Political Process Possible for Syria, but Cannot Advance until Violence Abates, Senior Official Tells Security Council
The political process and the prevention of an economic collapse in Syria will not advance meaningfully until violence is curtailed and ultimately ends, the Deputy Special Envoy for that country told the Security Council today, detailing United Nations efforts to address the Syrian peoples’ immediate concerns for safety and security, livelihoods and humanitarian assistance.
Najat Rochdi, Deputy Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria, said that, despite calls for restraint, Syrian civilians are still being killed, detained, displaced and unable to return home safely. Even in the past two weeks of relative calm, there has been ongoing exchanges of rocket and artillery fire, as well as violent incidents by illicit terrorist groups.
Stabilizing the conflict and advancing a sustainable political solution are the best ways to stem the country’s economic collapse, she said, pointing to a decade of conflict coupled with mismanagement, sanctions, de facto division of the country, COVID-19 pandemic and repercussions of the war in Ukraine. “A nationwide ceasefire remains a fundamental goal of the political process,” she underscored.
“Syrian women can and must play an active role in shaping the political solution and ensuring that it translates into reality on the ground,” she also stressed. Discussions with the Syrian Women’s Advisory Board in Geneva brought home the realities of the conflict. Yet, despite many differences among them, the women in the Advisory Board have demonstrated that common ground can be found. Progress is possible, and Syrians can come together to rescue their country and focus on its future, she emphasized.
Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said the cholera outbreak in Syria is a “stark reminder” of the vital support Syrians need, as well as an indicator of severe water shortages throughout the country. Although over 4 million Syrians have benefited in 2022 from early recovery projects, the humanitarian response plan for Syria needs $4.4 billion and the regional refugee and resilience plan an additional $6.1 billion. He called for all pledges to be fulfilled and additional ones to be made and disbursed quickly.
He also noted that, while the United Nations has finalized a revised crossline plan to incrementally ensure further access to people in need, this requires multiple, unimpeded crossline convoys to be carried out. Calling for relevant parties’ full cooperation to implement this plan, he said that, if successful, it will further complement the massive cross-border operation.
Mazen Darwish, General Director of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression, stressed that the local powers sharing Syrian geography have no political or moral legitimacy. He called for all players there to withdraw their ambassadors and stop using his country as a battlefield to settle scores, and instead start a strategic real partnership with the Syrian people.
He also pointed out that while he wants to return to his country, without legal guarantees and application of international law that would only be giving his executioners a second chance to kill him. An international mechanism addressing the plight of refugees and the arbitrarily disappeared would be the first time the Council had a real road map to address one of most urgent situations affecting Syrians.
In the ensuing debate, speakers called for the resumption of talks in Geneva by the Constitutional Committee, while others, concerned about the stark humanitarian challenges in Syria, deliberated over the modalities for delivery of humanitarian aid.
The representative of Norway, also speaking on behalf of Ireland as co-sponsor for the Syria humanitarian file, reiterated her support for both cross-border and crossline deliveries. “This is not a question of either or,” she said, pointing out that conflict, food insecurity, drought, COVID-19 and a collapsing economy all contribute to a heavy toll on the Syrian people.
Still, China’s representative noted that two months after the adoption of resolution 2642 (2022), there has been only one crossline delivery of humanitarian aid, with no improvement in efficiency and scale. He reiterated that cross-border aid is only a temporary modality made under exceptional circumstances, and transition to crossline relief must be accelerated.
France’s representative stressed that, as winter approaches, progress in crossline access must continue, but cannot replace cross-border operations, which represent an average of 800 truckloads of aid crossing the Turkish border each month. It was imperative to renew the cross-border humanitarian aid mechanism next January for at least one year, he stressed.
Echoing that, Mexico’s representative underlined that all mechanisms must be available for distribution of humanitarian assistance. More than 2.4 million people benefit from the cross-border mechanism every month. She also voiced regret that the ninth session of the Constitutional Committee has not been held, underscoring that “the need to change the location for the talks is being posited as an argument for halting its work.”
The representative of the Russian Federation insisted that, without linking those talks to a specific location, it was important to resume the work of the Constitutional Committee. His country will continue to facilitate the steady work of the Committee and ensure that Syrians, without outside interference, can come to an agreement on all outstanding issues regarding the future of their country.
