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Thursday 3 August 2017

Syrian groups complain that other countries are hijacking UN peace talks

Read the Guardian report by Patrick Wintour here.

Full letter below.

PDF version.

Mr. Staffan de Mistura
United Nations Special Envoy for Syria
UN Secretary General
Members of the UN Security Council
Envoys of the International Syria Support Group
EU Ambassadors to the Political and Security Committee

2 August 2017

Your Excellency,
Following the seventh round of peace negotiations, we write to you on behalf of the undersigned Syrian civil society organisations who work every day under unbearable circumstances to improve the living conditions of millions of Syrians. We represent the voices from the ground and our work across the country in the fields of medical and humanitarian assistance, education, freedom of expression, youth and women empowerment, and accountability and justice proves again the fundamental role Syrian civil society plays as a champion for a democratic and inclusive Syria.

As a vital resource for the Syrian population trapped between a tyrannical regime and the brutality of extremism, Syrian civil society organisations strongly support any efforts to bring an end to the Syria conflict. This is why many of our representatives have participated in the intra-Syrian peace talks within the framework of the Civil Society Support Room and have been active in supporting the Geneva peace talks between the Syrian opposition and the Syrian regime.

Sadly, the Geneva process has delivered neither peace nor protection to the Syrian people who are increasingly disillusioned with a process that continues to fail them. We are keen to reverse this trend as without the support of Syrian civil society no political deal will be either sustainable or legitimate, and right now the current process is losing our support. Syrian civil society’s priority is to achieve an inclusive transition to a free and democratic Syria. We are all united around this outcome which defines the basis of the Geneva peace process as set out by UN Security Council Resolution 2254 and as reiterated in your mandate as UN Special Envoy for Syria.

We expect all parties in Geneva—including you—to work for this purpose and engage in serious negotiations. The time consumed on discussions around process and representation, at the expense of a credible and realistic political deal for transition towards democracy, is not only wasting precious time but it is also undermining the international community’s efforts to fight terrorism in Syria. Syrian civil society activities are essential in the fight against extremism. Moderate voices—as we represent—have the power to push back against the extremist forces and fill the vacuum on the ground. But to be able to do so, we need the international community to protect our ability to assist and serve our people. This is why we need the Geneva process to prioritise the protection of civilians and deliver meaningful negotiations that lead to peace for Syria.

From the onset of the Geneva talks we have pressed for an active role in shaping the process given our links to the ground. As a result we continue to welcome efforts by the Syrian opposition to broaden its membership as long as it shares our purpose of achieving a political transition that is in compliance with international humanitarian law. But many members of civil society are troubled by some international actors’ attempts to dictate who sits around the negotiation table. For the Geneva process to be truly inclusive and Syrian-led it must serve the Syrian people’s aspirations first and foremost for a transition towards a democratic and free Syria. Allowing the priorities and direction of the process to be shaped by international actors has only weakened the process and diverted it from its central function.

As Syrian civil society representatives, we therefore call on you to:

1. Ensure that the Geneva process serves the interests of Syrians, first and foremost, and is not driven entirely by international actors. This requires a re-focus of the Geneva talks onto transition, as per UNSCR 2254. The international community, including the Permanent Five members of the Security Council, have confirmed the principal aim of the Geneva process is transition. To achieve this aim we call on you to use your authority to effectively hold to account any party at the negotiations that continues to stall and undermine the Geneva process.

2. Draw from the legitimacy and unique contribution of Syrian civil society to ensure a sustainable political agreement for Syria. This includes using civil society’s expertise on the four baskets to unlock progress in the talks and move to concrete discussions towards transition. Only Syrian civil society can create the broad buy-in from the ground for any political agreement.

3. Demand the enforcement of UNSCRs that call for the protection of civilians to make the Geneva process viable. To do so, we urge you to press the parties to the conflict and especially the backers of the Syrian regime to enforce a sustainable nationwide ceasefire with a UN-led monitoring mechanism and credible enforcement. This is clearly illustrated by the regime’s and Russia’s ongoing violations of previous commitments, including from Astana, as well as by the unlawful killing of civilians due to counter-terrorism operations of the anti-ISIS coalition. Civil society organisations active on the ground are ready to cooperate with a credible and impartial monitoring system but we need you, the UN, toassert your role and ensure the impartiality of the ceasefire monitoring.

4. Ensure that concrete progress on humanitarian access, the detainee file and forced displacement is at the heart of the Geneva negotiations. In particular, we call on you to fulfil your mandate and ensure progress on the detainee file including by securing (i) a comprehensive plan for the release of detainees beyond small-scale prisoner exchanges; (ii) information about the fates of all Syrians forcibly disappeared; (iii) access by international monitors to all detention facilities; and (iv) a halt to execution orders, particularly in regime security and military facilities, as well as in those run by armed groups.

As UN Special Envoy for Syria you can rescue the current failing Geneva process and compel serious negotiations that serve the needs and demands of the Syrian people. The undersigned Syrian civil society organisations stand ready to assist you in this effort, but we need you and the international community to implement a credible process that will enable us to build a democratic, free and just Syria for all Syrians.


