Syria: setting up effective work on the ground (by Ambassador Yakovenko, for Russia Today)

The most positive news came these days from Syria – a large-scale and unprecedented international operation for removal of all components of the Syrian chemical weapons has been successfully completed. That means that the most important and difficult stage of the plan for destruction of chemical weapons abroad, developed by the OPCW and approved by UNSC Resolution 2118, has been finished. It is worth reminding that the adoption of this plan has become possible due to the Russian President Vladimir Putin's initiative brought forward in 2013 at the most severe phase of the Syria crisis.
One can only welcome the political will of the Syrian Government, which, after acceding to the Convention for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, with the support of the international community has managed in the harsh conditions to implement within record-breaking time a unique operation that has no analogues in the 17-year history of the Convention and the OPCW. And that represents a vivid example of the international community’s ability to solve in cohesion the most complex disarmament and nonproliferation tasks.
In the meantime the situation in Syria after the presidential elections indicates the serious intentions of the Syrian authorities to further improve the political climate in the country by implementing a set of trust measures. Several thousand people were freed within the framework of the general amnesty. Syrian judicial bodies in correctional facilities all over the country are working actively on the examination of cases of detainees and prisoners. As a result of this important mission, the latter have a chance to return to normal life. The government has even taken a step to allow the people, who left the Syrian Army, to return to their military duty.
The main conclusion based on the events in the post-electoral Syria is that the Syrian society, despite provocations of extremists, maintains national unity and does not demonstrate any signs of ethnic and religious split. International partners should respect the democratic choice of the Syrian people, continue the efforts to assist the political and diplomatic settlement in this country, and revise the intention to build up support for the armed opposition in Syria, which would have far reaching negative consequences.
The humanitarian situation in Syria remains a matter of serious concern. The main problems facing the delivery of humanitarian aid relate to the remoteness of areas and destroyed infrastructure, not to mention the opposition’s refusal to let humanitarian convoys pass through the populated areas under their control. The fractured groups of the armed opposition and lack of coordination among them also seriously complicate the work of humanitarian agencies.
At the same time, despite the mentioned difficulties, the work on carrying out humanitarian operations continues. The Syrian Government directly participates in this process, including by spreading the practice of local cease-fires, which allows stabilizing the situation in regions receiving supplies of humanitarian aid.
For its turn, Russia continues to make active efforts to help the recovery from the severe humanitarian situation in this country. In an effort to gain further improvements in this sphere Russia submitted a statement in favor of extending the practice of local cease-fires to the UN Council on Human Rights. It has a depoliticized, constructive and unifying character – that's why it was supported by states of various regional groups.
Considering all this, it is quite hard to understand the position of some of our partners who not only have refused to support the statement in favor of ending the violence in Syria, but did not hesitate to publicly speak out against the initiative to save lives and alleviate the humanitarian situation in Syria. And this despite the fact that the UN has been actively involved in mediation efforts to achieve local cease-fires, and the ceasefire agreements allow humanitarian agencies to provide assistance to those in need.
We believe that at this stage the main emphasis should be on the practical aspects of setting up effective work in Syria. We are also convinced that the final success in international efforts in this direction mainly depends on the effectiveness of the inter-Syrian political process within the framework of the Geneva-2, the quicker renewal of which Russian continues to insistently call for.