UNITED NATIONS - In his last briefing on the Syrian political process to the UN Security Council on Thursday, the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General, Staffan de Mistura, appealed to the Council to finally unite in efforts to end what he called the “dirty, brutal, horrific war”.

“We need a renewed sense of common purpose and concerted action in the Council if 2019 is to be the real turning point for Syria”, he said as he summed up his efforts of the past four years to facilitate a Syrian-led political process, most recently through urging the convening of a Constitutional Committee.

“Make no mistake: as with me, my successor’s success will depend on your unity and purpose to empower and support the United Nations, and pressure all parties to begin real dialogue, negotiation and compromise to address the grievances of the Syrian people and implement resolution 2254,” he said, ahead of shaking hands with each Council member.

Staffan de Mistura’s successor, Norwegian diplomat Geir Pedersen, will take up his post in early January.  He said that the key to implementing the resolution, which mandated the United Nations to play a central role in facilitating the political process, is constitutional reform leading to United Nations-supervised elections in a safe, calm and neutral environment. Evoking the hopes raised by the Sochi Final Statement in early 2018 after a gathering of Syrians convened in that city by the Russian Federation, Turkey and Iran, collectively known as the Astana guarantors, he described his hard work since then to facilitate the convening of the constitutional committee, agreed to be held by the end of 2018.

Most problematic in that regard, he recounted, was agreement on a list of participants for the Middle Third group of the committee – meant to bee mainly civil society – in a way that was credible, balanced and inclusive. That was the focus of his previous briefing and his final weeks in his position (see press release SC/13590 of 19 November 2018).

The United Nations alone, he stressed, has the legitimacy and mandate to “bless” a Constitutional Committee, accompanied by parallel efforts to ensure a full ceasefire, see that detainees and abductees are released, build confidence and create the environment needed for elections and return of displaced persons.

He expressed deep concern about recent, credible reports of intimidation and coercion of persons reportedly on the list for the Constitutional Committee. Asserting the importance of Syrian civil society actors, including women, in peace efforts, he urged the members of the Security Council, the international community and the Syrian parties more broadly to “listen to their voices, to protect them and involve them meaningfully in the long and challenging path forward”.

In his final address, Mr. de Mistura, once again urged the Security Council to remain united in support of UN efforts, and impress on all parties, the need for compromise. “Make no mistake: as with my predecessors and me, [my successor’s] success will depend on your unity and purpose to empower and support the United Nations, and pressure all parties to begin real dialogue, negotiation and compromise to address the grievances of the Syrian people and implement Council resolution 2254.”

At the end of his speech, De Mistura — in a very rare move — walked around the horseshoe-shaped Security Council table shaking hands with all the male ambassadors and kissing the hands of the female ambassadors. He then returned to his seat as the council chamber burst into sustained applause.