Remarks by Mr. Soini, Minister for Foreign Affairs at the High-level meeting on the Syria Crisis

Remarks by H.E. Mr. Timo Soini, Minister for Foreign Affairs at the High-level meeting on the Syria Crisis. New York 21st September 2017.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

We – as the international community - have not been able to do enough in Syria. Despite negotiations in Geneva and Astana and the recent de-escalation areas, the humanitarian situation in Syria remains very poor. The Government of Syria bears the major responsibility of the access of humanitarian aid. Many regional and global players have influence over the Syrian parties to the conflict. It is time they use it to save lives of civilians, women and children.

We know well that a lasting solution to the conflict can only be achieved through an inclusive political process under the auspices of the UN. This is not happening in spite of the tireless efforts by Staffan de Mistura, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria.

In the beginning of this year, Finland had the honour to host the Supporting Syrians and the Region Conference in Helsinki where the UN highlighted the humanitarian priorities for Syria and launched the Regional Refugee & Resilience Plan for 2017-2018. I sincerely hope that the pledges that were made in Helsinki and in April in Brussels will be delivered. 

We must not forget the immense impact of the crisis and the pressure on the refugee host countries and communities.  With 5.2 million people the Syrian refugee population is the world's largest. Finland has steadilyincreased its support to the response to the Syrian conflict. Of our 35 million euros pledge for this year, 27 Million has been fulfilled by now and the remaining part is foreseen to be completed in the coming months. 

Apart from “staying the course” and fulfilling our pledges there were two main messages from the Helsinki Syria conference – also reiterated in Brussels. Firstly, women and girls must be brought to the center of aid efforts. The central role of women in achieving sustainable peace deserves particular attention. This continues to be the main priority of the Finnish Syria support. Secondly, the Syrian civil society must be genuinely included in all phases of aid programming and implementation. This is vital for building peace and reconciliation in Syria.

This year Syria has seen new displacements of hundreds of thousands of civilians. At the same time, we have seen spontaneous returns to some areas. The picture is mixed but it is clear that displacement issues are acute. Ensuring protection is of utmost importance in the Syrian context. We recognize the crucial contribution of the humanitarian agencies in this regard. The civilians in Raqqa are struggling to survive under the warfare. Their security, humanitarian access as well as basic services should be guaranteed as soon as possible.

Violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in Syria are not acceptable. My key message is that at least the Syrian people deserve justice. We - the international community - have not been able to prevent the conflict - or to resolve it. So this is the least we can and need to do, for now. 

A step to right direction, when too many steps have been taken to the wrong direction. Therefore Finland has lent her support to the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism for the crimes committed in Syria (IIIM) – to advance accountability. In fact we were compelled to take this initiative. For reason beyond my comprehension the efforts to refer the situation in Syria to the ICC have been vetoed in the Security Council. Too long we have called for an end to impunity without taking the necessary steps for action. The value of the IIIM should not therefore be undermined. The work of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian gives a clear picture of the atrocities. There is a strong need for dialogue and reconciliation, but without accountability that will be difficult.