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Speech by Deputy Foreign Minister, Ambassador Eduardo do Santos, on the occasion of the Geneva ll International Conference on Syria:

"Mr. Secretary-General,

Allow me to convey to you my Government's appreciation for convening this long overdue meeting on Syria. I extend my compliments to the Joint Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi. We have always supported and continue to support his invaluable work. I also welcome the presence of the Secretary-General of the Arab League, Nabil al-Araby.

We are gathered here today to deal with one of the bloodiest tragedies of the 21st century – the conflict that erupted in Syria three years ago and continues to ravage the country and threatens to engulf the whole region. For a long time the resolution of this conflict had been undermined by silence and paralysis in the United Nations Security Council. As a Council member in the 2010-2011 term, Brazil sought to minimize this sense of failure, which only reinforced the call for the urgent and comprehensive reform of the Security Council.

As a representative of a country that values its cultural diversity and is home to millions of Brazilians of Middle Eastern descent, I warmly welcome the opening of a dialogue between the Syrian Government and opposition groups, facilitated by the United Nations.

Dialogue is urgent and indispensable for advancing national reconciliation efforts, securing sustainable peace, and putting an end to both violence and human rights abuses. It is also essential for ensuring a Syrian-led political process that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people to determine their own future, while preserving the independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Syria.

Mr. Secretary-General,

I believe that all of us sitting in this Conference have said at one point or another that there is no military solution to the Syrian conflict. Only negotiation can take us to an acceptable compromise that leads to sustainable peace. Yet, the war still rages on and endangers the future of Syria.

There will be no solution to the conflict in Syria as long as both sides continue to receive financial resources and weapons from abroad. I do not wish to go through the gruesome numbers of dead, displaced persons and refugees, which were stressed during the Pledging Conference on Syria in Kuwait a few days ago. But we should never lose sight of the fact that behind statistics we have real people, millions of them. Their lives have been deeply affected – and, in the case of tens of thousands, destroyed – by the conflict in Syria.

The countries and organizations gathered here today should strongly support a Syrian-led political dialogue. This Conference should show their support not by trying to determine the decisions that the Syrian parties should take, nor by condoning the militarization of the conflict. The best scenario for this Conference is to form a broad and solid commitment to help Syrians to peacefully overcome their differences through negotiations. This Conference needs to encourage a Syrian process with the support of the international community, not an international process with Syrian participation.

Mr. Secretary-General,

Brazil fully realizes the difficulties we face ahead. At the same time, we must be encouraged by the fact that bringing us all together here is in itself a major achievement of diplomacy. Diplomacy allowed for the adoption of the Communiqué of the Geneva Action Group in 2012, breaking a long and destructive stalemate. Diplomacy also made it possible to reach an agreement to destroy stocks of chemical weapons in Syria, as determined by Security Council resolution 2118. Today, it is our duty to help find common ground and encourage an agreement among the Syrian parties that will lead to a politically negotiated transition.

The Syrian conflict is not only a national one, but rather a regional crisis with worldwide impact. Brazil continues to be extremely concerned about the effects of the conflict on neighboring countries, which are receiving hundreds of thousands of refugees, such as Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey.

We renew our commitment to support international efforts through United Nations agencies. Since September 2013, Brazil has decided to facilitate entry visas to all those Syrian nationals seeking asylum. My country believes that the principles of international solidarity and burden-sharing should guide us in dealing with the Syrian asylum-seekers in areas outside the immediate borders of Syria.

In addition, we have made important financial contributions to UN humanitarian assistance efforts in Syria and in the region. We believe that political recovery will need to be built on sustained humanitarian aid and long-term development assistance.

Mr. Secretary-General,

We need to act, promptly and effectively. Concrete measures are required right now. Allow me to list a few steps that, in Brazil's view, are essential to achieve a political solution:

- Immediate implementation of the Action Group Final Communiqué, in particular the establishment of a neutral transitional body with full executive powers and of a comprehensive and meaningful national dialogue;

- Safe, full and unhindered access by humanitarian staff and assistance to people in need;

- Commitment of all Syrian parties to ensure the safe return of those displaced persons and refugees who want to go back to their homes in Syria;

- Immediate implementation of measures against gender-based violence and of those designed to protect women and children from sexual violence and human trafficking;

- Ensuring that those responsible for violations of human rights be brought to justice;

- Suspension of all unilateral and regional economic sanctions, as stressed by the Independent Commission of Inquiry of the Human Rights Council;

- Commitment of all Syrian parties to a cease-fire, which could be established incrementally in different areas of the country, to be monitored by a mechanism to be mutually agreed by the parties concerned and the United Nations;

- Setting a comprehensive and effective arms embargo;

- Continued support for ongoing efforts to remove chemical weapons from Syria and safely destroy them, which have started to bear results. The deadlines stipulated in Security Council resolution 2118 must be strictly observed.

Mr. Secretary-General,

Brazil firmly stresses its continued commitment to international efforts aiming at a political solution to the Syrian conflict. We are ready to consider possible follow-up mechanisms to this Conference that may facilitate political dialogue and understanding among the Syrians themselves.

We owe to the millions affected by the conflict a sustained effort to help the parties to overcome their differences. Let us bring peace at last and put an end to the suffering endured by so many, for so long.

Thank you."

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