December 21, 2015
On December 17, 2015 the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2253 (*) to suppress the financing of terrorism. The 28-page resolution covers asset freeze, travel ban, arms embargo and listing criteria for ISIL, Al-Qaida and “associated individuals, groups, undertaking and entities”. Through the Resolution, the Security Council reiterated the obligation of States to ensure that their nationals and persons in their territory deny economic resources to those actors, including direct and indirect trade in oil and refined oil products, modular refineries and related material. It reaffirmed that those responsible for committing, organizing or supporting terrorist acts must be held accountable.
And, on December 18, the Security Council adopted, again unanimously, Resolution 2254 (**) approving the roadmap which had emerged from International Syria Support Group’s (ISSG) Vienna meetings of October 30 and November 14.
Through Resolution 2254, the Security Council endorsed the Geneva Communiqué of June 30, 2012 and the two Vienna Statements as the basis for a Syrian-led and Syrian-owned political transition. It acknowledged the role of the ISSG as the central platform to facilitate the United Nations’ efforts to achieve a lasting political settlement in Syria. It stressed that the future of Syria will be decided by the Syrian people.
Under this Security Council approved roadmap, the UN Secretary General would convene the representatives of the Syrian government and the opposition to engage in formal negotiations in early January 2016. And, a nationwide ceasefire in Syria would come into effect as soon as the representatives of the Syrian government and the opposition begin initial steps towards political transition under UN auspices.
This Syrian-led and UN facilitated process would establish within six months, credible, inclusive and non-sectarian governance and set a schedule and process for drafting a new constitution. Free and fair elections, pursuant to the new constitution, would be held within 18 months under the supervision of the UN, to the satisfaction of the governance and to the highest international standards of transparency and accountability. All Syrians, including members of the diaspora, would be eligible to participate in these elections.
All dates regarding Syrian political transition are target dates.
Through Resolution 2254 the Security Council asked the Secretary-General to determine the modalities and requirements of the ceasefire, continue planning for the support of ceasefire implementation and report to the Security Council on options for a ceasefire within a month. It urged Member States, in particular members of the ISSG, to support and accelerate all efforts to achieve a ceasefire, including through pressing all relevant parties to agree and adhere to such a ceasefire. The ceasefire will not apply to offensive or defensive actions against these individuals, groups, undertakings and entities, as set forth in the Vienna Statement of November 14, in other words “Da’esh or Nusra or any other group the ISSG agrees to deem terrorist”.
At its second Vienna meeting the ISSG had asked Jordan to help develop among intelligence and military community representatives a common understanding of groups and individuals for possible determination as terrorists, with a target of completion by the beginning of the political process under UN auspices. The Security Council welcomed the effort that was conducted by Jordan and agreed to consider expeditiously recommendations by the ISSG for the purpose of determining terrorist groups.
At the end of the Security Council meeting, Secretary Kerry referred to Resolution 2254 as a milestone since it sets out specific concepts with specific timeframes. But he also said that the Council was under no illusions about the obstacles that exist. Foreign Minister Lavrov said, “I’m not too optimistic about what has been achieved today.”
The words of caution regarding Syria’s political transition are well-justified. The roadmap indeed sets out specific concepts with specific timeframes but the launching of the political process; ensuring unity among the opposition groups; monitoring and enforcing of a ceasefire; establishing minimum parallelism between these and the fight against ISIL; securing regional countries’ support for Syrian peace and overcoming competition between major powers remain huge challenges. And, even if the list of terrorist organizations developed by Jordan were to be approved by the Security Council what would follow on the ground remains far from clear because terrorists can join other groups or regroup under a different name.
To put it briefly, this is going to be a very long and rough 18-month path to elections. This is why the roadmap is based on “target dates” rather than a calender. For the process to move forward the US would have to be in constant negotiations with opposition groups, her regional partners, and Russia with the Syrian government. Secretary Kerry and Minister Lavrov have often referred to the ability of their countries “to make a difference when they cooperate”. This will be the test.
The Security Council debate has shown once again that the future of President Assad remains a point of discord between the US-led coalition on the one side, Russia and Iran on the other. Yet, the fundamental question is whether the people of Syria would be able to put this five-year carnage behind and bridge their sectarian divide. Because, even without President Assad, country’s fragmentation remains a not too distant possibility.
Resolutions 2253 and 2254 offer the Turkish government yet another opportunity to limit, to the extent possible, the damage done to Turkey’s interests by a string of foreign policy mistakes particularly on Syria. Ankara will be well-advised to fully support both Resolutions.