UN chief urges ‘maximum restraint’ following policy shift over northeastern Syria

UNICEF/Hasen Nine-months-old twins, together with their mother and two siblings, fled violence in Susa village in northeastern Syria. The family made an arduous journey to Al-Hol camp (January 2019).

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.


The UN chief on Tuesday expressed “great concern” over recent policy statements made regarding northeastern Syria, following the announcement from the United States at the start of the week, that it would withdraw troops from the area close to the border with Turkey.

Secretary-General António Guterres, “has called on all parties to exercise maximum restraint,” said a statement released by his Spokesperson, emphasizing his concern for the risks posed to civilians by potential military actions in the war-torn region, following the announcement made on Twitter by President Donald Trump on Sunday night.

American forces have worked alongside Kurdish fighters in northern Syria for years as key allies in the fight against extremist group ISIL, which once held large swathes of the region. The troop withdrawal ignited concerns regarding the safety of Kurdish fighters amid reported fears of an assault by Turkish troops across the border, who regard the Kurdish militia as terrorists.

President Trump said via Twitter on Tuesday that the US would not “abandon” the Kurds, referring to them as “special people and wonderful fighters”, adding that “any unforced or unnecessary fighting by Turkey will be devastating to their economy”.

The Secretary-General said that civilians and civilian infrastructure in the region, which has now endured more than eight years of conflict, needed “to be protected at all times” adding that “sustained, unimpeded and safe humanitarian access to civilians in need must be guaranteed in order to (allow the) United Nations and its humanitarian partners to carry out their critical work in northern Syria.”

He reiterates “that there is no military solution to the Syrian conflict.”

The statement concludes saying that “the only sustainable solution is a UN-facilitated political process pursuant to Security Council resolution 2254”, referring to the Council’s 2015 roadmap for Syria’s peace process.

New Constitutional Committee

After years of negotiation, the launch of a “credible” Constitutional Committee for Syria” announced last month by the UN chief, should be viewed as the beginning of a political process to end the conflict in the country, according to a statement from the Security Council on Tuesday.

In a Presidential Statement, Jerry Matthews Matjila, of South Africa, heading up the Council for the month of October, welcomed news of the Committee’s formation, hailing the Secretary-General’s 23 September announcement of the agreement between the Government of Syria and the Syrian Negotiations Commission on a “credible, balanced, and inclusive” Constitutional Committee.

The Council reaffirmed its strong support for the Special Envoy’s efforts, as well as the United Nations initiative to convene the Committee’s first meeting in Geneva before the end of the month.

Syria’s conflict can only be resolved through the full implementation of Security Council resolution 2254, the Council underscored in its statement.

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