1. Syrian American Medical Society
2. Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression
3. Shaml CSOs Coalition
4. Kesh Malek Organisation
5. Women Now for Development
6. The Syrian Network for Human Rights
7. Violations Documentation Center
8. Baytna Syria
9. The Day After
10. Union of Medical Care and Relief Organisations
11. Syrian Legal Development Programme
12. Syrian Nonviolence Movement
13. Watanili
14. Jasmine Dream
15. Start Point
16. Sawa Foundation
17. Sawa for Development and Aid
18. Basamat for Development
19. The Working Group for Syria
20. The Working Group for Syrian Detainees
21. Rethink Rebuild Society
22. Albab Coordination
23. Local Development & Small Project Support
24. Foundation of Syrian Civil Society Organisations
25. Syrian American Council
26. Zaytoon
27. Zaad
28. Mohamed Khalili
29. Free Syrian Lawyers Association
30. Badael Foundation
31. Sonbola Group for Education and Development
32. Najda Now International
33. Noha Alkamcha
34. Alaa Basatneh
35. Sana Mustafa
36. Peace and Justice for Syria
37. Syrian Association of Yorkshire
38. Syria Solidarity UK
39. Scotland4Syria
40. Doctors Under Fire
41. Guernica 37 International Justice Chambers
42. Ministry of Local Administration
43. Council of Free Quneitra District
44. Council of Free Daraa District
45. Union of Free Economists in Daraa
46. Directorate General of Civil Status in Daraa and Quneitra
47. The Free Directorate of Real Estate in Daraa
48. The Free Directorate of Transportation in Daraa
49. Directorate of Family Affairs in the Southern Province
50. The Free Directorate General of Irrigation in Daraa and Quneitra
51. Union of Free Engineers in Quneitra
52. The Free Lawyers Union in Daraa
53. Syrian Women Association for Development in Quneitra
54. Office of Documentation and Civil Status in Bosra
55. Union of Agricultural Engineers in Quneitra
56. The Free Lawyers Union in Quneitra
57. Office of Documentation and Civil Status in Swisah
58. Office of Documentation and Civil Status in Hieran
59. Directorate of Enkhel
60. The Revolutionary Council in Enkhel
61. The Enkhel Judiciary
62. Office of Documentation and Civil Status in Nawa
63. Office of Documentation and Civil Status in Tafas
64. Association of Enkhel Ajyal Schools
65. Office of Documentation and Civil Status in Hirak
66. Office of Documentation and Civil Status in Al-Jiza
67. Local Council of Enkhel City
68. The Public Institute for Grains – Free Daraa Branch
69. Syrian Women Dawn Association – Hawa’
70. Voice of Women Association
71. Syrian Women Peace Association
72. Office of Documentation and Reparations (Destroyed Houses)
73. Free Doctors Union in Daraa
74. Ghadir Al-Bustan Council
75. Al-Rafid Council
76. Al- Bouweidah Council
77. Nab’ Al-Sakhr Council
78. Al-Qasibah Council
79. Swisah Council
80. Kudnah Council
81. Beer Ajam Council
82. Jabbatha Al-Khashab Council
83. Council of Displaced Persons of Quneitra from Damascus
84. West Daraa Council
85. Al-Kahtanya Council
86. Um Batneh Council
87. Masehara Council
88. Juba Council
89. Al-Coum Council
90. Khan Arnabeh Council
91. Haoud Al-Yarmouk Council
92. Moukhayam Daraa Council
93. Kanaker Council
94. Council of Sa’sa’ in Damascus Countryside
95. Al-Mal Council
96. Deir El-Adas Local Council
97. Kafr Shams Local Council
98. Local Council of the Occupied City of Sheikh Maskin
99. Local Council of the Displaced from Haoud Al-Yarmouk
100. Saida Local Council
101. Deir Maker Council
102. Dourin Council
103. Ghassem Local Council
104. Msikah Local Council
105. Mahja Local Council
106. Da’el Local Council
107. Nassib Local Council
108. Akraba Local Council
109. Karak Al-Sharqi Local Council
110. Al-Boeer Local Council
111. Nimer Local Council
112. Ayb Local Council
113. Council of the Lajah and Houran tribes
114. Tafas Local Council
115. Al Faqi’ Local Council
116. Nawa Local Council
117. Local Council of Sharae’ Village
118. Jabal El-Arab Tribal Council
119. City of Azra’ Local Council
120. Town of Heit Local Council
121. Elemtaih Village Local Council
122. Al-Sahwah Local Council
123. Al-Na'imah Local Council
124. Deir Al-Bakht Local Council
125. Almah Town Local Council
126. Al-Jiza Local Council
127. Umm Al-Ausaj Village Local Council
128. Jebab Local Council
129. Al Sheikh Saad Local Council
130. Ibte' Local Council
131. Kfar Nasig Village Local Council
132. Al-Ghariyya Al-Sharqiya Local Council
133. Zamrain Village Local Council
134. Melihah Al-Atash Village Local Council
135. Enkhel Local Council
136. ‘Odwan Local Council
137. Al-Bakar Local Council
138. Syria Relief Network
139. Civil Defense in Nawa City
140. Security Office in Nawa
141. Kahil Local Council
142. Local Council of the Northern Lajah Sector
143. Jassem Local Council
144. Namer Local Council
145. Al-Malyha Al-Gharbiah Local Council
146. Al-Aalya Local Council
147. Al-Taybah Local Council
148. Naheta Local Council
149. Busra Al-Harir Local Council
150. Revolution Command Council in Enkhel City
151. The Free Directorate of Religious Affairs in Daraa
152. Directorate of Family Affairs in Daraa
153. Union of Veterinarians
154. Syrian Center For Arbitration & Conflict Resolution in Nawa City
155. Al-Omariah Commission for Transitional Justice
156. El-Shaheed Khalaf El Kharsan Hospital
157. The Free Syrian Teachers Union
158. The Syrian Commission for Media
159. Al-Jebayya Center for Studies in Nawa
160. Agricultural Engineers Union in Daraa
161. The Free Engineers Union in Daraa
162. The Free Directorate of Health in Daraa
163. The Free Directorate of Education In Daraa
164. The Free Directorate of Statistics in Daraa
165. Nawa Media Institute
166. Bidhrat Nama’ Institute
167. Center for Legal Consultation in Daraa
168. Revolution Command Council in Daraa
169. Abna’ Al-Shuhadaa School in Nawa