Jonathan Cohen

US states Syria is stalling peace, urges new way to elections

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UNITED NATIONS: The United States accused the Syrian government Thursday of stalling political negotiations and involved in a new route to UN-monitored elections and a nationwide cease-fire that would stop the country’s eight-year conflict. 

Acting US Ambassador Jonathan Cohen needed Russia and Syria to de-escalate military operations in the last rebel-held strongholds in Idlib and northern Hama and informed that the United States continue ratcheting up pressure if this doesn’t happen. 

He told the Security Council it must know the failure of efforts to advance the political process by the so-called Astana group, comprised of Syrian government allies Russia and Iran and Syrian opposition supporter Turkey.

And after seventeen months of negotiations to form a committee to draft a new Syrian constitution, Cohen said, “it is time to admit that not only has progress stalled, it is likely to remain out of reach for some time — because that’s where the regime wants it to be.” 

Agreement on a new constitution has been seen as an important step toward implementing a 2012 roadmap for peace that includes a cease-fire and ends in UN-supervised elections. Endorsed by the Security Council, it was permitted by representatives of the UN, Arab League, European Union, Turkey and all five veto-wielding council members: the US, Russia, China, France and Britain. 

Cohen said it is time for UN special envoy Geir Pedersen, who has been seeking out the government and opposition to agree on a constitutional committee, to try other routes to a political settlement by specializing in preparations for elections and a cease-fire. 

The United States recognizes “there is no path forward without the cooperation of Russia and the Assad regime,” Cohen added. 

But he cautioned that until Syria and Russia take “concrete steps” to de-escalate the violence in Idlib, “the United States will continue to apply diplomatic and economic pressure through all available means to isolate the regime and its allies.” He said Washington also will “ratchet up our pressure on the regime and its supporters if political progress on humanitarian and political tracks continues to stall.” 

Deputy Russian Ambassador Vladimir Safronkov told the council that “the Astana guarantors are determined to fully implement the agreements on stabilization in Idlib” and said that “Russia performs energetically to proceed on the political front” in Syria. 

But, Safronkov said, “demanding and calling on us to do nothing” in the face of “continuing provocative attacks” on the Syrian military, civilians and Russian air bases by extremists from the Al-Qaeda-linked Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham “is extremely dishonest.” 

Safronkov said Russia is hopeful of “a breakthrough” soon in forming the constitutional drafting committee, and Pedersen said he will be measuring a formula he believes has the support of all parties in the future. 

But French Ambassador Francois Delattre said the Assad government “is refusing every compromise.” If the Syrian regime maintains its opposition, the council will have “to consider other ways to make progress,” he said. 
Britain’s ambassador, Karen Pierce, went further, saying that if progress can’t be made, she fixed with the United States that Pedersen should “try other routes to achieving the political solution.” 

While the Security Council is pointed on the constitutional committee, she said, the bigger prize “includes preparing for nationwide elections observed by the UN, securing the release of detainees and establishing the nationwide cease-fire.” 

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