The Syrian Government, said that country’s representative, is working to restore security and stability and eliminate all pockets of terrorism. However, Israeli aggression continues, along with the illegitimate presence of United States troops in Syria and their activities, which continue to violate Syria’s territorial integrity.
He also said that throughout the past 10 years, certain Western countries have been misinterpreting Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations to justify attacks and transgression on other countries’ sovereignty and independence. Restoring security and stability in Syria will continue to hinge on Western States stopping their interference in the country’s internal affairs, ending the economic embargo, supporting the end of terrorism, and removing their occupying foreign troops from Syria.
Iran’s representative also said that the illegal presence of foreign forces in the country has created ideal conditions for terrorist activity and must be ended. Condemning the Israeli regime’s aerial military aggression in Syria, he called on the Council to hold the Israeli regime accountable for such atrocities. Noting the disastrous consequences of sanctions on Syrians, he said: “It is contradictory to claim concern for the difficult humanitarian situation in Syria while supporting unilateral sanctions against the Syrian people.”
Nonetheless, Türkiye’s representative, calling the cross-border aid mechanism a reflection of the international community’s commitment to maintain accountability, along with Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, stressed that a sustainable solution to the conflict in Syria will only be achieved through political means pursuant to resolution 2254 (2015). This requires the holding of elections under United Nations supervision, he said.
Also speaking today were the representatives of the United States, Albania, Ghana (also for Kenya and Gabon), United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, Ireland, India, and Brazil.
The meeting began at 10:01 a.m. and ended at 12:01 p.m.
NAJAT ROCHDI, Deputy Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria, said that, despite calls for restraint, Syrian civilians are still being killed, detained, displaced and unable to return home safely. Even in the past two weeks of relative calm, there has been ongoing exchanges of rocket and artillery fire, as well as reports of Israeli airstrikes; some temporarily took Aleppo International Airport out of service. There have also been violent incidents by illicit terrorist groups, including fresh violence in Al-Hawl. “The political process will not advance meaningfully or sustainably until violence is curtailed and ultimately ends. A nationwide ceasefire remains a fundamental goal of the political process,” she underscored, highlighting the obligation of all parties to strictly adhere to international humanitarian law and human rights law.
The United Nations is supporting humanitarian colleagues through the Humanitarian Task Force in Geneva, even as access remains constrained and resources dwindle, she continued. All available tools must be used to ensure the full implementation of resolution 2642 (2022) through all modalities, whether cross-border or crossline. Stabilizing the conflict and advancing a sustainable political solution are the best ways to stem the country's economic collapse. A decade of conflict coupled with mismanagement, sanctions, de facto division of the country, the Lebanese financial crisis, COVID-19 pandemic and repercussions of the war in Ukraine have all contributed to leaving the Syrian economy in dire straits.
Turning to the situation of detainees, abducted and missing persons, she pointed out that relatives who search for loved ones are at a high risk of exploitation, harassment, violence and stigma. They often have to declare a loved one missing to access inheritance, custody or property so that they can support their family. Voicing concern about reports of continued arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, abductions and kidnapping for ransom, including of women and children, she said the families of the missing have worked in the past years alongside civil society organizations, as well as with the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Special Envoy’s office and other organizations. Their voices are now reflected in the recent report by the Secretary-General calling for Member States’ support for a new international body for addressing those issues in a humanitarian and holistic manner that is victim-survivor and family centric.
“Syrian women can and must play an active role in shaping the political solution and ensuring that it translates into reality on the ground,” she underscored, adding that discussions with the Syrian Women’s Advisory Board in Geneva brought home the realities of the conflict. They described, among others, the effects of the economic crisis and the deprivation that adults and children, including those in internally displaced communities, face, such as sexual abuse and forced labour. “Syrian children are growing up without their health, education and standard of living assured, and with gaping uncertainty to their futures,” she said. To address that, an ambitious work plan is being developed and the United Nations will continue to facilitate their meetings and amplify their voices.
She also pointed out that the women in the Advisory Board and participants in wider civil society dialogue demonstrate that, despite many differences among them, common ground can be found. Progress is possible, and Syrians can come together to rescue their country and focus on its future. “We must advance a sustainable, inclusive, political solution to keep the hope for those who are fighting every day and correct Syria’s trajectory on all these fronts,” she said.
