actions, he said. Meanwhile, he cautioned against attempts to change the demographic make-up of northern Syria and underlined the importance of facilitating the safe and voluntary return of refugees.

SIMA SAMI I. BAHOUS (Jordan) said her delegation supports all efforts to reach a political solution based on resolution 2254 (2015), including the Special Envoy’s initiatives, and welcomes the Constitutional Committee as a means to launch a political process. A solution to the conflict must be acceptable to all Syrians while aiming to end the violence and create a stable environment. Jordan hosts 1.3 million Syrian refugees, placing pressure on the national economy, she said. As such, it calls for a collective solution beyond international aid, in the form of a more coordinated response and the establishment of measures to ensure their safe return home, she added, emphasizing that international support must continue to serve the interest of the Syrian people.

ABDALLAH Y. AL-MOUALLIMI (Saudi Arabia) said the new developments offer a glimmer of hope and reflect a decisive step towards finding a political solution that would end the suffering of Syrians and ensure the safe return of refugees. Commending the parties’ cooperating with the Special Envoy, he said Riyadh will host a meeting to foster constructive deliberations on the Constitutional Committee. The Syrian authorities must commit to the political process and take tangible steps in that direction, he emphasized. He went on to state that a foreign State used the conflict in Syria to plunge the region into turmoil, with terrorist groups operating in Syria playing a destructive role. They must be removed from Syrian territory, he stressed, while describing Iran as a rogue State sowing chaos and contributing to the suffering of the region’s people.

BASHAR JA’AFARI (Syria), noting that the Russian Federation played a key role in upholding the principles of the United Nations Charter, said Damascus worked with the Special Envoy and other key parties to form the Constitutional Committee, which must remain free from any foreign interference. The constitution is the supreme legislation, reflecting the people’s vision, he added. He went on to state that Syria’s achievements across the millennia, as ancient as history itself, range from developing an alphabet to shaping jurisprudence. Damascus is an active partner in the talks to establish the Constitutional Committee that will represent the wishes of Syrians, free from timetables and foreign interference, he emphasized. Keen on progress in the political process, Syria anticipates that steps forward must reflect these wishes. At a time when the Government stands ready to engage in the Constitutional Committee’s work, concerns remain about foreign interference and violations of the United Nations Charter with regard to interfering in Syria’s territorial integrity, he noted. Whereas Damascus anticipated working with true and honest partners genuinely seeking to foster progress, he said, unfortunately, some States continue to use the Security Council as a platform from which to defame the Syrian Government and prevent refugees and displaced people from returning home. As for the concerns raised by colleagues, he said MRI and CAT-scan equipment are much needed, but certain States are preventing the delivery of such medical supplies. Concerning the issue of terrorism, he said counter-measures include fighting illegitimate foreign presences on Syrian territory, emphasizing that the Government needs support for its counter-terrorism efforts. He went on to reject lies against the Government of Syria, and to express concern about newly-offered proposals that are contrary to already agreed elements for establishing the Constitutional Committee.

Mr. DEHGHANI (Iran) took the floor a second time, saying that the delegate of Saudi Arabia has tried his best to distract the Council’s attention from Riyadh’s crimes in the region, from supporting terrorist groups — including Da’esh and Al-Nusrah Front — to grossly violating Islamic teachings. As such, Saudi Arabia must be held accountable for its crimes, from Syria to Yemen, and must stop supporting terrorists who are destroying Yemeni mosques and schools, he said.

Mr. AL-MOUALLIMI (Saudi Arabia) responded by stating that Iran supports terrorism in Argentina, Berlin and the Persian Gulf, and called upon that country’s delegate to refrain from making false accusations against Saudi Arabia in the future.

Mr. DEHGHANI (Iran) said Saudi Arabia remains the main source of instability in the region as it continues to provide resources for training extremists. Riyadh’s hostility to Tehran seems endless, from supporting Iraq during its war against Iran to accusing Iranians of violating human rights, he said. He went on to recall that most of the perpetrators of the 11 September 2001 attacks in the United States were from Saudi Arabia, adding that Riyadh funds terrorist groups even today. Iran has proposed peace plans for Syria and Yemen in the past, only for Saudi Arabia to say it is none of Tehran’s business, he noted, expressing hope that all actors can work together to restore stability to the region going forward.

Mr. AL-MOUALLIMI (Saudi Arabia) said Iran’s delegate is making more false claims, emphasizing that it is most certainly not Tehran’s business to interfere in the Arab world, whether in Iraq, Syria or Bahrain. Moreover, Saudi Arabia’s previous relationship with Iran was good, but worsened after the revolution in that country, he recalled.

Mr. VERSHININ (Russian Federation) noted that the exchange of statements reaffirms the desire for a return to stability, which is a necessary and useful foundation for exploring how all States can help to restore it.

For information media. Not an official record.