Amid Stalemate, Acute Suffering in Syria, Special Envoy Tells Security Council Political Solution ‘Only Way Out’
The international diplomacy needed to spur humanitarian and early recovery efforts will be more precarious against the new backdrop of military operations in Ukraine, the top United Nations official on Syria warned the Security Council today, as he briefed members on recent developments.
Geir O. Pedersen, Special Envoy for Syria, cautioned that “it is plain that there is a stalemate, that there is acute suffering and that a political solution is the only way out.” This requires a Syrian-led, Syrian-owned political process, supported by constructive, global diplomatic efforts, he said, “however hard that is, and especially right now”.
He warned that “all signs of an ongoing hot conflict” still exist and that “any of a number of flashpoints could ignite a broader conflagration”. Pointing to an array of issues, including the use of improvised explosive devices, as well as shelling and skirmishes across frontlines, he went on to sound the alarm over aggression across international borders, including Israeli strikes in the south and Damascus and drone strikes in the north-east.
The Special Envoy outlined several arenas for ongoing discussion, including the upcoming session of the Small Body of the Syrian-owned, Syrian-led, United Nations-facilitated Constitutional Committee, set to be held in March 2022. In addition, he met with the Women’s Advisory Board in Norway and is set to attend the Civil Society Support Room in Geneva. He emphasized that he is always encouraged to see discussions “on how to rebuild a Syrian society based on common civic values of independence, participation, plurality, transparency, dialogue and equality”. Alongside these efforts, he engaged with the Syrian Government and the Syrian Negotiations Commission, as well as the Foreign Ministers of Jordan, Turkey and the Russian Federation.
Joyce Msuya, Assistant-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator in the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, briefing the Council on what she described as a “very bleak picture”, with more people in need today than at any time since the beginning of the conflict. The agency’s 2022 Humanitarian Response Plan focuses on access to basic services and measures to extend humanitarian access in north-west Syria, including through cross-border operations that deliver food, medicine, and other vital supplies “in a transparent and principled manner.” She also described the new distribution system for cross-line aid.
Some 12 million people in Syria are food insecure, she continued, with food prices rising while the economy plummets, with the result that households have to spend approximately 50 per cent more than they earn. This leads to households making “unbearable choices”, as can be seen in the uptick in child marriages and the fact that children are being pulled out of school. She also expressed her concern over the recent attack on a prison in Al-Hasakah in January and noted the vulnerable situation of hundreds of children in detention centres and camps, in desperate need of protection.
Syria’s delegate decried the fact that, eight months after the adoption of Security Council resolution 2585 (2021) and with just four months left of that mandate, there has been no progress with regard to early recovery projects. On cross-line work, he said it continues to be hamstrung by Turkey, as well as terrorist groups, derailing access to humanitarian aid. He went on to criticize the United States occupation forces for plundering oil and gas pipelines and seizing Syrian wheat production. His Government is trying to rebuild, he said, but these obstacles are hindering its efforts.
The current political approach needs to change to put the interests of the Syrian people first and to end the Turkish, American and Israeli occupation of Syrian territories, he stressed. He outlined the deleterious impact of unilateral coercive measures by the United States and the European Union, lamenting their impact on the banking, energy and communication sectors, as well as those of land, sea, air and maritime transportation.
The Russian Federation’s delegate also highlighted the detrimental effect of sanctions, noting the socioeconomic challenges faced by internally displaced Syrians returning home. He noted with concern the lack of access to the area operated by Turkey and the fact that only two domestic convoys carrying humanitarian assistance have been able to reach Idlib. Underscoring that the issue of aid had been politicized by Western donors, he said that positing one element of humanitarian assistance above another was an unacceptable attempt to “cherry-pick”.