MARTIN GRIFFITHS, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, noting that hostilities have continued in Syria, expressed particular concern over news of a cholera outbreak in the northern part of the country. The United Nations and its partners are supporting relevant authorities in responding to cases, and he stressed that this outbreak is a “stark reminder” of the criticality of continued support for the people of Syria, especially as the health system has been devastated by years of conflict. It is also an indicator of severe water shortages throughout Syria resulting from low water levels in the Euphrates, drought-like conditions and the extent of infrastructure destruction. Also spotlighting critical water shortages in the Al-Hasakah Governorate, he underscored the importance of access to safe water and called on all parties to facilitate the same.
Noting that over 4 million Syrians have benefited in 2022 from projects contributing to early recovery and resilience, he said that United Nations efforts to succeed in improving people’s access to livelihood opportunities and basic services requires commitment and support from donors. The humanitarian response plan for Syria needs $4.4 billion and the regional refugee and resilience plan seeks an additional $6.1 billion. These amounts reflect the severity of humanitarian needs in Syria and in the region following more than 11 years of crisis. Recalling that, at the sixth Brussels conference in May, donors pledged $4.3 billion for Syria and the region, he pointed out only a quarter of the humanitarian response plan is funded and that the regional refugee and resilience plan has less than 20 per cent funding. Against that backdrop, he called for all pledges to be fulfilled, and for additional ones to be made and disbursed quickly.
Turning to humanitarian access, he said that recent airstrikes have disrupted the operations of the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service at the Aleppo airport, limiting the Organization’s ability to provide humanitarian assistance in the Al-Hol camp. While the United Nations has finalized a revised crossline plan to incrementally ensure further access to people in need, this requires multiple, unimpeded crossline convoys to be carried out, with an increasing number of trucks in each convoy. Calling for the full cooperation of the relevant parties to implement this plan, he said that, if successful, it will further complement the massive cross-border operation.
He then recounted the story of Rasha, a mother and community leader in Idlib who lives in a displacement camp with 1,200 other families. Despite suffering a severe spinal injury during bombings in 2019 and being confined to a wheelchair, she was instrumental in establishing a kindergarten and physical-therapy centre in the camp. That facility now services almost 20 other camps and sees some 50 patients a day. He recalled her words while urging the Council to play its part: “Nothing is impossible when there is will and action”.
MAZEN DARWISH, General Director of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression, speaking as the voice of ordinary Syrians, stressed that the local powers sharing Syrian geography have no political or moral legitimacy. He called for all players there to withdraw their ambassadors and stop using his country as a battlefield to settle scores, but, instead, start a strategic real partnership with the Syrian people. The preamble of every Council resolution on Syria stresses that country’s sovereignty and independence. Even the Russian Federation always couples humanitarian aid with respect for sovereignty. The word “sovereignty” is part and parcel to all Member States’ constitutions — “so why would Syrians be the exception?” he asked.
Unless Syria obtains its democracy and sovereignty, it cannot stop the problems emanating from the country, including mercenaries, he continued. Everyone has heard enough repetitions of the numbers of civilian victims and are aware of the humanitarian catastrophe affecting the country. Thus, it is no longer possible to remain silent towards those practicing racism and intolerance. Further, every day, politicians of hosting countries stress the safe return of Syrians, but it is an arbitrary and perilous forced return. While he sincerely wants to return to his country, without legal guarantees and application of international law, that would only be giving his executioners a second chance to kill him, he pointed out.
Notwithstanding that bleak picture, he voiced some hope that his statement was highlighting the plight of refugees and the arbitrarily disappeared. An international mechanism is needed on that issue, he said, underscoring that it would be the first time the Council had a real road map to address one of most urgent situations affecting Syrians. There is nothing to discuss anymore, and the Syrian people will not accept any delay of such a plan.
He went on to say that the majority of Syrians dream of the day when a peaceful settlement arrives on the basis of resolution 2254 (2015) — but for it to be sustainable, it must be based on transitional justice. He recalled the Mexican-French initiative and code of conduct suggested by Switzerland, calling for forgoing any veto right in relation to atrocities. Citing the trial of Slobodan Milošević before the International Criminal Court, he stressed that the only virtue in war is the end of war. However, any political agreement that does not include justice will only lead to ceasefire in the best-case scenario, he emphasized.
MONA JUUL (Norway), also speaking on behalf of Ireland as co-sponsor for the Syria humanitarian file, pointed out that conflict, food insecurity, drought, COVID-19 and a collapsing economy all contribute to a heavy toll on the Syrian people. Expressing particular concern over the gendered impact of the conflict, including an increased risk of early marriage for girls and the risk of recruitment to armed groups for boys, she underlined the need for a holistic and broader humanitarian response. Also voicing concern over the recent outbreak of cholera in Syria, she reiterated her support of all modalities for the delivery of humanitarian aid — both cross-border and crossline. “This is not a question of either or,” she said. Also citing data that one in three schools in Syria are no longer used for educational purposes, she urged all parties to refrain from actions that impede safe access to education.
LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States), noting that the Assad regime has made little progress in addressing the political situation as required by resolution 2254 (2015), said that the new cholera outbreak poses a great threat to Syria’s people. It was because of this and other crises that the United States pushed so hard for a one-year renewal of the cross-border mechanism, she said, calling for that mechanism to be extended for another 12 months in January. Recalling her country’s May announcement that it would provide over $800 million in humanitarian aid for Syria, she reported that, today, her country has pledged to provide new, additional funding of more than $756 million. This new assistance will bring immediate relief to millions of refugees and displaced persons; help humanitarian partners provide clean water, food, hygiene supplies, shelter and nutrition assistance; and include support for early-recovery programmes. The United States is the world’s largest donor to Syria. However, her country cannot do it alone, she said, calling on others to join “in doing more and giving more”. More so, it is “past time for Russia and the Assad regime to meet their commitments and to do right by the Syrian people”, she stressed.
FERIT HOXHA (Albania), underscoring that humanitarian aid needs to reach everyone everywhere, voiced support for the implementation of all aspects of resolution 2642 (2022) over the next months and called for its renewal for at least 12 months next January. On the political track, he said he wished there were more news other than keeping record of successive meetings of the Syrian-led Constitutional Committee in Geneva. He voiced support for the Special Envoy’s efforts and step-by-step approach. However, the Special Envoy cannot “walk alone”, he pointed out, stressing that without will and others’ genuine efforts, the current deadlock will continue to prolong the agony of Syrians. Syria today is a country with one of the highest numbers of detainees and missing persons. An independent mechanism with a strong international mandate must be established to clarify the fate and whereabouts of missing people in that country. It should be a key priority and deliver concrete results in order to bring relief to affected families and build trust among Syrians, he said.
HAROLD ADLAI AGYEMAN (Ghana), also speaking for Gabon and Kenya, urged the parties and stakeholders to inject a new lease of life into the fragile political process, including through a return to the ninth session of the Constitutional Committee meetings. The parties need to agree on the modalities of the talks as soon as possible to help lay a foundation for the resumption of the much-awaited political process. It is also important to engage in confidence-building measures, including addressing the situation of detainees, through facilitating the release of detained vulnerable groups, including the elderly, women and children. The enhanced role of regional stakeholders and the international community in support of the political process should be in line with resolution 2254 (2015), which remains the road map to achieving the desired political solution in a manner that takes into account the interests of the widest spectrum of the Syrian population.
Turning to the security situation, he said all parties must adhere to the nationwide ceasefire and commit to the protection of civilians, humanitarian workers and civilian infrastructure. Also needed are decisive collective actions to combat Council listed groups, such as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as Da’esh, and the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham in a manner that ensures that victims get justice. On the humanitarian situation, he noted that more than 4 million Syrians are food insecure while as many as 5.5 million people require nutrition assistance and have no reliable access to water. The cross-border aid mechanism, complemented by crossline deliveries, is therefore a vital avenue for humanitarian assistance and must be sustained even as efforts to expand the crossline deliveries continue. To ease the colossal humanitarian burden in camps, he called on States to repatriate their citizens, particularly women, children and the elderly from camps in Syria. As well, more support to the early recovery and livelihood activities under the United Nations humanitarian response will greatly help to build resilience and assist Syrians in getting back to normalcy.
BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom) called for the full implementation of resolution 2254 (2015), including: a nationwide ceasefire, unhindered aid access, and release of the arbitrarily detained, as well as conditions for safe, voluntary and dignified refugee return, and free and fair elections pursuant to a new constitution. She expressed disappointment that the Russian Federation continues to stall the Constitutional Committee process. Geneva is the agreed venue for what should be Syrian-led and Syrian-owned Constitutional Committee talks, and it is time to get beyond talking about a location and into the substance. In addition, tens of thousands of Syrians have been forcibly disappeared and detained during the conflict, and thousands of families are waiting to hear about loved ones. “They deserve answers,” she stressed. Welcoming the Commission of Inquiry report, which highlights the conflict’s disproportionate impact on women and girls, she said that — as the report makes clear — the Syrian regime and its allies bear primary responsibility for the devastation in the country. The data shared by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has also made clear the stark humanitarian challenge, aggravated by increased uncertainty for humanitarian providers. Aid should be delivered to the 14.6 million Syrians who need assistance in the most efficient and effective way possible. Despite crossline efforts, there is clearly no substitute for the scope and scale of the cross-border operation mandated by the Council, she pointed out.
