Middle East

UN Special Envoy: Peace in Syria Hinges Only on Getting Political Solution Right

With peace in Syria still an elusive goal, UN Special Envoy Geir Pedersen appealed on Tuesday for the Security Council to support his efforts to move the parties closer towards a negotiated political solution to end the brutal 11-year conflict. 

The country is facing its worst economic crisis since the war began, as well as a deadly cholera outbreak that is rapidly spreading. 

Mr. Pedersen reported on his recent “busy period of diplomatic engagement” with key Syrian and international stakeholders, including in connection with the stalled Constitutional Committee meetings in Geneva. 

Long way to go 

“This political solution is the only path to sustainable peace,” he said, speaking from the Swiss city. 

“Sadly, we are a long way from this goal at present, and there are challenging diplomatic and ground realities that make advancing towards a comprehensive solution difficult. But the status quo should not be acceptable and there are ways forward.” 

Seven years ago, the Security Council adopted Resolution 2254 which outlines a roadmap for a peace process in Syria. 

ISIL threat persists 

So far, the political process has not delivered for the Syrian people, said Mr. Pedersen, and conflict remains “very active” across the country. 

Listing examples, he said the terrorist group ISIL remains a serious threat.  One of the largest weapons caches since its fall was recently discovered in the northeast, underscoring the insurgents’ continued capacity to carry out attacks

Pro-Government airstrikes also were reported in areas of northwest Syria where none had been reported for a long time. 

Meanwhile, in the northeast, drone strikes, mutual shelling and confrontations have been reported between the Syrian Democratic Forces on the one hand, and Türkiye and armed opposition groups on the other. 

Building confidence among stakeholders 

The Special Envoy detailed his many engagements over recent weeks, including with Syria’s Foreign Minister and the president of the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC). 

He also met with the Foreign Ministers of Iran, Russia, and Türkiye, and their counterparts from Egypt and Jordan, as well as senior officials from Arab countries, the United States, Germany, and other European nations. 

Mr. Pedersen said he is pushing for all stakeholders “to engage on step-for-step confidence building measures” towards advancing Resolution 2254.  

“The key Syrian and international stakeholders need to rebuild their confidence that cooperation on Syria is possible, that the other side is willing and able to deliver, and that Syria can be firewalled from other conflicts. That confidence can only be built by concrete actions,” he stressed. 

Engagement will continue.  So far, some countries have identified “concrete areas for potential steps”, he said, but talks need to go further. 

UN Photo/Violaine Martin

Syrian Constitutional Committee meets in Geneva (file photo).

Syrian Constitutional Committee 

The UN envoy also continues his work to unblock obstacles surrounding the reconvening of the Syrian Constitutional Committee, which comprises representatives from the Government, the opposition and civil society. 

Government nominees have not come to Geneva after Russia cited concerns over the venue.  

Mr. Pedersen has since discussed the matter with Russia, Switzerland, Syria and the SNC. 

“Even assuming sessions resume in Geneva, this would not be sufficient to restore the credibility of the Committee in the eyes of most Syrians and international stakeholders,” he said.  

“That is why I am seeking to work with the parties and the co-chairs so that, when meetings reconvene, there is political will to engage in a spirit of compromise, with a faster pace, better working methods and more substance.” 

Arbitrary arrests continue 

The Special Envoy and his team continue to monitor the issue of detained, disappeared, and missing persons. 

“Regrettably, we continue to receive reports of arbitrary arrests throughout the country,” he said.   

“Meanwhile, six months after the presidential amnesty decree, there is nothing new to report. Despite our continued engagement, official information is not forthcoming, nor has independent monitoring been facilitated.” 

Tribute to Syrian women 

Mr. Pedersen began his briefing by thanking the many Syrians, both inside and outside the country, who continue to engage with his office. 

He expressed particular gratitude to Syrian women, noting that although they have suffered countless indignities in the conflict, many have found ways to come together across their divides.  

“They embody a hope that a political settlement can bring real peace and enable Syrian women to assume their rightful and hard-earned place in society,” he said. 

Cholera ‘tragedy’ no surprise 

The Council also heard how communities in Syria are struggling to survive amidst a spiraling security, public health and economic crisis. 

Reena Ghelani, a Director in the UN’s humanitarian affairs office, OCHA, provided an update on the cholera outbreak. 

