Humanitarian Affairs Chief Calls for Weekly 48-Hour ‘Pause’ in Fighting to Facilitate Aid Delivery to Syrians Trapped in Besieged Cities
Permanent Representative Blames Crisis on Neighbour for Keeping Border Open as Council Members Differ over Air Strike Casualties
The United Nations humanitarian affairs chief called today for the immediate establishment of a weekly, 48-hour pause in fighting so that urgently needed assistance could reach 250,000 people trapped in besieged eastern Aleppo and other hard-to-reach places in Syria.
Stephen O’Brien, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator, made the appeal as he briefed the Security Council on the situation in Syria, where he said overall humanitarian conditions were deteriorating amid rising levels of despair. “The international community simply cannot let eastern Aleppo city become yet another — and by far the biggest — besieged area,” he emphasized. “This is medieval and shameful. We must not allow this to happen.” He called on parties to the conflict, and those with influence over them, immediately to establish the proposed weekly “humanitarian pause” for eastern Aleppo, where fighting had shut down the Castello road, the only way into the district.
Turning to other parts of Syria, he said he was alarmed by reports of deteriorating humanitarian conditions and urgent medical-evacuation needs in several locations, including the towns of Madaya, Foah, Zabadani and Kefraya. Conditions at the Berm running along the border with Jordan were “baking hot, totally arid, a no man’s land of a barely living hell”. So far in 2016, he continued, humanitarian aid had reached more than 1 million people, but that was only a fraction of the 5.5 million people in besieged and hard-to-reach areas needing assistance. Access to them was constrained by an escalation in fighting and insecurity, while arbitrary restrictions and obstructions set limits on who received aid, where and how often. Even when the Syrian authorities approved access, permits issued centrally were not always honoured by security forces on the ground, he pointed out.
The briefing prompted comments from several Council members and from Syria’s representative, who said terrorism was “the basic cause of this crisis”. Noting that Aleppo had seen no military operations during the first year-and-a-half of the conflict, he said Turkey’s failure to respond to international calls for it to close its border with Syria had resulted in an influx of terrorists. Terrorists, not the Government, had closed the Castello road, and a lasting solution would entail combating terrorism by implementing Council resolutions, in cooperation with the Syrian Government and without double standards, hypocrisy or efforts to make Syria a magnet for terrorists in the future.
Several delegates expressed support for the proposed weekly 48-hour humanitarian pause, and condemned the recent beheading of a Palestinian boy by rebels. The representative of the United States noted that the Russian Federation had never acknowledged the possible involvement of its air force in air strikes that had resulted in civilian casualties. It was in a weak position to point fingers at the United States, she said, adding that she looked forward to that Government opening a single investigation into the strikes it had carried out.
The Russian Federation’s representative in turn expressed deep worry about reports of air strikes carried out by the United States-led coalition. Terrorists had been using the cessation of hostilities to bring in reinforcements from abroad and to recruit minors, he added, while calling for the lifting of unilateral sanctions imposed on Damascus, and proposing that people go to Damascus and “do something useful” rather than asking the Russian Federation to exert pressure on the Syrian Government.
France’s representative asked how the Council could accept to see Aleppo suffer the same fate as Sarajevo two decades ago. Resolution 2254 (2015) had set a 1 August deadline for establishing a transitional authority, he recalled, describing that as a test for the regime and its supporters. Aleppo had become a martyr city and also risked becoming the graveyard of the Vienna peace process, he warned.
Egypt’s representative said Syria was fertile ground for terrorist groups and foreign terrorist fighters, chaos and sectarianism. The only possible solution was a political one, based on resolutions 2254 (2015) and 2268 (2016). Egypt was committed to cooperating with the United States and the Russian Federation in the context of the International Syrian Support Group, he added, calling also for a time frame within which to list all groups collaborating openly with terrorist organizations for sanctions.
Angola’s representative said the fighting between Government forces and non-State armed groups should sharpen the Council’s focus on how such groups obtained arms, pointing out that regional and international stakeholders were not being held responsible for allowing the war to continue. The Council and the International Syria Support Group should step up efforts to cut off the flow of weapons into Syria and help to combat radicalism, he stressed.