Turkey’s delegate said that “There is no replacement to cross-border operations” and that it was malicious to call for cross-line access for humanitarian aid while undertaking attacks. Furthermore, the Assad Government diverts such assistance for its own purposes, he said, asking for the issue to be monitored. He also offered a rebuttal to any suggestion that relations with Damascus be normalized, saying that it is the lives of millions of Syrians that should be normalized, giving them a society that is democratic, secular and prosperous. The “criminal regime”, on the other hand, must not be legitimized, he cautioned.
Iran’s representative underscored that “nothing is more important or urgent” than ending sanctions that had hit Syria’s access to medicine, health care, food, water, electricity and communications. He went on to sound a note of alarm over the free movement enjoyed by terrorist organizations in areas where foreign forces were illegally present, stressing that fighting such groups could never be used as a pretext to undermine the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country.
France’s delegate underlined that the position of his country and that of the European Union on sanctions is unchanged and will remain so until the conditions for the safe, voluntary and dignified return of refugees has been met. With that in mind, it is imperative that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) be allowed access to those returning to Syria.
The delegate of the United Arab Emirates stressed that the stability of Syria is linked to that of the region. There should be an increased Arab role alongside a rejection of foreign interference in Syria’s internal affairs. Referring to fatal confrontations on the Jordanian border between armed forces and drug-smuggling groups, he emphasized the need for a nationwide ceasefire. The precarious security situation means that any provocations could reverberate through neighbouring States.
Echoing those sentiments, Kenya’s representative, also speaking for Gabon and Ghana, stressed that regional efforts play a critical role. He highlighted the experience of Africa as an example of how the active engagement of adjoining and nearby countries is vital in order to resolve complex crises.
The United Kingdom’s delegate drew a parallel between the plight of Syrians and Ukrainians, noting that it did not augur well for either. “As we look in horror at the unfolding situation in Ukraine, the daily struggles of men, women and children in Syria should serve as a dire warning to the international community,” she said. The decimation of civilian infrastructure has left over three quarters of the population unable to meet their most basic needs. Ending the conflict requires a United Nations-led political process, she said, welcoming the Special Envoy’s intention to reconvene Constitutional Committee talks in March and underlining that the Syrian regime must engage with this process.
The representative of the United States also welcomed the announcement of the new round of talks of the Syrian Constitutional Committee and called on all parties to adhere to the format of the meeting, and to participate in a constructive manner. He also called on Damascus to provide information about the tens of thousands of missing persons, noting that “nations should not normalize relations with a regime that forcibly locks up and disappears its own people”.
Also speaking were representatives of Ireland (on behalf of the co-penholders of the Syrian humanitarian file and in its national capacity), Albania, India, Brazil, Mexico, China and Norway.
GEIR O. PEDERSEN, Special Envoy for Syria, briefing the 15-member organ via video-teleconference on the Secretary-General’s latest report on the situation (document S/2022/135), said that the full implementation of Security Council resolution 2585 (2021) is important not only on humanitarian grounds but also in the context of building trust and confidence. Militarily, front lines remain unshifted, but “all signs of an ongoing hot conflict” can be seen, he said, stressing that “any of a number of flashpoints could ignite a broader conflagration”. Mutual shelling, skirmishes, improvised explosive devices and security incidents continue to be seen across frontlines in the north-west, north-east and the south-west. There is violence across international borders, with drone strikes in the north-east, Israeli strikes in the south and Damascus and further security incidents on the Syrian-Jordanian border, which Amman states are related to drug smuggling. Security Council-listed terrorist groups are active across Syria, he said, noting the United States ground operation that killed the leader of Da’esh.
“It is plain that there is a stalemate, that there is acute suffering and that a political solution is the only way out,” he said. This requires a Syrian-led, Syrian-owned political process, which must be supported by constructive international diplomacy, he continued, “however hard that is, and especially right now”. A date has been set for convening the seventh session of the Small Body of the Syrian-owned, Syrian-led, United Nations-facilitated Constitutional Committee in Geneva, on 21 March 2022. It is important that the Small Body’s work continues in such a manner that it builds trust and confidence. “The parties’ positions are substantively far apart and narrowing their differences will inevitably be an incremental process,” he said, underscoring that a sense of compromise and constructive engagement is needed from all delegations.
