What's In Blue

Posted Thu 20 Jun 2013

Arria-formula Meeting with the Commission of Inquiry on Syria

Tomorrow (21 June), Security Council members are set to meet with Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro and Karen Abu Zayd of the Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry on Syria in a closed “Arria formula” format session organised by Australia. It seems a closed format was decided on to allow for a frank exchange of views. (Similar meetings with the Commission of Inquiry were organised by then Council members Germany in March 2012 and Portugal in October 2012.)

Council members will be interested in more details about the Commisison of Inquiry’s findings contained in its report (A/HRC/23/58). In particular, Council members may want to discuss the recommendation that the Security Council facilitate and underpin a comprehensive Syrian peace process. Tomorrow’s meeting with Security Council members comes at a time of increasing pessimism that the envisioned peace conference between the Syrian government and opposition, commonly referred to as Geneva II, will be able to produce an agreed political solution to the Syrian crisis. Council members may be particularly interested in Pinheiro’s perspective on Geneva II as recommendations from the Commission of Inquiry’s earlier reports formed the basis of the six-point plan which in turn was the backbone of the 30 June 2012 communiqué coming out of the first Geneva conference.

When Pinheiro briefed the Human Rights Council on 4 June, he said that Syria was the “catastrophe of our time” and that the spread of the conflict to Syria’s neighbors and belligerent intervention of external actors had destabilised the entire region. He stressed that Syria needed a diplomatic surge and that dialogue was the only way to solve the conflict. He also stressed that transfers of arms and ammunition to both sides should not occur if there is risk these arms will be used to commit serious violations of international law. Given several recent developments that indicate a further militarisation of the conflict, Pinheiro is likely to strongly emphasise these points to Council members. Among the developments have been Hezbollah’s direct involvement in Syria on behalf of the government, the lifting of the EU arms embargo, the announcement by the US that it would provide lethal assistance to the opposition in tandem with leaving F16 fighter jets and Patriot missiles in Jordan and Russia’s announcement that it would fulfill its contract to deliver an advanced air defense system to Syria.

Against this backdrop, discussions on Syria between Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the G8 summit earlier this week were difficult and stumbled over the ongoing issue of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s role in any political transition. The next round of planning for Geneva II between Russia, the UN and the US is scheduled for 25 June in Geneva, but at press time it was unclear when the actual conference would be held. Prior to this trilateral planning meeting, it is anticipated that the Syrian opposition will hold talks again in Istanbul on 23-24 June to try and reach a unified platform for Geneva II. Meanwhile, the core members of the Friends of Syria are expected to meet in Doha over the weekend to discuss preparations for Geneva II and possible arms transfers to the opposition.

While there did not seem to be any resistance among Council members to holding tomorrow’s meeting it does seem Russia is of the view that the Commission of Inquiry should not brief the General Assembly until after Geneva II. (General Assembly resolution 67/262 of 15 May 2013 invited the Commission of Inquiry to brief on the situation of human rights in Syria.)

Follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

Sign up for What's In Blue emails