Syria remains “tinderbox” for major international incident, warns UN special envoy

Geir Pedersen, UN special envoy for Syria, warned on Wednesday that with five international armies operating in Syria, the country remains a tinderbox for a major international incident, with potential implications across the region.

“Much more can be done to safeguard international peace and security while also looking at practical and concrete ways to safeguard and restore Syria’s sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity in the context of the (Resolution) 2254 process,” the special envoy told the Security Council videoconference on Syria.

“To achieve this, key players would need to be ready to come to the table together,” he said.

Pedersen mainly briefed the Council on the work of the constitutional committee and other recent developments.

The envoy underscored that “a credible constitutional process is important,” noting that there are a range of issues beyond the constitution, of urgent concern to ordinary Syrians and identified in Resolution 2254, that need to be addressed.

“Violent conflict and terrorism are still very much a reality for Syrians. Thanks to existing arrangements, including those involving Russia, Turkey and the United States, a fragile calm continues, and there are ongoing efforts to address listed terrorist groups, including ISIL and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham,” according to the envoy.

“But this still falls well short of the nationwide ceasefire envisioned in Resolution 2254,” he added.

Turning to the humanitarian situation, the envoy said humanitarian situation of millions of Syrians remains precarious and even catastrophic for some.

“Indeed, Syrian civilians continue to suffer profound economic hardship, particularly with fresh currency depreciation, and shortages of bread, fuel and medicine in the middle of what is set to be a hard winter, with the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to spread,” Pedersen said.

“I believe that more can and should be done to address these conditions, including through ensuring that any sanctions avoid aggravating the plight of Syrian civilians,” the envoy added.