His work continues on the broader process to implement other elements in Security Council resolution 2254 (2015) that lie outside the constitutional basket, he said, noting that he is conducting a rolling process of consultations to identify how this might be done. He continues to engage with the Syrian parties, meeting with the Syrian Government in Damascus and the Syrian Negotiations Commission in Istanbul and Geneva. He held in-depth discussions with the Foreign Ministers of Jordan, Turkey and the Russian Federation. He continues to facilitate the Constitutional Committee, seeking to identify areas where consensus might be found on a series of reciprocal confidence-building measures in resolution 2254 (2015) that could be implemented in parallel. He is asking interlocutors not only what they would demand, but also what they would be able to put on the table, he said. The aim is to make progress on issues via commitments that are verifiable and implemented in parallel.
He consulted with the Women’s Advisory Board in Norway and will be welcoming them in Switzerland on 14-21 March 2022. On 27 February, he is meeting with a diverse group of Syrian civil society representatives invited for thematic consultations through the Civil Society Support Room in Geneva. He noted that he is “always encouraged and inspired to see them engage constructively on how to rebuild a Syrian society based on common civic values of independence, participation, plurality, transparency, dialogue and equality, despite their own life stories and diverse narratives”. During his last round of consultations, he hoped he might be starting to find a way into a functioning political process to implement resolution 2254 (2015). He expressed his concern that the constructive international diplomacy required to push this may prove more difficult than it already was against the backdrop of the military operations in Ukraine.
JOYCE MSUYA, Assistant-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator in the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, began her first briefing to the Council by setting out the findings of the evidence-based assessment of humanitarian needs in Syria for 2022, put together by the United Nations and its humanitarian partners. “The findings are clear. And they paint a very bleak picture,” she said, pointing out that more people are in need than at any time since the start of the conflict, with as many as 14.6 million people depending on humanitarian assistance. Stating that this figure is 9 per cent more than 2021, and 32 per cent more than in 2020, she said: “The world is failing the people of Syria. This cannot be our strategy.”
On the security front, she said hostilities, particularly along frontlines, continue to claim civilian lives and damage critical civilian infrastructure, adding that 40 more civilians were killed in January alone. Mines and explosive ordnance claim further lives, including those of children. Turning to the attack on a prison in Al-Hasakah in January, she expressed concern about the incredibly precarious situation of hundreds of children who remain in detention centres and camps, in dire need of protection, services and hope for the future. “The time to act is long overdue,” she stressed.
She went on to depict an overview of the dire and worsening humanitarian picture, noting that Syria is among the 10 most food insecure countries globally, with a staggering 12 million people considered to be food insecure, with food getting progressively more expensive due to the descent of the economy, leading to households spending on average 50 per cent more than what they earn. This leads to households making “unbearable choices”, she said, pointing to an uptick in child marriages and children, particularly girls, being pulled out of school.
Turning to the agency’s 2022 Humanitarian Response Plan, which is nearing finalization, she said she expected that roughly one quarter of the total appeal will be geared towards increasing resilience and access to basic services, such as water — a significant increase from 2021. She touched on measures taken to extend humanitarian access in north-west Syria, including through cross-border operations which deliver — “in a transparent and principled manner” — food, medicine and other essential items each month. Moreover, in December and January, after setting up a new distribution system, cross-line aid began reaching people in need in the region, she said, emphasizing the need for support from all concerned parties for such missions to continue. She went on to reiterate that no alternative can match the scale and scope of the massive United Nations cross-border operation, providing food, vaccines and other vital aid to 2.4 million people. To meet the urgent needs of the long-suffering Syrian people, the agency needs more sustainable and reliable access, more funding, and to scale up early recovery programming, she said.
