Remarks by Foreign Minister Soini at the Conference on Supporting Syrians and the Region

Remarks by Foreign Minister Soini at the Conference on Supporting Syrians and the Region

Remarks by Minister for Foreign Affairs Timo Soini at the Conference on Supporting Syrians and the Region. 24 January, 2017, House of the Estates.

I would like to thank you for attending today’s conference on Syria. The conflict in Syria has touched all of us – also here in Finland. Last fall, during the most intense fighting in Aleppo, the churches in Finland rang their bells for twelve consecutive days in memory of those who suffered in Aleppo.

The battle of Aleppo is now over. However, the key priority for the international community is still the protection of the civilians. Many Syrians are still trapped in besieged locations People struggle to survive without any assistance. Large numbers are in desperate need of food, shelter and healthcare. Aid must reach these people urgently. 

The parties to the conflict must guarantee an unimpeded access for humanitarian agencies throughout Syria. Attacks on medical facilities and humanitarian workers have to stop. I have the utmost respect for all aid workers who have risked their lives in Syria. Too many of them have lost their lives.

The recent events in Syria might suggest that victory is attainable through military force.  I disagree. What is gained through brute force is lost in the destruction of the society. Long term stability cannot be achieved with guns – but with a dialogue.

Last week in Davos, I had the opportunity to meet leaders and businessmen from the region. Their message, that I fully endorse, was that after a sustainable ceasefire, we need to make the process truly comprehensive. This requires putting existing enemy pictures aside. The interests of the people – suffering from the conflict – must come first.

The only sustainable solution to the crisis is an inclusive Syrian-led political process under the auspices of the UN. This process should be based on the principles of the Security Council resolutions. Special attention needs to be paid to ensure that women will have a central role in achieving sustainable peace.

International community and regional actors are needed to facilitate the talks, [like yesterday’s negotiations in Astana]. However, peace cannot be imported from outside. It must be constructed within the country, and within the people. For our part, Finland has supported local level dialogues that bring the parties to the same table.

As said, dialogue is essential but it is not enough when rebuilding a broken society. In order to promote reconciliation and heal the wounds in Syria, the persons responsible for war crimes must be brought to justice. Impunity is never acceptable. We must reassert the primacy of international humanitarian and human rights law and put end to its repeated violations.

The international community must be ready to support the post-conflict reconstruction once a genuine political transition is in place. The reconstruction will be a huge undertaking for Syria’s people, for its neighbours and for all of us in the international community. It can be done by building on the current successful humanitarian and resilience efforts inside Syria.  Hopefully, we can reach this phase soon. Our commitment to support the Syrian people remains firm.

Finally, I would like to thank you all once more for participating in this event. It is our wish that our gathering today is an important milestone in providing vital assistance to the Syrian people.