Also speaking today were the representatives of United Kingdom, Uruguay, Ukraine, New Zealand, Spain, China, Venezuela, Senegal, Malaysia and Japan.
The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and adjourned at 12:40 p.m.
STEPHEN O’BRIEN, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator, said words could not describe the grim and gruesome reality of life for people in Syria today. He expressed deep alarm at the disturbing developments in and around Aleppo, where mortars, missiles and projectiles had killed scores of people and injured hundreds. Due to the fighting, the Castello road — the last remaining route in and out of the eastern side of Aleppo — had been cut off. Food was expected to run out in that district by mid-August, and medical facilities had come under attack. “The international community simply cannot let eastern Aleppo city become yet another — and by far the largest — besieged area,” he said. Describing the situation as “medieval and shameful”, he declared: “We must not allow this to happen.” Parties to the conflict, and those with influence over them, including the Security Council, must act immediately to establish a weekly 48-hour humanitarian pause for eastern Aleppo that would afford the United Nations and its partners safe, regular and sustained access to 250,000 people trapped behind the front lines, he emphasized.
He said he was equally alarmed by deteriorating humanitarian conditions and urgent medical-evacuation needs in Madaya, Foah, Zabadani and Kefraya, where more than 62,000 people were besieged. Despite approvals by the Government of Syria over the past three months, it had not been possible to access those four towns. Warning that images of starving children in Madaya earlier in 2016 would be seen again unless access was enforced, he said similar conditions existed in several other parts of Syria, where civilians had been killed in air strikes or come under relentless attack from Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh). At the Berm running along the Jordanian border, children, pregnant women and elderly people were among those living in “a no man’s land of a barely living hell”, he said.
He went on to state that, so far in 2016, it had been possible to reach more than 1 million people in besieged and hard-to-reach areas, but that was a fraction of the 5.5 million people in need, including some 590,000 who remained totally trapped in besieged areas. Significant progress had been made on winning Government approvals for humanitarian convoys, he said. While incremental, such breakthroughs showed that given sufficient political will, it was really possible to reach those in desperate need. The escalating fighting and insecurity constrained access, while arbitrary restrictions and obstructions limited places where aid could be delivered. Some non-State armed groups had attacked or threatened humanitarian workers, while access to ISIL-controlled areas remained extremely limited, he said, commending the bravery of the humanitarians – many of them local Syrians – who risked their lives every day to cross conflict lines or enter conflict areas.
In conclusion, he emphasized the need to regain the momentum on protection and access created in the first half of 2015, and since the creation of the International Syria Support Group humanitarian task force. That would entail restoring and consolidating the cessation of hostilities; action from all parties and their supporters to ensure safe, sustained, unhindered and unconditional humanitarian access; and nothing less than the immediate end of sieges that were mercilessly punishing hundreds of thousands of civilians. The crisis must end with a political solution, not military victory, he stressed. In the meantime, however, the available protection space was shrinking, humanitarian conditions were deteriorating and the level of despair was rising. Those could not be accepted as the trends to which the international community had seemingly resigned itself as the search for a political solution continued, he said.
MATTHEW RYCROFT (United Kingdom) said the Council must break with tradition and hold today’s debate in public, declaring: “We can’t hide behind closed doors.” Hundreds of civilians were being killed, and hundreds of thousands suffering in an expanding humanitarian crisis. Eastern Aleppo was encircled by the regime, with 300,000 people besieged. Recalling that an emergency briefing had been held on the siege of Medaya only six months ago, he said that, while he welcomed the pre-positioning of food supplies by the United Nations, they would feed only half of the city and for less than one month. Sustained, unhindered humanitarian deliveries were needed, he emphasized, adding: “We must keep pressing for this access.” The United Kingdom supported the call for a weekly 48-hour pause and called upon the Russian Federation to use its influence to persuade the regime to open the Castello road and respect the cessation of hostilities so that aid convoys could travel safely. Without sustained, unhindered land access, the United Nations must push for air access, he said, requesting that the World Food Programme (WFP) and others provide updates in that regard. The Council should condemn efforts to delay or restrict access, he said, pressing also for a genuine recommitment to the cessation of hostilities, as well as an end to the bombing of medical facilities and attacks on civilians.
FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) said the cessation of hostilities had sparked hope for a path towards negotiations on a political solution, but that hope had been extinguished. The accord had been simply a smoke screen to hide an exclusively military strategy aimed at encircling all areas held by the opposition. What the regime could not control, it sought to destroy, he said, adding that it continued to violate Council resolutions and international humanitarian law. The regime had cut off Castello road, the only way to provide water to Aleppo, a symbol of civilization that was experiencing a medieval-type siege, he said, asking how, 20 years after the siege of Sarajevo, the Council could accept again the deployment of such a barbarous tactic. Recalling that resolution 2254 (2015) had set a 1 August deadline to for the establishment of a transitional authority, he described that as a test for the regime and its supporters. Aleppo had become a martyr city, and could become the graveyard of the Vienna process, he warned, calling upon the regime’s allies, the Council and the International Syrian Support Group to assume their responsibilities so that the regime would stop its hostilities against the city. France called for an immediate ceasefire, the lifting of all sieges, as well as rapid, safe and unhindered access to all people in need. The Government of Syria must respect its obligations under international humanitarian law, he said, emphasizing that there would be no cooperation with those responsible for those crimes.
LUIS BERMÚDEZ (Uruguay), referring to the use of hunger as a tactic of war, said war crimes were taking place in Syria. Calling for implementation of resolution 2268 (2016), he expressed considerable concern about the situation of children, saying the conflict was compromising the future of an entire generation. One in three children, or 3.7 million, had been born since the beginning of the conflict, he noted, saying they had known only violence, fear and displacement. Greater efforts by the international community were needed to prevent Syrian children becoming a lost generation, he emphasized. Describing the recent decapitation of a Palestinian boy as a barbarous and cowardly act, he said no God or religion could accept such savagery.
VOLODYMYR YELCHENKO (Ukraine) said Damascus was holding the Syrian people hostage to its plans to change the situation on the ground by military means. Voicing alarm about casualties resulting from the shelling of Aleppo, he called upon all sides to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure. Humanitarian access to eastern Aleppo must be restored without delay or preconditions, he said, emphasizing that all parties must immediately allow unconditional, unimpeded and sustained access to people in besieged and hard-to-reach areas. Improving the humanitarian situation would only occur through a political resolution, but with no progress in sight, the best hope was for irregular and interrupted deliveries of humanitarian assistance. That was dismaying, given all the efforts devoted to alleviating the suffering of the Syrian people, he said.
AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt) said Syria had become fertile ground for terrorist groups and foreign terrorist fighters, chaos and sectarianism. Despite progress towards ensuring humanitarian access, military and target zones continued to expand and there was an enormous number of external players, some of whom were taking part in military activities. Egypt, focused on ensuring humanitarian access, had sent a convoy to Damascus, he said, calling upon the international community to provide support to Syrians without politicizing the humanitarian crisis. The only solution would be a political one, and the only formula by which to reach one was through what had been agreed in resolutions 2254 (2015) and 2268 (2016). He called for an end to hostilities, a political transition — pursuant to resolution 2254 (2015) and the Vienna Communiqué — humanitarian aid for all requiring it, including those in besieged areas, and combating terrorism. Egypt was committed to cooperating with the United States and the Russian Federation in the context of the International Syrian Support Group, he said. Noting that some groups collaborated openly with terrorist groups, such as Al-Qaeda, he urged the international community to define a time frame within which they would be placed on the Sanctions List, warning that to do nothing would only encourage terrorism.
GERARD VAN BOHEMEN (New Zealand) said it was unacceptable that siege and starvation continued to be deployed as a war tactic, and that civilian neighbourhoods were being shelled and medical facilities bombed. He acknowledged Syria’s positive response to United Nations plans for June and July, and welcomed efforts by the United States and the Russian Federation — as humanitarian co-leads for the International Syria Support Group — to send assistance to those in need, and acknowledged the Russian Federation’s efforts to facilitate access and ensure that agreements made by the Syrian regime were kept. He called upon Syria to implement the July plan on the basis of the United Nations needs assessment. Urging all parties to the conflict to take all feasible measures to protect civilians, he called for the exertion of pressure on them and their backers so to prioritize ending the suffering by placing the cessation of hostilities back on track, ending attacks against civilians and ensuring aid was sent to the millions in need.