RICHARD M. MILLS, JR. (United States), expressing his strong support for the implementation of Council resolution 2254 (2015), welcomed the announcement of the new round of talks of the Syrian Constitutional Committee and called on all parties to adhere to the format of the meeting and to engage in good faith. Expressing concern on the lack of progress on the thousands of arbitrarily detained persons, he called on the Syrian Government to undertake unilateral releases and issue information about the tens of thousands missing persons. “This issue impacts every Syrian family,” he said, adding that “nations should not normalize relations with a regime that forcibly locks up and disappears its own people”. Turning to the security situation, he expressed concern about the recent attack on the prison in Al-Hasaka, which was brought under control by the Syrian Democratic Forces, who suffered many casualties as a result. All Member States must repatriate and when required prosecute nationals remaining in Syria. The United States has demonstrated its commitment to helping reconstitute Syria, including through the removal of Da’esh commander Abu Ibrahim al-Qurashi from the battlefield, he said. Turning to the humanitarian front, he underscored that “not enough aid is getting to those who need it.” With needs being higher than any point in the 11-year-conflict, he stressed the importance of expanding humanitarian access through cross-line as well as cross-border mechanisms, adding: “All parties must work constructively with the United Nations to facilitate such deliveries.” Cross-line aid cannot match the scope of cross-border aid, he stressed.
JIM KELLY (Ireland) on behalf of the co-penholders of the Syrian humanitarian file, his own country and Norway, said that since the start of 2022 Syria has seen increased insecurity and violence. Hostilities have resulted in the deaths of at least 92 civilians during the reporting period, including 19 children. “Their deaths, and the systematic harming of civilians perpetrated by parties to the conflict, is deplorable,” he said. More than a decade of armed conflict on multiple fronts in Syria has left vast stretches of the country littered with mines and all kinds of explosive ordnance. “Innocent civilians seeking only to go about their daily lives pay the terrible price through loss of life or limb,” he said. Explosive ordnance contamination is not only a major protection concern, but it also stands in the way of expanding humanitarian access. “Mine Action clearance capacity has long been a missing link in the broader chain of humanitarian interventions in Syria,” he said, welcoming the commencement of United Nations Mine Action Service-supported clearance operations in Western Ghouta. He expressed his concern over the continuously deteriorating security situation at Al-Hol camp, with four murders reported in January 2022 alone. He urged for the review of security protocols to be concluded swiftly. The humanitarian cross-border operation continues to provide critical humanitarian support for millions of people in desperate need in north-west Syria. There is currently no alternative that can match the scale and the scope of the cross-border operation.
In his national capacity, he said that the Constitutional Committee must achieve substantive process but cannot do so without meaningful engagement on texts, especially by the Syrian authorities. He welcomed ongoing consultations with the Women’s Advisory Board so that the Committee has a clear understanding of the gender implications of the current situation. Women’s full, equal and meaningful participation in leadership should be the norm at every stage and for every party. He called for all parties to the conflict to comply with their responsibilities under international law, noting that his country will continue to support the work of the Commission of Inquiry and the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism. Both have vital roles in ensuring accountability and justice.
MOHAMED ISSA ABUSHAHAB (United Arab Emirates) said providing humanitarian aid is a moral imperative and relief to the Syrian people should be a matter of consensus, especially in light of the Assistant Secretary-General’s report that 14.6 million people are in need. The water crisis is one of the most critical challenges, especially for those who depend on the Alouk water station and who reside in Al-Bab. He emphasized the need for relevant parties in Syria to cooperate to ensure that humanitarian aid reaches those in need, citing the resumption of cross-line delivery of aid over the past few months. On the political situation, he welcomed the agreement of the two parties to convene the seventh session of the Constitutional Committee on 21 March. As Syria is an Arab country and its stability is linked to the stability of the region, he called for rejecting foreign interference in Syrian affairs and an increased Arab role. Action must address security challenges through a nationwide ceasefire, as the fragile security situation has repercussions extending to neighbouring countries. He cited recent clashes on the Jordanian-Syrian border between the Jordanian armed forces and groups trying to smuggle drugs into that territory, resulting in the death and injury of a number of Jordanian border guards, stating “this is unacceptable”. A political solution to the Syrian crisis is still possible and requires flexibility, moving from managing the crisis to resolving it in line with resolution 2254 (2015).
