Held by Foreign Minister Mr. Børge Brende
In Montreux, 22 January 2014
Let me join others in thanking UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for convening this international conference on Syria and also for your leadership. I would also like to thank Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Lavrov for their tireless efforts, as well as Joint Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi and his team, for their courage and work in a difficult situation.
It is with great responsibility we are gathered here – a responsibility towards the Syrian people to stop the unfolding bloodshed. More violence and fighting will only prolong the human suffering. We are here to take the first steps toward a political solution to the conflict.
We have to seize this opportunity, to replace the logic of war with the logic of peace.
A lot is at stake – 3 years ago, Syria was a middle-income country. It is now the site of a humanitarian disaster. 50 % of its GDP is gone. Three years ago, Syria was a safe haven for refugees. Now it is one of the largest refugee crises we have seen in our lifetime. Three million people have fled, 9.3 million people are urgently in need of humanitarian aid. More than 2 million children are out of school.
Foreign Minister Muallem and Syrian coalition President Jarba, by coming here, you have taken the first brave step.
Remaining at the negotiating table will be even more challenging, but essential.
Your responsibility is to end the violence and reach a comprehensive agreement for a political settlement that fully implements the Geneva Communiqué. This includes a mutually agreed transitional governing body, with full executive powers, that can pave the way for democratic institutions.
Implementing the Communiqué also means preserving the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Syria. As well as protecting the rights of all citizens – including women, minorities and religious communities.
Past experience has shown that functioning state institutions should be maintained and reformed.
The full and effective participation of women and civil society in this process must be ensured. Norway stands ready to assist.
Confidence building measures are vital to get the process started. The parties need to take real steps on the ground.
- We call for ceasefires to be implemented immediately.
- And for a full stop of attacks on non-military targets.
- Release of arbitrary detained prisoners should be arranged.
The parties should ensure immediate, full humanitarian access and protection, and respect humanitarian principles. All parties have an obligation to respect international humanitarian law and to protect humanitarian actors. They must allow the delivery of humanitarian supplies to all those in need, in all parts of the country.
In Yarmouk, Damascus and Homs we have seen and are continuing to see the starvation of hundreds of thousands of civilians. Calls for humanitarian access have largely been ignored. Tactics like these are inhuman, and they have to stop.
Nor can we ignore the extremists and foreign fighters. Their cause is alien to the Syrian people and it runs counter to Syria’s history of tolerance and coexistence.
Those who are responsible for atrocities and war crimes on all sides of the conflict must be held accountable for their actions.
In Kuwait last week, the international community pledged 2.4 billion dollars of the 6.5 billion the UN has asked for. This is encouraging, but it is not enough. We need to do even more.
By providing humanitarian assistance, and also by supporting democracy-building and the long-term reconstruction of Syria.
Similarly, influential regional actors need to contribute to finding a lasting political solution. The Syrian people should not be pawns in a game of regional interests.
The suffering men, women and children of Syria need peace and an end to the violence. They need the opposing parties to commit to this process so that they can freely choose their future leaders.
Norway will remain a friend and supporter of the Syrian people. We stand ready to assist the UN and the parties in this political process.