Koenders urges international support for Syria peace talks

The international community must do everything in its power to ensure the exploratory talks on peace in Syria are a success. Foreign minister Bert Koenders made this appeal in a speech to the UN Security Council on New York on Tuesday. The talks are scheduled to start in Geneva on Friday, led by UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura.

‘We must do everything we can to encourage all parties involved to commit to these talks fully and unequivocally,’ the minister said. ‘And we must stand ready to help where we can.’ Mr Koenders hopes the talks will pave the way for lasting peace in Syria.

The Netherlands is assisting by providing support to Mr De Mistura’s negotiating team. The opposition parties are also receiving training for the negotiations, as are Syrian women, who are being supported so that they can play their part in the peace talks.

‘It’s important for us – the international community – not just to make fine speeches but to take action,’ said Mr Koenders. ‘We all have a responsibility to ensure that people in the Middle East are able to live their lives free from violence, free from poverty, free from fear, in their own homes, in their own villages, in their own countries.’

The minister also said that major steps have been taken in the political process over the past few months. Progress has also been made in the military operations against ISIS, particularly in Iraq. ‘In addition, the terrorist organisation’s financial flows have been blocked and we are undermining the effect of ISIS’s evil rhetoric,’ he said

Mr Koenders said much had been achieved, but there was more to be done. ‘Global prevention is the key,’ he said. ‘We must work to remove the political and socioeconomic root causes that provide the breeding grounds for ISIS’s terrorists. And more support is needed for the people fleeing Syria, as well as for the countries hosting them.’

The minister also spoke about the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. He called on both sides to exercise maximum restraint and not to let the conflict escalate any further. ‘All responses must be proportionate and comply with international law,’ he said.

Later today, Mr Koenders will speak with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. They will discuss the situation in Syria, the refugee crisis and other current affairs such as the situation in Burundi.