FERIT HOXHA (Albania) expressed concern about the continuing suffering of the Syrian people and the dramatic and worsening humanitarian picture, asking: “How many more helpless people must go hungry and freeze to death for the Council to take action?” He underscored the need for the Council to act on expanding cross-border access to alleviate the suffering of Syrian people. On the political transition, without which normalization of life, including the humanitarian picture, is not possible, he reaffirmed support for the implementation of Council resolution 2254 (2015), pointing out that the Syrian regime is chiefly responsible for the perpetration of the deadly status quo and non-existent progress towards the resolution of the conflict. Therefore, efforts to rehabilitate the Assad Government must follow — not precede — steps taken towards a real, tangible political transition. He looked forward to sustained progress on the transition, ensuring the participation of women, stating that the release of detainees, a cessation of attacks on civilian areas and accountability are crucial preconditions for the political process to proceed on the right path.
RAVINDRA RAGUTTAHALLI (India) said imposing external solutions will not help to resolve the conflict. Regional players and Syria’s neighbours have an important role to play in peacefully resolving it. Welcoming the Syrian authorities’ efforts to prioritize the return of displaced persons and the recent Jordan-Syria border opening announcement, he anticipated seeing the Special Envoy’s paper on new ideas, which will hopefully address reconstruction-related issues. Calling on all sides to desist from acts that may deteriorate the security situation more, he said the re-emergence of Da’esh in Syria and Iraq needs urgent action, emphasizing that “terrorists can neither be defeated by forming alliances with non-sovereign entities nor by pushing narrow political agendas.” A nationwide ceasefire is essential. Despite progress to ensure a sustainable flow of aid, he noted that ongoing cross-border operations continue to negatively impact Syria’s sovereignty and encouraged the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and United Nations agencies to enhance aid activities. Echoing the need for more assistance, he said the success of the political process depends on the international community’s support to address economic and humanitarian challenges. For its part, India continues to provide developmental assistance and human resource development support, in response to Syria’s requests for emergency aid.
MARTIN KIMANI (Kenya), also speaking for Gabon and Ghana, said the current situation “continues to demand our collective responsibility to protect and empower the Syrian people in their quest for sustained peace and stability”, with progress on the political track being “the lifeline” in this regard. Commending such promising developments as the forthcoming seventh round of the Constitutional Committee meetings, he reiterated a plea to the parties to meaningfully and constructively engage in the interest of the millions of Syrians who are counting on their leadership towards a bright future, while also voicing support for such innovative avenues aimed at advancing progress as the Special Envoy’s step-for-step approach. Regional efforts play a critical role, he said, noting Africa’s experience, which demonstrates that active engagement of neighbouring and nearby States is key to resolving complex crises.
Calling for an end to the current relentless violence along contact lines in the north-west and in Dara’a, he said all parties must respect the nationwide ceasefire. Decisive collective actions to combat terrorist groups must ensure that victims get justice. At the same time, the protection of civilians, humanitarian workers and civilian infrastructure must be in accordance with international humanitarian law and relevant United Nations resolutions. Turning to the humanitarian situation, he said the cross-border aid mechanism, complemented by crossline deliveries, remains a crucial avenue for assistance and must be sustained. Cautioning against the politicization or diversion of aid, he called for clear standards of oversight and transparency of the cross-border mechanism and crossline deliveries that also ensure protection for civilians, air workers and convoys. Concerned about the pandemic’s impact, dire economic situation and vast food insecurity, he urged all actors to support economic recovery measures as a key component to the longer-term peace that Syria and the region need.
RONALDO COSTA FILHO (Brazil) said civilians and basic civilian infrastructure continue to be impacted by active hostilities. High food prices and food insecurity leave millions of Syrians even more dependent on international assistance, with no reliable access to water, and vulnerable to water-borne diseases. He called upon all parties to respect human rights and international humanitarian law, including by sparing civilians and civilian infrastructure. He further expressed concern over the growing presence of terrorist groups in Syria, especially in the aftermath of the al-Hasakah attacks. Citing the situation of children detained in the Ghwayran detention centre, he called for United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) access to boys and girls detained in facilities across north-east Syria. He noted the Secretary-General’s report that the Syrian cross-border operation is one of the most closely monitored in the world, underlining the importance of keeping those operations under scrutiny while cross-line operations expand in a safe, regular and predictable way. In addition, all parties must comply with their obligation to ensure free and unimpeded humanitarian access in line with the principles of humanity, neutrality and impartiality. He affirmed that only a Syrian-owned and Syrian-led, United Nations-facilitated political process, with due regard for the preservation of Syria’s territorial integrity, will bring lasting peace and alleviate a decade of suffering for its people.
ALICIA GUADALUPE BUENROSTRO MASSIEU (Mexico) said that it will soon be 11 years since the conflict began and there is no improvement in the situation anticipated. Some 14.6 million people require humanitarian assistance, while basic services such as water and electricity are in short supply. For political dialogue to prosper, the political will of all stakeholders is needed. It is important to observe a national ceasefire and move forward in the political process. She welcomed the consultations being held by the Special Envoy with regional and international stakeholders, especially the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates of Syria. The release of five detainees and the issuance of 40 death certificates in Eastern Ghouta is a positive step forward, but thousands of people are still disappeared or detained, she said, calling for their immediate release and for humanitarian workers to be granted access to detention centres.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France), stressing that “the war is not over”, condemned the 10 February bombings in Idlib, which led to the death of civilians, including children, and called for a cessation of all hostilities. Reaffirming Council resolution 2254 (2015), without whose implementation lasting peace will not be possible, he called on all parties to cooperate, pointing out that “the Syrian regime refuses to make the slightest gesture” in this regard. On the humanitarian front, he called on all parties to respect their international obligations, stating that 10,000 trucks require cross-border access to deliver crucial aid to 2.4 million in need in the north-east. Further, progress must continue in cross-line access in the north-east as well as the north-west. Transboundary mechanisms will be needed as long as assistance has not reached all populations in need. Noting that the French and European positions on sanctions will remain unchanged, he stated that the conditions for the safe, voluntary and dignified return of refugees have not been met. It is vital that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is allowed access to returning refugees.
DAI BING (China), expressing firm support for a Syrian-led Syrian-owned political process, called on all parties to take steps to strengthen dialogue and advance the discussions of the Constitutional Committee. He expressed hope that the seventh round of discussions will be held as scheduled in March, adding that external interference must be avoided and Syria’s sovereignty must be maintained. Further, terrorism must be eradicated to ensure secure conditions for the political process to continue. The presence of foreign terrorist fighters in the country has spillover effects, posing a common threat to countries of origin and the larger region. Efforts must be made to improve the humanitarian and economic crisis, he said, calling on the international community to extend support for measures in this regard, in line with Council resolution 2585 (2021), based on Syria’s actual needs, including for early recovery projects. Cross-border relief measures should fully utilize the role of the Syrian Government, and the blockade must be lifted to allow for the entry of relief and to enable post-war reconstruction.
BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom) said after nearly 11 years of conflict and appalling violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, 14.6 million Syrians require humanitarian assistance. The decimation of civilian infrastructure has left 76 per cent of the population unable to meet the most basic needs, meaning chronic malnutrition, rising bread prices, families camping in freezing cold conditions and the stunted growth of young children — levels of suffering that will take a generation of recovery. “As we look in horror at the unfolding situation in Ukraine, the daily struggles of men, women and children in Syria should serve as a dire warning to the international community,” she stressed. Continued and consistent humanitarian assistance must be delivered through all modalities possible, with full implementation of Council resolution 2585 (2021) and essential renewal of the United Nations cross-border mandate in July. She emphasized that ending the conflict and bringing lasting peace in Syria requires a United Nations-led political process, as set out in resolution 2254 (2015), welcoming the Special Envoy’s continued efforts and the intention to reconvene Constitutional Committee talks in Geneva in the second half of March. The Syrian regime must engage meaningfully with this process.
MONA JUUL (Norway) said that advancing the implementation of Council resolution 2254 (2015) is paramount. Welcoming the progress of the Constitutional Committee, she stated that the March meeting will be an opportunity to bring the process forward. She urged all actors to contribute constructively and in good faith. There are many issues in resolution 2254 (2015) that will benefit not only Syria but neighboring countries. The release of detainees and information about missing families is crucial and will impact many Syrians. She emphasized the work of the Syrian Women’s Advisory Board, which convened in January and declared a clear message for the need for inclusive political solutions. Their role and that of the Civil Society Support Room are crucial to bringing the political process forward. A political solution and a nationwide ceasefire are needed. She also expressed the importance of continuing the fight against Da’esh in Syria, adding that the security situation remains fragile and the current political stalemate remains unattainable.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), Council President for February, spoke in his national capacity to underscore the need to promote inter-Syrian dialogue and express hope that the Constitutional Committee’s work will focus on talks between Syrian delegations towards constitutional reform, rather than be distracted by minor details. Regularly postponing meetings in order to fine-tune methodology will not be helpful. Noting that the situation in areas not controlled by Damascus remains tense, he spotlighted the recent terrorist attack on Al-Sina’a prison and stressed the importance of an uncompromising fight against terrorism in Syria. Turning to the humanitarian situation, he said that practically all internally displaced persons have been able to return home, but difficult socioeconomic challenges remain due to suffocating unilateral sanctions. Further, only two domestic convoys have been able to reach the city of Idlib, there is no access to the area of Turkish operation and recovery aid continues to be politicized by Western donors. He went on to state that attempts to “cherry-pick” preferred elements of humanitarian assistance — such as cross-border elements — while ignoring projects for early recovery and cross-line assistance are unacceptable.
BASSAM SABBAGH (Syria) said that, at a time when his Government is making efforts to rebuild what terrorism has destroyed, it is being met with major obstacles that are limiting its achievements. Until recently, Syria has been self-sufficient in many agricultural products, but now it is compelled to import them. Syria used to produce 2.5 million tons of wheat before the war, but now it has to import 1.5 million tons instead. This is because the United States forces and the separatist militias it backs have taken control of Syrian wheat production. The major scarcity of water for irrigation is due to the fact that the Turkish regime is violating the bilateral agreements governing the water of the Euphrates.
Syria is also deficient in electricity generation because the United States occupation forces are looting oil and gas pipelines, he said. The health and medical services sector, along with the pharmaceutical industry, is experiencing the repercussions of an embargo that deprives Syrians of their right to access necessary health care and medication. The unilateral coercive measures imposed by the United States and the European Union have impacted the banking, energy and communication sectors, as well as those of land, sea, air and maritime transportation. They have also impacted the work of the United Nations and other international organizations operating in Syria. The cost of a World Food Programme (WFP) food basket has increased five-fold and its nutritional value has dropped to less than half.