ALICIA GUADALUPE BUENROSTRO MASSIEU (Mexico), expressing regret that the ninth session of the Constitutional Committee has not been held, said “the need to change the location for the talks is being posited as an argument for halting its work”. It is necessary to work on confidence-building measures, she added. On the issue of accountability, given the “impossibility” of referring the case to the International Criminal Court, she reiterated her call for cooperation with the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Persons Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes under International Law Committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011, as well as other investigations ongoing under universal jurisdiction. While noting the lack of progress in the political and chemical weapons tracks, she stressed that progress in the humanitarian front also leaves a lot to be desired. Against the backdrop of food insecurity exacerbated by the international crisis concerning fuel and commodities, as well as by adverse climate conditions, she emphasized that the situation compels the international community to make efficient use of all mechanisms available for the distribution of humanitarian assistance. Noting that 2.4 million people benefit from the cross-border mechanism every month, she stressed that there is no substitute in either scale or scope for this mechanism, and that the crossline operations are “complementary”.
AMEIRAH OBAID MOHAMED OBAID ALHEFEITI (United Arab Emirates) reiterated her position against foreign interference in Syria to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity. The increase in the number of attacks conducted by ISIL/Da’esh reflects the continued threat it poses to the security and stability of Syria and the wider region. The economic situation continues to deteriorate; most Syrians suffer from a lack of basic daily necessities and essential services, such as electricity. Additionally, the difficult conditions in Al-Hol camp require urgent attention from the international community, especially as ISIL/Da’esh continues to exploit these conditions to spread its extremist ideologies. In particular, she highlighted the dire situation of women and girls in the camp. According to United Nations reports, 75 per cent of the murder victims there were women, with additional reports of sexual violence. She further highlighted the dangers that mines and other unexploded ordnances pose to the Syrian people, with one out of every two people at risk of death or injury. In that regard, she commended efforts by relevant agencies, including the United Nations Mine Action Service, in educating local communities about their risks. More so, it is important to ensure the delivery of unhindered and impartial humanitarian aid to all those in need throughout Syria, with proper security conditions to enable the humanitarian convoy destined for Ras al-Ain to reach its destination. To that end, she noted that the Aleppo airport is operating again, which is essential to facilitate flights of the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service.
FERGAL TOMAS MYTHEN (Ireland), while expressing support for the Special Envoy’s efforts to de-escalate the situation in Syria, noted that the appalling loss of human life, including of children’s lives, continues. He went on to show support for the Special Envoy on restoring momentum to the political process, as well as to renew its call for the full implementation of resolution 2254 (2015). He called on Syria’s Government to engage fully and meaningfully in the Constitutional Committee. He also voiced support for the ongoing engagement with the Women’s Advisory Board and with civil society, emphasizing that any new constitution and related political process need to be fully inclusive. Welcoming the Secretary-General’s study on missing people in Syria, he also stressed that “Ireland calls on Damascus to be much more transparent on the release of arbitrarily detained people.”
DAI BING (China) said a Syrian-led and Syrian-owned political process is the only way to resolve the issue. Welcoming the sustained efforts of the Special Envoy and his team to promote a constructive solution, he stressed that at present, Syria is facing a complex security situation, and the international community must adopt a unified standard based on international law and Council resolutions to combat terrorist forces with zero tolerance. Actions that condone, harbour or politically exploit terrorist forces must stop. As the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria must be respected, he stressed that illegally stationing troops or even military bases in the country without the authorities’ consent is a serious violation. Such acts are in no way in line with defending the Charter of the United Nations. He noted that two months after the adoption of resolution 2642 (2022), there has been only one crossline delivery of humanitarian aid, with no improvement in efficiency and scale. He reiterated that cross-border aid is only a temporary modality made under exceptional circumstances, and transition to crossline relief must be accelerated. As airports are crucial to humanitarian aid, all attacks on humanitarian infrastructure must cease immediately.
RUCHIRA KAMBOJ (India) said that, while the Special Envoy’s efforts to engage with all stakeholders are commendable, “any positive impact on the political track has yet to be seen”. Attributing this lack of progress to external factors impeding the political process and a lack of flexibility or compromise by stakeholders, she expressed hope that all sides will engage constructively with the Special Envoy. Further, regional players should continue to support the same, and she welcomed the continuing normalization of Syria’s relations with its Arab neighbours in this regard. There is an urgent need for serious attempts towards a comprehensive, nationwide ceasefire in Syria. The withdrawal of all foreign forces is important towards this end. Stressing that the global fight against terrorism cannot — and should not — be “compromised for narrow political gains”, she expressed concern over the resurgence of terrorist groups in Syria. On the humanitarian front, she said that — as cross-border operations, while important, cannot operate in perpetuity — steps must be taken to address obstacles to crossline operations. Adding that linking humanitarian and development assistance with political progress will only exacerbate suffering, she also called on the international community to promote projects that will bring economic opportunities to the Syrian people.
RONALDO COSTA FILHO (Brazil), noting the lack of progress since the postponement of the ninth session of the Constitutional Committee, expressed hope that the Committee will soon reconvene with fresh ideas and renewed political will. Highlighting that the overall funding for the Humanitarian Response Plan stands at only around 25 per cent of the requested funds, he emphasized that humanitarian assistance must continue to reach all those in need. While he described cross-border operations as “indispensable”, he also stressed that they cannot exist in perpetuity. In this regard, concrete steps are needed to address the hurdles obstructing the functioning of crossline operations. Concerning sanctions, he reiterated the importance of conducting a thorough assessment of the potential deleterious consequences of unilateral sanctions on the civilian population. “Only a Syrian-owned and Syrian-led, United Nations-facilitated political process, with due regard for the preservation of Syria’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, can offer a lasting solution to the conflict,” he emphasized.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said that, without linking it to a specific location, it is important to resume the work of the Constitutional Committee; it is the best format for a direct inter-Syrian dialogue. His country will continue to facilitate the steady work of the Committee and ensure that Syrians, without outside interference, can come to an agreement on all outstanding issues regarding the future of their country. His country, together with its partners in the Astana format, Iran and Türkiye, will continue to facilitate long-term normalization in Syria. However, the threat of another military operation in the north, an increase in the number of random attacks by the Israeli Air Force, and the continued illegal foreign military presence of the United States and its allies are escalating an already explosive situation. The international community, including the United Nations leadership, ignores Damascus’ appeals with respect to those countries’ violations of the Charter of the United Nations and international humanitarian law. Western States, especially the United States, need to stop impeding the process of Syria’s return to the “Arab family”. A swift normalization of the relationship between Damascus and the region and dialogue with the Syrian leadership is in the interest of long-term settlement within Syria and general stabilization in the region.
Ms. JUUL (Norway), speaking in her national capacity, welcomed the amnesty that was announced by the Syrian Government in April, but also expressed regret that there has been little progress in implementing it. Also expressing disappointment that the political track has lacked progress, including the stalled process regarding the Constitutional Committee, she urged the parties concerned to contribute constructively and in good faith to the political process. Highlighting the recent escalations in violence in the country, especially in northern Syria, she stressed that “these negative developments further highlight the overall need for a national ceasefire.”
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France), Council President for September, speaking in his national capacity, noted the political process is at a standstill and the Constitutional Committee no longer meets. In addition, the regime has not agreed to share any information regarding the implementation of the latest amnesty decree. While the number of missing people in Syria is estimated at more than 100,000, the regime still refuses to publish lists of prisoners or issue death certificates — one of the many examples clearly demonstrating its lack of respect for human rights and, more cruelly, for its people. Thanking Mr. Darwish for his courage and his work in defence of missing persons and freedom of expression in Syria, he stressed that those responsible for the crimes committed in Syria will have to answer for their actions. In the absence of any progress in the political process, French and European positions on the lifting of sanctions, normalization and reconstruction remain unchanged. A few weeks after the renewal for only six months of the cross-border humanitarian mechanism, there are operational difficulties on the ground: an increase in costs, and uncertainty for humanitarian actors. As winter approaches, it is crucial to ensure that the humanitarian community will be able to respond to the immense needs of the population. Progress in crossline access must continue, but cannot replace cross-border operations, which represent an average of 800 truckloads of aid crossing the Turkish border each month. Therefore, it is imperative to renew the cross-border humanitarian aid mechanism next January, for at least one year, he stressed.