More than 20,000 suspected cases of the waterborne disease have been confirmed so far, and at least 80 people have died. 

“This is a tragedy, but it should not come as a surprise,” she remarked.  “Millions of people across Syria lack reliable access to sufficient and safe water, and the health system has been devastated by over a decade of conflict.” 

© UNOCHA/Ali Haj Suleiman

In a camp for people displaced by conflict in the north-west of Syria, children cool down from soaring summer temperatures in the back of a truck made into a temporary pool.

Worsening water crisis 

The outbreak is further compounded by factors such as poor rainfall in many locations, severe drought-like conditions, and damaged water infrastructure. 

The UN and partners have been sounding the alarm on the water crisis in northern Syria for at least the past year, said Ms. Ghelani. 

“The crisis is likely to get even worse,” she warned. “The outlook from now to December suggests an increased probability for below-normal precipitation and above-normal temperatures.” 

The UN has a three-month plan to respond to the outbreak. It calls for $34.4 million to assist 162,000 with health services, and five million with water, sanitation and hygiene assistance. 

Winter plan underfunded 

Humanitarians are also gearing up for another bitter winter in Syria, with snowstorms, sub-zero temperatures, rains and flooding expected soon. 

“This year, the number of people who need winterization assistance has increased by a staggering 30 per cent across the country compared to the previous year,” said Ms. Ghelani. 

“In the northwest, some two million people depend on winter assistance to meet their most basic needs. Most are women and children living in camps with limited or no access to heating, electricity, water, or sewage disposal.” 

A winterization response plan currently remains “grossly underfunded”, she said, adding that the shelter and non-food items sector now stands at just 10 per cent financed.  

Ms. Ghelani stressed that “if this gap is not filled, families will not receive the heating, fuel, blankets, and winter clothes that they desperately need to keep warm.” 



  1. Is there any specific timeline for when the Security Council might take action to further support the political solution in Syria?

    1. As much as we hope for swift action from the Security Council to bolster the political solution in Syria, the complex diplomatic landscape suggests that a clear timeline may be hard to predict. Patience and persistence will be key in navigating towards a sustainable resolution.

  2. Is there any update on the involvement of other international actors in the negotiations for a political solution in Syria?

    1. Yes, there have been ongoing discussions with various international stakeholders to enhance cooperation and support for the political solution in Syria. The involvement of these actors is crucial in moving closer to a sustainable peace agreement. Mr. Pedersen emphasized the importance of inclusive negotiations involving all relevant parties to achieve a breakthrough. Let’s hope for progress in the near future.

  3. It is crucial that the international community takes immediate action to prioritize a political solution in Syria. Without a comprehensive and inclusive agreement, the country will continue to face devastating consequences. The Security Council must unite and support Mr. Pedersen’s efforts for a sustainable peace in the region.

  4. Could you elaborate on the specific diplomatic and ground realities that are hindering the progress towards a comprehensive solution in Syria?

  5. It is crucial that all stakeholders prioritize finding a lasting political solution to bring peace to Syria. The current situation is dire, with the country facing economic collapse and a deadly cholera outbreak. Despite the challenges, we must continue striving for progress and support initiatives like the Constitutional Committee meetings in Geneva. Let’s work towards fulfilling the objectives outlined in Resolution 2254 and finally give the Syrian people the peace they deserve.

  6. As an avid observer of international affairs, I believe that achieving peace in Syria should be a top priority for the UN and all involved parties. It’s crucial to focus on finding a sustainable political solution to end the prolonged conflict and alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people. Mr. Pedersen’s dedication to diplomatic efforts is commendable, but there needs to be more concrete steps taken to make tangible progress towards peace.

  7. It is crucial that the Security Council takes decisive action to support Mr. Pedersen’s efforts. The people of Syria have suffered enough, and a political solution is imperative for lasting peace in the region.

  8. Do you think the recent diplomatic efforts can finally lead to a breakthrough in the Syrian peace process?

  9. It’s crucial that the Security Council actively supports Mr. Pedersen’s efforts towards a political solution for Syria. The country’s dire situation demands immediate action to address the economic crisis and cholera outbreak, alongside ongoing conflict. Let’s hope for a breakthrough soon.

  10. As an observer, I believe that Mr. Pedersen’s efforts are crucial in achieving lasting peace in Syria. The country’s dire situation demands urgent political solutions to prevent further suffering.

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