Mr. President,

I would like to thank Special Envoy Pedersen and Assistant Secretary-General Joyce Msuya for their contributions.

This month of March marks the sad thirteenth anniversary of the conflict in Syria. The conflict has claimed hundreds of thousands of victims, dead or missing, millions of displaced people and refugees, and has destroyed civilian infrastructure and social links on a scale unprecedented in the country's history. 

Thirteen years after the start of the war, a political solution to end the conflict, in line with Resolution 2254, is still not within reach. To hear Mr Pedersen, the opposite is true. As regional tensions mount, the level of hostilities across Syria has risen sharply. As a result, the humanitarian, economic and social crisis is worsening. Switzerland therefore calls on all parties and those with an influence on them to work towards a domestic ceasefire, to respect their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law, and to commit themselves to preventing an even more serious regional escalation.

This Council must play an important role in the fight against impunity, which is a sine qua non condition if lasting peace is to be achieved. To this end, we support the work of the Human Rights Council's Commission of Inquiry and the impartial and independent International Mechanism. 

Dialogue must be conducted at all levels. Switzerland welcomes the efforts of the Special Envoy and his team, based on the "step-by-step" approach, in coordination with countries in the region interested in working towards a political solution to the Syrian conflict. We will continue to make Geneva available to host all types of talks and initiatives aimed at promoting lasting peace in Syria, such as the UN-facilitated Constitutional Committee. 

Whether they are citizens, refugees, political representatives or members of civil society, Syrian women are active at all levels, all too often at the risk of their lives. Arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances and the targeting of women human rights defenders undermine the very foundations of dialogue and an environment conducive to a political solution. As Resolution 2254 reminds us, it is up to the Syrian people, in all its components, to define the future of Syria.

Mr President,

As the humanitarian penholder for Syria, I would now like to turn to the humanitarian situation. 

Despite regional concerns, we must not forget the Syrian people, who are affected by the continuing deterioration in the humanitarian situation. We are particularly concerned by the increase in the rate of acute malnutrition and the continuing rise in humanitarian needs in all regions of Syria. 

In this regard, we note the repeated calls by OCHA and other humanitarian actors for adequate funding to respond to needs in the country. Humanitarian partners must be able to work in security and humanitarian operations must be more predictable if they are to meet the needs of nearly 17 million people. 

We stress that all aid modalities - including cross-border aid and cross-line aid - remain necessary to meet humanitarian needs. We recall that all parties have an obligation under international humanitarian law to allow and facilitate the passage of humanitarian aid to and through areas under their control.

Finally, Switzerland expresses its deep concern at the persistence of serious violations of international law, particularly against children. 

Since birth, Syrian children have never known their country to be free of conflict. They are particularly vulnerable to a multitude of risks that we have already mentioned here, and represent almost half of the population in need. We are particularly concerned about the increase in reported cases of stunting in children under the age of 5, which results from chronic undernourishment and causes irreversible physical and psychological damage. 

After thirteen long years, children must be protected and given a place so that, in time, they are able to participate in the choices and decisions that affect their future, that of their families as well as of their country. 

Thank you.

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