Special Envoy Renews Call for Nationwide Ceasefire in Syria as Onset of Winter Threatens More Humanitarian Hardship
Against the backdrop of political stalemate and a worsening security and humanitarian situation, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Syria, briefing the Security Council today, called on all parties to protect civilians and to strive for a complete nationwide ceasefire as the Syrian people inch towards another winter surrounded by armed conflict.
Geir O. Pedersen, introducing the Secretary-General’s latest report on Syria (document S/2022/775), said that recent weeks have witnessed a rash of security threats leading to conflict and violence, including following the deploying of fighters from the Council-listed terrorist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham in Afrin; reported pro-Government airstrikes in the north-west; and ongoing violence in the north-east, among other incidents.
He called on all parties to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure, to preserve deconfliction channels and de-escalation agreements and build on them towards a full nationwide ceasefire, and to find ways to counter Council-listed terrorist groups in a manner that respects international humanitarian law and Syria’s sovereignty. “It is unacceptable that hostilities continue to result in civilian casualties, including many children,” he said.
He went on to highlight diplomatic efforts, including during the General Assembly’s high-level week and in several national capitals, aimed at pushing all stakeholders “to engage on step-for-step confidence-building measures” and help advance Council resolution 2254 (2015). On the Constitutional Committee, he said that he is working to ensure that there is political will to engage in a spirit of compromise when meetings reconvene in Geneva.
Reena Ghelani, Director of the Operations and Advocacy Division in the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, painted an alarming picture of the plight of Syrian communities. At least 92 civilians were killed and 80 were injured in August and September, and security operations in the Al Hol Camp damaged shelters and temporarily restricted people’s access to humanitarian assistance and services.
On a fast-spreading cholera outbreak, she stated that 20,000 suspected cases have been reported in all 14 governorates, with at least 80 people dying so far. Millions lack reliable access to sufficient and safe water and the health system has been devastated by over a decade of conflict. To tackle the situation, the three-month cholera response plan, coordinated by the United Nations, requests just over $34.4 million to assist 162,000 people. However, much more is needed, she said, urging donors to convert their generous pledges into early disbursals of funding.
Such needs are likely to rise even further with the approach of winter, she continued. The number of people who need winterization assistance has grown by 30 per cent compared to 2021, but the winterization response by humanitarian partners remains grossly underfunded. If the funding gap is not filled, families will not receive the heating, fuel, blankets and winter clothes that they desperately need to keep warm, she warned.
In the ensuing debate, many Council members expressed concern about the political deadlock and called for the Constitutional Committee to resume its work. Others expressed alarm about the humanitarian and security situation, stressing the need for a nationwide ceasefire and for all parties to adhere to international humanitarian law.
Ireland’s representative, also speaking on behalf of Norway as the Council’s co-penholders on the Syria humanitarian file, said that all parties must comply with international humanitarian law, including the obligation to take all feasible precautions to avoid harm to civilians and civilian infrastructure.
The United Kingdom’s delegate, deploring a “frankly horrifying” humanitarian situation, stressed the need for a sustained humanitarian response, including through the Council’s renewal of the cross-border mandate in January. He also emphasized the need to fully implement Council resolution 2254 (2015), in view of the appalling human rights situation, given the tens of thousands of Syrians who have been forcibly disappeared and detained.
China’s representative said the international community must support Syria’s counter-terrorism efforts, adopt uniform standards in jointly fighting all terrorist groups listed by the Council and cut off their sources of weapons, personnel and funds. He also called on Türkiye, which has carried out four military operations in Syria since 2016, to respect Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and to resolve issues through cooperation and dialogue.
The representative of the United States underlined the need to renew and expand the cross-border aid authorization in January, stating that the Russian Federation’s decision to block a 12-month extension of the cross-border mandate has real consequences on one of the world’s biggest humanitarian operations. It is essential to give aid workers a “life-saving mandate” that prioritizes humanitarian needs above cruel political calculation, he said.
The Russian Federation’s representative blamed sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic, the food crisis and cholera, for a worsening socioeconomic and humanitarian situation in Government-controlled parts of Syria. He stressed the need to review international humanitarian activities in Syria in order to make an informed decision on the extension of Council resolution 2642 (2019) in January 2023.
Syria’s representative said the Government is taking steps to promote cohesion and unity, including through ensuring wide democratic participation and the promotion of local administration in every city and governorate. On the political front, he said Syria has made efforts to engage within the Astana Format, most recently in Tehran. It is also engaging with the Special Envoy, with whom he raised issues of breaches of Syrian sovereignty including by the United States in the north-east, Türkiye in the north-west and Israel in the occupied Golan. Any illegitimate military presence must cease, he said, also renewing his call for “inhumane and immoral” unilateral coercive measures to be lifted.
Also speaking today were the representatives of the United Arab Emirates, Mexico, Norway, Brazil, France, Albania, India, Gabon (also on behalf of Ghana and Kenya), Iran and Türki̇ye.
The meeting began at 10:04 a.m. and ended at 12:12 p.m.
GEIR O. PEDERSEN, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria, presenting the latest report of the Secretary-General (document S/2022/775), began by setting out the situation of women in Syria in light of the imminent twenty-second anniversary of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000). While women in Syria have experienced many indignities over 12 years of conflict, with civil society activists threatened and political and civic leaders struggling to secure a place at negotiating tables, they are nonetheless assuming responsibilities in their communities and demanding full representation in political processes. Against this backdrop, he said that he and Deputy Special Envoy Najat Rochdi will continue to engage and develop platforms such as the Syrian Women’s Advisory Board and Civil Society Support Room to ensure women’s equal access to the political process, as well as pursuing other initiatives, such as groups discussing issues related to local governance, decentralization, and protection needs.
Turning to the political and security situation, he described many security threats leading to outbreaks of conflict and violence, against the backdrop of a persistent strategic stalemate. These included, in recent weeks, the deploying of fighters by Security Council-listed terrorist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham in Afrin, which is reportedly withdrawing following a ceasefire; a large weapons cache being recently discovered in the north-east, highlighting the continued threat posed by the listed terrorist group Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh); reported pro-Government airstrikes in the north-west; and continuing violence in the north-east, with frequent reports of drone strikes, mutual shelling and confrontations between the Syrian Democratic Forces and Türkiye and armed opposition groups. Meanwhile, the south-west continues to see a string of security incidents each month, including ambushes, assassinations and improvised explosive device attacks, and strikes attributed to Israel have hit targets in Syria, including, once again, Damascus and Aleppo international airports, he said, reiterating his call on all parties to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure, to preserve deconfliction channels and de-escalation agreements and build on them towards a full nationwide ceasefire, and to find ways to counter Council-listed terrorist groups in a manner that respects international humanitarian law and Syria’s sovereignty. “It is unacceptable that hostilities continue to result in civilian casualties, including many children,” he said, adding that his Office has conveyed its concerns to key stakeholders in recent weeks and will continue to raise them with members of the Ceasefire Task Force in Geneva.
Turning to the humanitarian situation, he emphasized the scale of economic challenges, pointing out that the Syrian pound lost a tremendous amount of its value in recent weeks, which in turn has seen food and fuel prices jump to even higher record prices. “Syrians are enduring the worst economic crisis since the war began; and it will only get worse this winter for the vast majority,” he said, underlining the need to ensure increased and unfettered humanitarian access to all people in need throughout Syria, via the most direct routes, including cross-border and cross-line access, and for the deeper causes of economic suffering in Syria to be addressed.
He went on to highlight diplomatic efforts undertaken in recent weeks, including engagement with diplomatic counterparts during the General Assembly’s high-level week in New York, and in Washington, D.C., Berlin, Geneva, Damascus and Amman, meetings with the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Syria, the President of the Syrian National Council President, as well as the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of Iran, Russia, Türkiye, Egypt, and Jordan, and senior officials from the United States, Germany and other European countries. Such efforts are part of an effort to push all stakeholders “to engage on step-for-step confidence-building measures” to help advance Council resolution 2254 (2015), he said, stressing the need for concrete actions to rebuild confidence to enable cooperation in this regard.
Further, he said that he is striving to unblock obstacles to reconvening the Constitutional Committee, recalling that the Government of Syria’s nominees decided not to come to Geneva pending a resolution of issues related to the venue cited by Russian Federation. However, he continued: “Even assuming sessions resume in Geneva, this would not be sufficient to restore the credibility of the Committee in the eyes of most Syrians and international stakeholders.” He added that he is working to ensure that there is political will to engage in a spirit of compromise when meetings reconvene.
REENA GHELANI, Director of Operations and Advocacy Division, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, speaking on behalf of the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said that communities in Syria are caught in the middle of a spiralling security, public health and economic crisis, and are struggling to survive. According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, at least 92 civilians were killed and 80 were injured in August and September, she said, adding that 27 of those civilians were killed by explosive remnants of war. Syria reports some of the largest numbers of victims of explosive ordnance worldwide, with two out of three victims being children. Security operations in the Al Hol Camp in August and September damaged shelters and temporarily restricted people’s access to humanitarian assistance and services. Many children were detained, and humanitarian partners still lack access to those children, she said.
Turning to the rapidly spreading cholera outbreak in Syria, she noted that more than 20,000 suspected cases have been reported in all 14 governorates and that at least 80 people have died so far. Millions of people across Syria lack reliable access to sufficient and safe water and the health system has been devastated by over a decade of conflict. From 11 August to 20 October, the Alouk water station was unable to service close to 1 million people in al-Hasaka city and surrounding camps with water, she said, adding that a similar situation is unfolding in al-Bab, in Aleppo, where 185,000 people still face severe water shortages. The water crisis in northern Syria is likely to get even worse, she warned, noting that the outlook from now to December suggests an increased probability for below-normal precipitation and above-normal temperatures.
The three-month cholera response plan, coordinated by the United Nations, requests just over $34.4 million to assist 162,000 people with health services and 5 million people with water, sanitation, and hygiene assistance, she said. Moreover, the United Nations’ two pooled funds — the Syria Humanitarian Fund and the Syria Cross Border Humanitarian Fund — will make around $10 million available to partners across the country. Much more is needed, she emphasized, urging donors to convert their generous pledges into early disbursals of funding. Water scarcity has also affected crops and farmers’ livelihoods, driving prices up and putting food further out of reach for millions of people, she said, adding that Syrians today can afford only 15 per cent of the food they were able to purchase three years ago.
“We are just weeks away from another winter in Syria, and a painfully familiar scenario will soon unfold,” she warned, adding that snowstorms, freezing temperatures, strong winds, rains and flooding are expected to hit soon. This year, the number of people who need winterization assistance has increased by 30 per cent compared to the previous year. In the north-west, some 2 million people depend on winter assistance to meet their most basic needs. The winterization response launched by humanitarian partners remains grossly underfunded, she said, emphasizing that if the funding gap is not filled, families will not receive the heating, fuel, blankets, and winter clothes that they desperately need to keep warm.
The United Nations and its partners will continue to provide life-saving assistance such as food, water, health and protection services to millions of people across Syria, she continued. They are also supporting the repair and rehabilitation of critical civilian basic services; providing access to electricity for basic services; removing debris and solid waste; launching income-generating activities; and providing vocational and skills training and interventions to support the social cohesion of communities. Urging support on two crucial aspects, she said access to all people who need humanitarian assistance is critical, including continued cross-border access and increased cross-line access, in line with what international humanitarian law requires of all parties to armed conflict. Urgent funding for Syria is also needed, she said, noting that the humanitarian appeal for the country still faces significant funding shortages. “We must bring the world’s focus back to what the women, men and children of Syria need most: immediate aid, early recovery, hope for a dignified life and a better future — and above all, they need peace,” she said.
DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation) stressed the importance of the Constitutional Committee in ensuring a Syrian-led political process. Idlib has become a terrorist enclave, he said, adding that due to the patronage of Western countries, terrorists from Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham are trying to broaden their area of control. Denouncing the United States policy of encouraging Kurdish separatism and deepening the territorial split in Syria, he added that over the past nine months, only 730 refugees have been able to leave the Rukban camp while the rest are being held against their will by pro-American armed groups. The socioeconomic and humanitarian situation in Syria continues to deteriorate, primarily in Government territories, where 67 per cent of the population lives, he said, adding that this is not because of the actions of the Syrian authorities, but due to sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union, combined with the COVID-19 pandemic, the food crisis and cholera. While Western donors declare generous contributions, they are busy plundering Syrian natural resources, he continued. He emphasized the importance of a review of international humanitarian activities in Syria, within the framework of the informal dialogue concerning the implementation of Council resolution 2642 (2019), saying that this is necessary for making an informed decision on its extension in January 2023. He went on to highlight the Russian Federation’s humanitarian efforts in Syria, including the repair of industrial facilities, the launch of cooperative farms and construction of residential facilities.
ROBERT A. WOOD (United States), noting that the interference in the delivery of humanitarian assistance is creating conditions that could lead to significant displacement in Syria, said that Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham must stop its escalatory actions. Also expressing concern about the growing cholera epidemic, he said it is essential to ramp up assistance to the Syrian people now, before this outbreak spirals further out of control. His country has provided funding to help first responders throughout Syria to deliver medical care, nutrition and clean water, he said, adding that the United States is also supporting early recovery projects that are rehabilitating community water systems. Underscoring the need to renew and expand the cross-border aid authorization in January, he said the Russian Federation’s decision to block a 12-month extension of the cross-border mandate has real consequences on a humanitarian operation that is among the largest and most complicated in the world. It is essential to give aid workers a “life-saving mandate” that prioritizes the humanitarian needs of the Syrian people above cruel political calculation. Voicing support for the Special Envoy’s efforts to revive the Constitutional Committee, he stressed the need for a stand-alone entity with a humanitarian mandate to clarify the fate of missing persons.
FERGAL MYTHEN (Ireland), speaking also on behalf of Norway in their capacity as the Council’s co-penholders on the Syria humanitarian file, noted that 92 civilians, including 35 children, were killed as a result of hostilities during the latest reporting period. Calling on all parties to comply with international humanitarian law, including the obligation to take all feasible precautions to avoid harm to civilians and civilian infrastructure, he pointed to the challenges posed by cholera to a health system decimated by more than 11 years of conflict. Levels of acute and severe food insecurity are staggering, he said, stressing that Syrians can afford only one sixth of the food they could purchase in 2019. Since January, over 8 million Syrians have benefited from early recovery projects, he said, calling on all parties to support cross-line deliveries, including by providing timely security guarantees. Noting that the cross-border operation is a critical lifeline, he called on the Council to work together to confirm the continuation of the highly-monitored operation at Bab al-Hawa.
AMEIRAH OBAID MOHAMED OBAID ALHEFEITI (United Arab Emirates), voicing concern that the Syrian file does not garner needed attention from the international community, underscored that the Syrian people live in conditions that are among the worst in the world and deserve the international community’s attention. On the current deadlock in the political process, she said that the Constitutional Committee is the only platform wherein Syrians can constructively engage in a Syrian-led and Syrian-owned national dialogue to move the political process forward without foreign interference. In addition, she called for an end to foreign interventions in Syrian affairs. On the security situation, she demanded the withdrawal of Da’esh and other groups and a halt to all hostilities in northern Syria. The humanitarian situation is becoming more dangerous due to the cholera outbreak in all Syrian governorates, she continued, urging the provision of appropriate security conditions for humanitarian convoys’ unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid to all those in need throughout Syria.
JUAN RAMÓN DE LA FUENTE RAMÍREZ (Mexico) deplored ongoing attacks against civilians, including in Afrin, Idlib, and Raqqa, as well as those affecting internally displaced persons in Bab al-Hawa, and those in the vicinity of schools and health facilities. All parties must respect international humanitarian law and observe a national ceasefire, thereby creating space for the political process to resume. Expressing hope that the ninth meeting of the small body of the Constitutional Committee can be held before the end of the year, he hoped that the Special Envoy’s efforts can help make gradual progress and foster trust. He called on the Syrian authorities to engage in tangible steps towards national reconciliation, including through clarifying the situation of the disappeared and ensuring unfettered access for humanitarian agencies into detention centres. Turning to growing humanitarian needs, due to insecurity and an uptick in cholera cases, he said that all 14 governorates are in an emergency situation, and stressed the need for access to be provided to drinking water as well as sanitation and medical services. He stressed the need for the renewal of the authorization for cross-border access at Bab al-Hawa, pointing out that while the entry into the north-west of the eighth cross-line convoy last weekend was a step in the right direction, it is not enough to cover the needs of all 2.4 million people who need assistance.
MONA JUUL (Norway), pointing to the urgent need to implement confidence-building measures to move the political process forward, noted some progress on the matter of missing and arbitrarily detained persons. Calling for strengthened efforts by the Syrian authorities in implementing the amnesty, she urged the parties to get back to the negotiating table regarding the Constitutional Committee. Expressing concern about the recent violence in northern Syria, including in Idlib, where at least 92 civilians have been killed in the period of August to September, she highlighted the need for a national ceasefire. The lack of a progress towards a political solution has a negative impact on the socioeconomic situation, she said, highlighting the absence of economic opportunities, a continued brain drain, increased recruitment and use of children by armed forces and groups, and the smuggling of drugs.
RONALDO COSTA FILHO (Brazil), noting that the cholera outbreak is just another consequence of the precarious situation in Syria after 11 years of conflict, said that without a ceasefire, the sustainability of early recovery projects will remain elusive. Expressing concern about the consequences of foreign intervention, and noting the upcoming expiration of the authorization of Council resolution 2462 (2019), he called for a truly humanitarian, depoliticized approach. The next informal dialogue should be used for more transparent discussions, including on the humanitarian impact of sanctions, he said, recalling that the Secretary-General had called for the waiving of sanctions as early as in March 2020. Low levels of funding for Syrian humanitarian responses are another sign of the fatigue of international humanitarian assistance capacity, he said, adding: “The Syrian people do not want to live on humanitarian aid forever, at home or abroad.”
NATHALIE BROADHURST ESTIVAL (France) said that clashes in north-western Syria in recent weeks are proof that the war is not over in Syria, with 60 people, including a dozen civilians, reportedly losing their lives when Hayat Tahrir al-Sham fighters arrived in Afrin. “The regime and its allies are playing the card of deterioration, and in doing so, play into the hands of terrorist groups and hold the Syrian people hostage,” she said, reiterating her call for a nationwide ceasefire. She expressed support for the Special Envoy’s step-for-step approach to the political process, involving the expected resumption of the work of the Constitutional Committee in Geneva, and stressed the need for the Russian Federation to stop hijacking the process. “It is a delusion to believe that brute force is a peace plan,” she said, emphasizing the need for a tangible political process in line with Council resolution 2254 (2015) to pave the way for lasting peace. On the humanitarian front, she called for cross-border access to be renewed for at least 12 months. Turning to the conditions of Syrian refugees, she noted that only 1.7 per cent wish to return to Syria, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). She also expressed concern about reports of returnees experiencing arbitrary arrests, torture and forced conscriptions “even as the regime claims war is over”. Conditions for the dignified, safe and voluntary return of refugees have not been met, she stressed, calling also for impunity to be rejected in the case of some 100,000 disappeared persons. Given the lack of progress in the political process, the position of France and the European Union remains unchanged with respect to the normalization of relations with Syria, she added.
FERIT HOXA (Albania) said the return of cholera to Syria shows the urgency of restoring health services and water and sanitation facilities in the country as well as the importance of renewing the cross-border mechanism. Six months since the announcement in April of the “so-called ‘Presidential Amnesty’”, there is no information about releases of detainees, numbers or whereabouts, he added. “The issue of the detainees is a purely humanitarian issue and not a merchandise for political haggling,” he said, calling on the Council to make that issue a priority. In that regard, Albania strongly supports the recommendations contained in the Secretary-General’s landmark report in August, especially regarding the need to create a new mechanism for the disappeared in Syria and a trust fund to help those aggrieved. Noting the excuses made by the Assad regime and its enablers for not participating in the political process, he called on the Council to demand transparent, tangible, precise and variable measures to unlock the political process and to ensure political transition in Syria. There can be no chance for peace, prosperity and justice in Syria without due political transition to a democratic Syria through a Syrian-owned and Syrian-led process, he said.
JAMES KARIUKI (United Kingdom) welcomed the Special Envoy’s recent diplomatic discussions, while expressing concern over “Russian and regime intransigence” which continues to preclude progress. He renewed his call for their participation in good faith, adding that the Constitutional Committee should reconvene in Geneva and start focusing on substance rather than process. He added that the United Kingdom deplores the appalling human rights situation in Syria, where tens of thousands of Syrians have been forcibly disappeared and detained since the start of the conflict, including in Sednaya prison. He called for the full implementation of Council resolution 2254 (2015), which includes the release of the arbitrarily detained along with a nationwide ceasefire; unhindered aid access; and conditions for safe, voluntary and dignified refugee return. Against the backdrop of escalating hostilities in the north-west, he called on all parties to respect the ceasefire. Further, in light of the frankly horrifying humanitarian situation, he underlined the need for a sustained humanitarian response and looked forward to the Council’s renewal of the cross-border mandate in January.
GENG SHUANG (China) said the international community must actively support the Government of Syria’s counter-terrorism efforts, adopt uniform standards in jointly fighting all terrorist groups in Syria listed by the Council and cut off their sources of weapons, personnel and funds. Underscoring the need to improve the humanitarian situation, he encouraged the United Nations and the international community to invest more in early recovery projects. Cross-border assistance is a temporary arrangement made only in special circumstances, he pointed out, stressing that the transition to cross-border operations must be accelerated and a clear timetable for the final termination of cross-border delivery developed. Noting the fragile health situation and the cholera outbreak in Syria, he called on the international community to actively support the recovery and development and medical and health systems. The water shortage is the underlying cause of the cholera outbreak, he said, calling on all parties concerned to make concerted efforts to swiftly achieve a stable water supply nationwide and to immediately stop the deliberate destruction of water supply facilities. Noting that Türkiye has carried out four military operations in Syria since 2016, he called on that country to earnestly respect Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and to engage in dialogue and cooperation to resolve issues.
RAVINDRA RAGUTTAHALLI (India), noting that regional countries, particularly Syria’s Arab neighbours, have an important role to play in advancing progress on the political track, expressed hope that the upcoming Arab League meeting in Algiers will contribute to the United Nations-facilitated political process. The global fight against terrorism cannot and should not be compromised for narrow political gains, he said, calling for a zero-tolerance approach towards that scourge. Voicing concern about the overall security situation in Syria, he stressed the urgent need for serious efforts towards a comprehensive nationwide ceasefire. The withdrawal of all foreign forces is essential towards realizing this objective. He went on to say that linking humanitarian and development assistance with progress on the political track will only exacerbate the humanitarian suffering and should be avoided. The focus should be on early recovery projects and cross-line operations, he added.
MICHEL XAVIER BIANG (Gabon), