Six years have now passed since the conflict in Syria broke out, when the regime met peaceful protests with brutal violence.
Today, Syria is a playing field for regional and international power rivalries where hundreds of thousands of people have been killed, millions have fled their homes and countless Syrians have been injured, both physically and mentally. Three million children are refugees, and most of those who have not fled do not have access to schools or medical care.
The conflict has been characterised by brutality and violations of international humanitarian law and human rights. The Syrian regime’s use of disappearances, torture and mass executions on an almost industrial scale is well documented by both the UN and Amnesty International. Hundreds of thousands of civilians have been besieged and subjected to indiscriminate bombing in contravention of international humanitarian law. Schools and hospitals have been consciously and systematically attacked. To a large extent, the UN’s life-saving humanitarian aid is not allowed to reach the civilian population in opposition controlled areas. Several attacks against humanitarian personnel have been reported. Last October, a Red Crescent convoy was attacked and destroyed by combat aircraft outside Aleppo. According to a recent UN report, the regime bears responsibility.
Armed opposition groups have also committed abuses and must be condemned just as vigorously.
Daesh’s bestial violence is in a class of its own. Daesh’s growth in the stability vacuum that arose from the Syrian conflict is today a global threat that must be fought at several levels. Sweden is part of the global coalition against Daesh. The only way to pull the rug out from under this form of extremism is to find a political solution to the conflict in Syria.
The only sustainable way forward is a political solution to the conflict. We give our full support to the UN’s important work to induce the parties in the conflict to reach a negotiated solution that includes a political transition. The second round of the UN-led peace talks, which were resumed in February of this year, will begin next week. But without a reduction of the violence, the prospects for a political process are poor. It is therefore vital that the truce that was established at the end of last year is respected and that the guarantor states – Russia, Turkey and Iran – take this responsibility.
Sweden has acted in various ways to contribute to a peaceful solution to the conflict, as well as to support people suffering in Syria and its neighbouring countries. Through our membership of the UN Security Council, we have tried to support efforts to reach a peaceful political solution, to highlight important humanitarian issues and promote accountability for the use of chemical weapons in Syria. Ahead of and during the political talks in Syria, we have tried to ensure the active participation of women.
Since 2011, we have provided more than SEK 2.3 billion in humanitarian aid to those in need in Syria and its neighbouring countries. By means of our Syria strategy, we complement our humanitarian aid with measures aimed at strengthening the resilience of vulnerable people in Syria and its neighbouring countries. This involves creating ways to earn a living, ensure education for children and assist communities in Syria’s neighbouring countries that have taken in large groups Syrians. Furthermore, measures are underway to strengthen democracy and respect for human rights, for example by working with civil society.
In light of the violations that have occurred in Syria, it is important that serious international crimes do not go unpunished. The Government has therefore decided to provide some SEK 3.2 million to the UN’s new International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM) for serious international crimes committed in Syria. In addition, Sweden will continue to support work of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the UN to investigate the use of chemical weapons. Criminal proceedings are under way in the national court systems of several countries to hold individuals to account for crimes committed in Syria. In Sweden, several people have been convicted of such crimes. Impunity is not an option.