During the eight months since the adoption by the Council of resolution 2585 (2021), Syria has provided support to the United Nations in its implementation, especially with regard to cross-line access and early recovery projects, he said. Syria’s frustration is as great as its suffering, he continued, stressing that the resolution’s mandate has just four months left and there has been no progress in the implementation of the early recovery projects. This is due to the lack of political will by some countries to implement the substance of the resolution. There has been no enhancement of the cross-line work either, he said, noting that in the last eight months, the United Nations was only able to send two convoys with 28 trucks across the lines to the north-west regions. This is because the Turkish regime and terrorist organizations have been hindering the access of humanitarian aid. The current political approach must be changed and talks should be undertaken to achieve the interests of the Syrian people and to end the Turkish, American and Israeli occupation of Syrian territories, he said.
FERIDUN HADI SINIRLIOĞLU (Turkey) expressed concern about the worsening humanitarian situation, with 14 million Syrians in need marking a shocking increase from last year. The situation of the displaced, including in Idlib, who are living in near destitution, is of particular concern, he said, calling for the uninterrupted provision of humanitarian aid. “There is no replacement to cross-border operations, which is a fact that empty promises will not change,” he stressed, adding that it is malicious to call for cross-line access while undertaking attacks on people. Further, he stated that the Assad Government diverts such aid for its own purposes, calling on the United Nations to answer queries in this regard and for donors to monitor the issue.
On the political process, he said delays prolong the Syrian people’s suffering. While expressing hope that the Special Envoy’s efforts led to success, he said the Syrian Government clearly intends to stall the process until the opposition is eliminated on the ground. Therefore, pressure must be exerted on “the Syrian regime, who abuse the platform and stall the process” for tangible results to be achieved, he stressed. Turkey will support the de-escalation process to enable progress towards a lasting political solution. Addressing all those calling for normalization of relations with the Government, he stated that the criminal regime must not be legitimized; instead, the lives of millions of Syrian civilians who are suffering must be normalized, and the country must be normalized so it is democratic, secular and prosperous. Turning to the threat of Da’esh, he said its eradication requires a unified strategy and genuine intelligence sharing. Repatriation of foreign terrorist fighters is a necessary step, but the root cause of terrorism must be eliminated, he said, pointing out that the Government’s attacks on its own people create a fertile ground for recruitment. He called on those who ally with groups such as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the fight against Da’esh to break ties with the illegitimate structure. Addressing the “hallucinatory statement” by the Syrian delegate, he said: “I do not consider him my legitimate counterpart; therefore I will not honour his delusional accusations with a response.”
MAJID TAKHT RAVANCHI (Iran) stressed that “nothing is more important or urgent” than ending the unilateral coercive measures that have deprived the Syrian people of their basic human rights, including those to medicine, health care, food, water, electricity and communications. Further, these illegal measures negatively impact the delivery of life-saving humanitarian supplies where they are needed most. He also condemned the robbery of the Syrian people’s natural resources in areas controlled by foreign forces — particularly oil and agricultural products — and supported the Government’s legitimate right to combat these criminal acts. Spotlighting recent Israeli attacks in Syria, he called on the Council to hold that regime accountable for its acts of aggression. Additionally, the free movement of terrorist groups in Syria’s territory where foreign forces are illegally present — as well as their transfer to other countries — endangers regional and international peace and security. However, he stressed that the fight against terrorism cannot be used as an excuse to undermine Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Mr. SABBAGH (Syria), taking the floor for a second time, said that he was speaking not to address the lies of the Turkish regime but to draw attention to the professed concern just expressed by the representative of Turkey of the operation of terrorists in Syria. The head of Da’esh, who was assassinated by United States forces, was killed a few metres away from the location of Turkish forces in Idlib and used to operate nearby. The head of the Al-Nusra Front, Abu Mohammad al-Julani, is able to move around freely in Idlib under the protection of the Turkish forces operating in that area.
CEREN HANDE ÖZGÜR (Turkey), taking the floor for a second time, noted that the Permanent Representative has said what is needed to be said and that her delegation is “not going to respond to this shameless individual”.