Statement delivered by Gerard van Bohemen, Permanent Representative of New Zealand. 26 February 2016, New York.

Thank you Mr de Mistura for briefing us today.

We commend also the United States and Russia for steering through the cessation of hostilities which should have taken effect a few minutes ago.

The backdrop to today’s discussions is five years of devastation and failure in Syria.

Late last year the Syrian parties were about as far apart as they have ever been. There have been moments of promise, in particular the adoption of Resolution 2254 and the subsequent agreements by the International Syria Support Group.  Sadly after each of those moments of promise we have seen an escalation of fighting as the Syrian Government and its supporters have tried to leverage the situation to their advantage.  This has been deeply disturbing and disappointing.

At last we have an agreement around a cessation of hostilities, we welcome that agreement and we were please to vote in support of today’s resolution endorsing it.

If the cessation of hostilities holds it will be the first time in five years there has been an agreed pause in the fighting in this bloody civil war. 

The cessation of hostilities is an important step towards a lasting ceasefire. It gives us hope for reduction in that horrible violence and humanitarian suffering in Syria. For it to serve a meaningful purpose the parties to the conflict and relevant Support Group members must demonstrate a sustained commitment to make it work in practice. 

We recognised that the fight against ISIL, Al Nusra Front, and other Security Council-designated terrorist organizations must continue. 

But, this will inevitably leave open the risk that the wrong targets may be struck, be it deliberately or inadvertently.  This in turn could trigger an unravelling of the cessation of hostilities and a return to widespread conflict.  All those who subscribe to this agreement must act with extra caution to prevent such an outcome, in particular to avoid military activity against non-designated groups, civilians and civilian infrastructure.

Today’s resolution affirms the close linkage between a lasting ceasefire and a parallel political process.  We hope that the cessation of hostilities agreement will be remembered in history as the beginning of the end of mass violence in Syria. 

We were pleased therefore to hear from Mr de Mistura that Intra-Syrian talks will resume on 7 March and that the process will be an inclusive one.

We think it right that this Council has today sent a message to the Syrian parties that they must participate in those negotiations on a political transition, and that they must engage in those negotiations in good faith.

We have sympathy for those that promote confidence building measures to build the strength of the platform upon which these negotiations must take place.  At the same time, the parties should not insist on preconditions designed to scuttle negotiations before they begin.

All those involved in the conflict have a responsibility to bring about and sustain conditions that are conducive to constructive negotiations.  Full implementation of relevant Security Council resolutions, including the one we have adopted today, remains critical.  

This means a genuine commitment in the coming days and weeks to cease hostilities, in accordance with the terms of the agreement this Council has endorsed today.

It also means urgently allowing full, sustained and unimpeded humanitarian aid get to those who need it.  This must include urgently needed medical assistance.

We hope we will also see the release of detainees, particularly women and children, and the elderly. 

Now is where the rubber hits the road, where there must be hard decisions on difficult issues.

Now is not the time for political red-lines. No side will get everything it wants. This includes the Syrian Government, the opposition, and regional and international supporters.

Any viable solution will be imperfect.  Any “political solution” will require compromise.

We stand ready to support Mr de Mistura in his efforts to resume negotiations in Geneva and encourage this Council to do all it can to assist him. 

I thank you.