ROMÁN OYARZUN MARCHESI (Spain) said that the hell of war in Syria knew no limits. The hope that had seemed to be emerging earlier in 2016 had almost totally disappeared. Thanking the United States and the Russian Federation for their efforts to revitalize resolution 2268 (2016), he said it could produce some positive outcomes in the coming days, expressing hope that the Council’s meeting would have a beneficial effect on the tragedy endured by the Syrian people. Humanitarian access had improved, with 1 million people having received assistance, but a resurgence of attacks could end all improvements made. It was intolerable that attacks had been carried out with disregard for the most basic respect for international humanitarian law, he said, citing attacks on hospitals and the regime’s removal of medical supplies from aid convoys. The idea of a weekly 48-hour humanitarian pause was a good one, he said, asking for clarification of the situation along the Castello road.
VITALY I. CHURKIN (Russian Federation) said there had been some progress since the establishment of the ceasefire regime. Humanitarian access was broadening and difficulties were being discussed by the International Syria Support Group. Describing the Russian Federation’s provision of humanitarian assistance, he said air drops in ISIL-controlled areas had saved lives, and expressed hope that Turkey would take the right decision regarding border crossing points, which had been blocked. Military operations undertaken by the Government of Syria were aimed at blocking and destroying terrorists, he said, expressing deep worry about reports of strikes carried out by the United States-led coalition. It was striking that the United Kingdom and France had not mentioned those strikes in their statements, he noted, adding that he hoped the United States would discuss them in detail.
He went on to state that terrorists had been using the ceasefire regime to obtain reinforcements from abroad and to recruit minors. There was information that the Castello road was being used to provide terrorists with weapons, as well as “jihad mobiles” with which to carry out suicide attacks. Whatever the situation in Aleppo, a humanitarian disaster must be averted, he emphasized. Describing the unilateral sanctions imposed on Damascus as futile, he called for them to be lifted, while rejecting ultimatums calling on the Russian Federation to exert pressure on the Syrian authorities. People should go to Damascus to make contact and “do something useful”, he said, calling upon United Nations staff to respect their mandates and Syria’s national sovereignty. On the political front, foot-dragging must be replaced by the resumption of United Nations-led talks, he added.
SAMANTHA POWER (United States) said the United Nations and its partners had barely managed to reach the 18 besieged areas in 2016, and more often than not, the regime had removed supplies before they reached civilians. The regime’s military advances, with support from the Russian Federation, had taken Syrians to a new low, she said. Eastern Aleppo had up to seven times as many people as those trapped in Madaya, and was falling victim to the regime’s starve-and-surrender tactics. The regime had cut off Castello road, severing access to food, fuel medicine, water and other essential supplies, while its air strikes, as well as those by the Russian Federation, had made travel by other roads precarious. The Russian Federation, the Syrian regime and others should heed the call for a 48-hour pause to ensure delivery of essential supplies, she said.
Condemning the unconscionable beheading of a boy in Aleppo by rebels, and the use of child soldiers by all parties, she noted that the regime had issued blithe, always dogmatic denials, demonstrating a cruel indifference to the fate of Syrians. She noted that the Russian Federation had never acknowledged the possible involvement of its air force in air strikes that had resulted in civilian casualties. It was in a weak position to point fingers at the United States, she said, adding that she looked forward to that Government opening a single investigation into those strikes. Moreover, in no single month of 2016 had the United Nations been allowed to reach even half of the besieged civilians. The Organization should be determining what was needed, not the regime that indiscriminately branded civilians as terrorists, she stressed. The regime had removed medical supplies from convoys, including midwifery kits and diarrhoea treatments.
“It is obscene,” she continued, recalling that although resolution 2286 (2016) called for the protection of medical personnel and facilities, they were still being struck by the regime and by Russian forces. The United States would review all credible information on the incident in Manbij, including any from groups within Syria trying to investigate, she said, noting that the task was complicated by limited civil society access to ISIL-controlled areas. Underlining that the United States was in compliance with the laws of armed conflict, she said that if its forces had harmed civilians in Manbij, it would acknowledge that fact. “This is an extremely important issue,” she said, pointing out that her country’s Secretary of State had travelled to Moscow to address the Syrian regime’s targeting of civilians and opposition groups, as well as Al-Nusra Front activities threatening United States interests.
WU HAITAO (China) said his delegation was very sympathetic to the suffering of Syrians, and urged the relevant Syrian parties to implement Council resolutions, open humanitarian access, cease hostilities as soon as possible and create good conditions for the United Nations to continue to carry out its relief programmes. A political solution was the only way out of the situation, and the international community must be unwavering in allowing Syrians to determine their own fate, continuing to allow the United Nations to play its main good offices role and launching the next round of Geneva talks. The parties should meet each other half way and gradually find a solution that was acceptable to all. Through multiple channels, China provided food and supplies to Syria and other countries in the region, and wished to make a contribution in order to ease the humanitarian crisis in Syria.
HENRY ALFREDO SUÁREZ MORENO (Venezuela) said real progress in the humanitarian sphere had been limited due to the increased activities of ISIL, Al-Nusrah and other non-State players, noting that so-called moderate groups fighting with Al-Nusrah terrorists would affect the political situation in Aleppo. Venezuela supported the idea of a weekly 48-hour humanitarian pause, he said, adding that in some cases, the situation on the ground did not favour the work of humanitarian agencies, making it necessary to lift sieges and implement resolution 2268 (2016). He noted the cooperation between the Syrian authorities and the WFP, and paid tribute to humanitarian agencies working on the ground, who must be neither military targets nor actors in the conflict. Humanitarian efforts must be coordinated with the host State, in accordance with international law, he emphasized. Condemning ISIL for denying humanitarian access to civilian populations as well as its use of civilians as human shields, he said that group, as well as Al-Nusrah, had become the worst threat to peace in the region and their influence must by fought by all means, in accordance with international law. Noting that the Palestinian boy’s death had not been condemned by those financing the groups concerned, he condemned the recruitment of child soldiers. Reiterating Venezuela’s support for efforts for a political solution, he stressed that the situation on the ground must not be an obstacle to “putting people around the table”.
FODÉ SECK (Senegal), noting that the cessation of hostilities had been compromised by clashes between the Government and opposition groups, expressed deep concern about highly intense military clashes in Aleppo, as well as attacks by armed groups against the Government. All the warring sides had obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law, he said, calling upon the Syrian Government — with help from the International Syria Support Group, and particularly its co-chairs, the Russian Federation and the United States — to ensure that Syrians received assistance, particularly by responding to requests by humanitarian players for implementation of the ceasefire. Noting that children continued to bear the brunt of the war, he asked about the fate of those kidnapped to serve as child soldiers when they should have been taking exams. Only a political solution, under discussion in Geneva, could end the humanitarian catastrophe, he said, emphasizing that the Security Council must do everything possible to halt the spreading “terrorism disease”.
JULIO HELDER MOURA LUCAS (Angola) described the Syrian conflict as an irrational war that had disproportionately affected civilians. Violence was escalating in and around Aleppo and hundreds of thousands of people could not receive assistance. The parties continued to strive for military gains, with the closure of the last remaining access routes to the city the latest demonstration of their total disregard for the Council’s resolutions and international humanitarian law. While Angola fully supported the humanitarian agencies’ mission of providing food and medical supplies to all besieged and hard-to-reach areas, the fighting between the Government and non-State armed groups should make the Council focus on how such groups received weapons, he emphasized, pointing out that regional and international stakeholders were not being held responsible for allowing the war to continue. Urging a return to negotiations on a political solution and on unconditional, safe and unhindered humanitarian access to all those in need, he condemned the bombings and air strikes on Aleppo and expressed support for a humanitarian truce. The proliferation of terrorists and other non-State armed groups posed a threat to Syria and the region, he said, stressing that the Council and the International Syria Support Group should step up efforts to cut off the flow of weapons into Syria and combat radicalism.
RAMLAN BIN IBRAHIM (Malaysia) said that his Government had had high hopes since the International Syria Support Group’s 1 June breakthrough in efforts to reach besieged and hard-to-reach areas. However, that hope had diminished as 300,000 people in Aleppo had been cut off from humanitarian assistance. The closure of the Castello road had blocked humanitarian movement and it was deeply worrying that people were now under heavy shelling. Civilian casualties were increasing while medical facilities continued to be destroyed. While noting the importance of fighting terrorists in Syria, it must not be at the expense of civilians, he emphasized, urging the parties to consider the idea of a humanitarian pause. Regarding the beheaded boy, he stressed that such unspeakable crimes against civilians must end.
