265. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which the international community continues to engage with the various parties in Syria with a view to bringing about a ceasefire and settlement and the elimination of human rights abuses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 23075/16 asked on 20 Jul 2016)

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Charles Flanagan): I urge all parties to work for a sustainable political solution to the Syrian conflict, and in particular to support the ongoing efforts by UN Special Envoy Steffan de Mistura on achieving a political transition. This remains the core issue in the conflict - no long-term peace can be achieved without agreement on political change in Syria.

The cessation of hostilities remains critical to the negotiations. There can be no prospect of meaningful negotiations if the violence continues. The reports of Assad regime helicopters barrel bombing opposition held areas underline the urgent need for a comprehensive political solution. I note the concerns expressed by the opposition that the Assad regime is seeking to undermine the negotiations by its ceaseless campaign of violence against civilians.

I call on all parties, including all members of the International Syria Support Group, to support the UN’s efforts and to commit themselves to work sincerely and with urgency for a nationwide ceasefire, a negotiated peace agreement which will protect the rights of the Syrian people and preserve the pluralistic character, unity and sovereignty of a free and democratic Syria at peace.

Ireland strongly endorses the efforts of the United Nations to renew peace negotiations based on the 2012 Geneva communique principles and UN Security Council Resolution 2254, in particular the ending of violence, the formation of a transitional governing body with full executive powers and a constitutional reform process which would protect Syria’s multi-ethnic and multi-sectarian character. While recognising the need for a political transition and an end to the Assad regime, I want to make clear that it is the Syrian people’s right to decide on Syria’s future national leadership.

I believe that there must also be legal accountability for victims of the Syrian conflict and in 2014 Ireland co-sponsored a resolution called for referral of the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court. I would also note that the UN Human Rights Council Commission of Inquiry has reported that the Assad regime is responsible for the majority of crimes against the Syrian people.