BASSAM SABBAGH (Syria) said that the Syrian Government is sparing no effort to restore security and stability and eliminate all pockets of terrorism. However, Israeli aggression continues, with its air force targeting the Aleppo airport and causing the airport to become non-operational. The Council and all United Nations officials must condemn Israel’s hostile acts. Further, the illegitimate presence of United States troops in Syria, their support for separatist militias and terrorist groups and the looting of Syrian oil and other natural resources continue to violate Syria’s territorial integrity. Throughout the past 10 years, certain western countries have been misinterpreting Article 51 of the Charter to justify attacks and transgression on other countries’ sovereignty and independence. The only de facto and de jure description of the illegitimate actions of the United States troops in Syria is a crime of aggression. Moreover, Syrians continue to face challenges due to the politicization of humanitarian aid by Western donors, as well the unilateral coercive measures imposed by the United States and the European Union. Noting that donors upholding their pledges with respect to funding the Syrian Humanitarian Response Plan is not promising, he said his delegation looks forward to interactive dialogues before the end of this month to identify gaps and help overcome them.
Turning to the recurring cuts and interruption in the water supply in north-eastern Syria, he spotlighted the lack of condemnation for those who are causing the recurrent water issues and turning a blind eye to the suffering of Syrians. Moreover, the United States is responsible for the human suffering in Rukban camp; the suffering will end there only by closing the camp. The same applies to the al-Hol camp in the north-east controlled by separatist militias and backed by United States occupying troops. That camp should also be closed after the repatriation of nationals of third countries detained there. Noting that certain Western countries have organized a campaign regarding the issue of missing persons in Syria, he said the real objective of those countries is to launch a new mechanism which will be no different from all politicized and biased international mechanisms to exercise more pressure on Syria. “Restoring security and stability in Syria on Syria will continue to hinge on Western States stopping their interference in Syrian internal affairs, ending the immoral economic embargo, supporting the end of terrorism, unconditionally declaring the end of foreign terrorist fighters and their affiliates, and the final exit of occupying foreign troops from Syria,” he said.
AMIR SAEID JALIL IRAVANI (Iran), stressing that the fight against terrorism must not be used to undermine Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, said that the illegal presence of foreign forces in the country — which has created ideal conditions for terrorist activity — must be ended. Condemning the Israeli regime’s aerial military aggression in Syria — including the recent attack on Aleppo International Airport — he called on the Council to hold the Israeli regime accountable for such atrocities. On the political process, he emphasized that the Syrian Constitutional Committee must work in accordance with its rules of procedure, free of outside influence or pressure and without the imposition of artificial deadlines. He also said that “political circumstances” should not prevent humanitarian aid from reaching the people in need. The continuation of illegal, unilateral sanctions against the Syrian people has disastrous consequences in all aspects of their lives and has also negatively impacted the international and national efforts of humanitarian organizations in Syria. Calling for an end to these illegal, disruptive measures, he said: “It is contradictory to claim concern for the difficult humanitarian situation in Syria while supporting unilateral sanctions against the Syrian people.”
FERIDUN HADI SINIRLIOĞLU (Türkiye), noting that the cross-border mechanism continues to be an irreplaceable lifeline for millions of people in Syria, said that the mechanism also reflects the international community’s commitment to maintain accountability, along with Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The Council must extend the cross-border mechanism for 12 months in January, or the hope of Syrians waiting for help will be further dashed. For its part, Türkiye will continue implementing resolution 2642 (2022), including by facilitating crossline missions to Idlib. However, crossline aid alone cannot be the end goal; aid must be delivered through the safest, most direct route, and humanitarian aid planning must be based on individual needs assessments, not on one-sided preferences. Noting that violations continued unabated in Idlib, he said that this represents the biggest obstacle to normalizing crossline deliveries in the region. On the issue of water shortages, he pointed out that the Alouk water station requires electrical power to operate, which is deliberately cut by the PKK/YPG [Kurdish Workers’ Party] terrorist organization on a regular basis. He went on to say that while humanitarian action can address symptoms, it cannot solve the problem. A sustainable solution to the conflict in Syria will only be achieved through political means pursuant to resolution 2254 (2015), which requires the holding of elections under United Nations supervision.