UN Security Council: Open Debate: The situation in the Middle East (Syria)

Ministry Statements & Speeches:

Statement delivered by Gerard van Bohemen, Permanent Representative to the United Nations, 5 December 2016.

New Zealand is bitterly disappointed that the Security Council was not able to come together today to adopt the draft resolution contained in document S/2016/1026.

The draft resolution, put forward by Egypt, Spain and New Zealand, represented only a small step. In our view, it was the minimum required for a credible response from the Security Council to address the situation in Aleppo and in the rest of Syria. It was a humanitarian draft resolution designed to reduce fighting and get aid to those civilians who most desperately need it. As is well known, New Zealand has been working towards such an outcome for many months. The Council’s failure to act in spite of the graphic monthly briefings and increasingly urgent pleas from Staffan de Mistura, Stephen O’Brien and others is deeply damaging to the Council’s reputation, and catastrophic for the people of Syria.

As I said last week (see S/PV.7822), our objectives in presenting this draft resolution are those that have guided our engagement on Syria since joining the Council, and that led my Prime Minister to convene a high-level meeting in September (see S/PV.7775). Those objectives were and are to reduce the violence, to restore the ceasefire, to allow humanitarian assistance to reach those in need and to create space for the resumption of political talks.

Egypt, Spain and New Zealand had been working on this draft resolution for over a month. We consulted extensively and took on board as many views as would allow us, or so we understood, to achieve consensus while still making a practical difference for Syrian civilians on the ground. I would note that the delegation with which we engaged most intensively and from which we took the greatest number of changes was the delegation of the Russian Federation. We circulated the latest draft text to all Council members and requested the Secretariat to put it in blue at 8 p.m. on Friday, 2 December. That request was circulated to all Council members. It is deeply disappointing that a trivial procedural point should be advanced as a serious argument for delaying such a draft resolution as this, against that practical background.

Today’s veto is another indictment on Russia, on those that supported Russia and on the Council. Today’s veto demonstrates to the world that for Moscow and Damascus our common refrain — that there is no military solution to this conflict — is a hollow fiction. For those countries it is clear that a military victory is precisely what they want and are actively pursuing, even if its cost is continued carnage inflicted on the Syrian people.

Putting aside the devastating outcome of today’s vote for the Council’s credibility, we must not lose sight of the fact that the biggest losers today are those on the ground who, instead of having a chance to restore small parts of their lives, will continue to be subjected to the bombing and blasting that have blighted their lives for so many years. However, we will not let today’s great disappointment deter us. New Zealand will continue to work in the Security Council, in the General Assembly and elsewhere to continue trying to protect Syrian civilians.


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