KORO BESSHO (Japan), Council President for July, spoke in his national capacity, expressing strong concern about the increasingly desperate situation in Syria. It was intolerable that Aleppo and Manbij were on their way to becoming besieged and hard-to-access areas, he said, while commending the United Nations and other organizations on having managed to gain access to hard-to-reach areas. Citing resolution 2286 (2016) on protection of civilians and personnel, he emphasized that even a temporary ceasefire would allow the United Nations to reach those in need of inter-agency convoys. Japan supported the idea of a weekly 48-hour pause in hostilities in order to foster humanitarian access and, with other Council members and the International Syria Support Group, would work for a lasting political settlement, he said.
The Russian Federation’s representative took the floor a second time in response to remarks by his United States counterpart about air strikes in northern Syria that had killed many civilians, expressing surprise that investigations would be conducted through civil society organizations. Would the truth ever be known or would the matter be swept under the carpet? Emphasizing the importance of not losing sight of the “bigger picture”, he recalled that the conflict had begun with an attempt to topple the Government and with terrorists exploiting the situation, as had been the case in Iraq. Moderate opposition groups had gone over to the side of the terrorists, taking with them the weapons supplied by their Western sponsors, he said, adding that had the Syrian border been closed to military convoys, there would not have been the situation prevailing today. Despite criticism by the United States, he said, the Russian Federation stood ready to keep working with that country in the International Syria Support Group, drawing on the international community’s capability to combat Al-Nusrah and other organizations in order to change the situation on the ground.
The representative of the United States said it would be useful if the Russian Federation circulated the results of its investigations into Russian strikes, adding that she would be curious to know whether that country had ever acknowledged, through its investigations, harming civilians in such strikes. By lumping parties to the cessation-of-hostilities accord with those who had rejected it, by lumping civilians with Al-Nusrah and ISIL, and by targeting those lumped in with terrorists, more innocent people would be hit, more terrorists would be created and the conflict would be prolonged, she pointed out. Distinguishing between terrorist fighters and civilians stuck in their proximity would save innocent lives and promote peace and security. The United States was deeply invested in its effort, alongside the Russian Federation, to restore peace in Syria, but Aleppo was burning and under siege. “Let’s get Aleppo right”, save people and invest in the kind of cooperation we need to end the conflict, she said.
The representative of the Russian Federation said he could not agree with a number of the United States representative’s observations, but it was correct to say that a distinction must be made between the moderate opposition and Al-Nusrah.
BASHAR JA’AFARI (Syria) said that Angola’s representative had been correct to ask why the Council had not requested international parties to account for their participation in Syria. Ending the suffering would not happen by holding spectacular conferences or other meetings. It could not be done by coalition forces destroying electricity-generation plants, using Syrian political geography or establishing doubtful alliances for ending terrorism. Syrian-Russian collaboration, carried out at the Syrian Government’s request, had improved the humanitarian situation in some parts of the country, he said.
There was a need to address the causes of the crisis, which had been imposed on Syrians, he continued. Some Council members had tried to ignore the real reasons that had led Syrians to seek refuge in other countries. “Terrorism is the basic cause of this crisis,” he emphasized, pointing out that that Aleppo had not seen any military operations during the conflict’s first year-and-a-half. The international community had called upon Turkey to close its borders and make it impossible for terrorists to reach Aleppo, yet there had been no response and a flood of terrorists had entered Syria.
He went on to state that the Syrian Government had not closed the Castello road, stressing that, rather, terrorists had sought to block humanitarian access. Unilateral measures were another cause of the crisis. A lasting solution would consist of combating terrorism by implementing Council resolutions, in cooperation with the Syrian Government and without double standards, hypocrisy or efforts to make Syria a magnet for future terrorists.
In response to comments by the representative of the United States concerning the beheading of a young Palestinian refugee by Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki, he said that group had come from a region of Turkish origin yet she had not called it a terrorist group. The same applied to Jayish al-Islam, Jaish al-Fatah Army and other groups, he noted. Moreover, Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and other countries should stop supporting and legitimizing terrorist groups by describing them as “moderate armed opposition” or non-State armed groups. “Not calling terrorism ‘terrorism’ sends a false message,” telling such groups that their brand of terrorism was legitimate, he said.
France’s bombing of one area, in retaliation for events in Nice, had generated twice the number of victims as had been killed in that French city, while Da’esh had escaped prior to the retaliatory attack, he pointed out. The Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki terrorist group had decapitated a 12-year-old boy, and yet, was considered among the “moderate armed opposition” groups supported by Governments through the media since 2011. “You’ve created monsters,” he said, adding that their pastime was taking photographs of themselves next to decapitated civilians and burning people alive. No investigations were needed to prove who was responsible. “We know who they are,” he said.
He said he could not explain how some Council members could say they were protecting the rule of law by not allowing such groups to be placed on terrorist watch lists, adding that there was a lack of seriousness in combating terrorism. For its own part, Syria had met its constitutional obligation to protect civilians and combat terrorism. He urged support for the political process, while ensuring respect for Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Syria welcomed the recent statement by the United States and the Russian Federation on the need to combat terrorism, and was committed to finding a political solution and continuing intra-Syrian talks. Syria would continue to cooperate with the United Nations, he said, but it expected the Organization’s cooperation rather than just criticism, especially on humanitarian issues. The Organization could not have gained humanitarian access without the facilitation and protection of the Syrian Government, he stressed.
Mr. O’BRIEN, responding to a question from Spain’s representative, said eastern Aleppo was at serious risk of besiegement. Humanitarian and commercial movements had come to a halt since 7 July, and the United Nations had needed to reposition food stops in eastern Aleppo, although basic health supplies would be sufficient for four to five months. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs had established an access route in Government-controlled western Aleppo and there was now some movement between the eastern and western parts of the city. There had been a request included in the July convoy plan approved by Syria, but the Castello road had been so damaged that it could only handle small lorries, he said.
In response to a question by the United Kingdom’s representative on continuing the United Nations plan on using airdrops to access besieged areas, he said the Organization was using various logistical methods by land, sea and air. The WFP had developed plans to use airdrops and air bridges in other locations, and the International Syria Support Group understood what was needed to make that a reality, he said, emphasizing that security guarantees by all parties would be a precondition. Land access was the safest option because it was also able to deliver more financial value than other alternatives. For example, it would take about six weeks of daily helicopter rotations to deliver the equivalent amount of food by land for 2,000 people.
Responding to a question by the Russian Federation’s representative about safety and security during night deployment, he said that he looked to all parties to provide safety, day and night. Priority must be given to daylight movement, he said, expressing gratitude to the Russian Federation in that regard. In response to concerns about the possibility of bias, he reassured the Council that assistance delivered by the United Nations was judged purely under humanitarian principles and delivered by professional staff, exclusively on a needs basis.
He requested that the Council help to open access as the United Nations sought to help people in areas covered by the Four Towns Agreement, and welcomed the fact that the idea of a weekly 48-hour humanitarian pause, especially in eastern Aleppo, had taken on the appropriate urgency. He said that he sensed a “green light” within the Council, which would be a genuine sign of progress. The humanitarian pause would consist of eight days per month to enable cross-border actors to deliver aid to 250,000 people. It would rely on the United Nations monitoring mechanism and entail a medivac component. For cross-line operations, Syria had approved a requested convoy targeting 60,000 out of 150,000 civilians before the increased violence in Aleppo, he said.
Mr. JA’AFARI (Syria), saying he wished to share some information that had not been part of the meeting, noted that no one had mentioned how the “genetically modified” moderate opposition in the Barada Valley had threatened the only supply of drinking water for the 7 million people living in Damascus. Nor had anyone mentioned how ISIL terrorists had burned a mother, father and young child alive in a public square because they wanted to escape Raqqa. He said that he would have hoped that the Under-Secretary-General, when discussing Aleppo, would have identified those responsible for the shelling on the eastern and western sides of that city – terrorists who had crossed over from Turkey, financed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. He said that he would be sending letters with the names of victims, “scores of them”, to the Council.