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Syria: Setting up effective work on the ground

Dr Alexander Yakovenko, Russian Ambassador to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Deputy foreign minister (2005-2011).

Published time: June 26, 2014 13:25
Containers on the deck of Ark Futura, a Danish-chartered cargo vessel, carry precursors to sarin gas, part of the effort to extract chemical weapon stockpiles from Syria, in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, May 13, 2014 (Reuters / Staff)

The most positive news for days has come from Syria – a large-scale and unprecedented international operation for the removal of all the components of Syrian chemical weapons has been successfully completed.

That means that the most important and difficult stage of the plan for the destruction of the chemical weapons, 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 put forward in 2013 at the darkest 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 parallel 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 non-proliferation 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 military duty.

The main conclusion based on the events in the post-electoral Syria is that Syrian society, despite provocations by 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.

A girls gestures and holds a picture of re-elected Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as she celebrates in Damascus after Assad was announced as the winner of the country's presidential elections on June 4, 2014 (AFP Photo)

The humanitarian situation in Syria remains a matter of serious concern. The main problems facing the delivery of humanitarian aid relates 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 area 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 cease-fire 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 Russia continues to insistently call for.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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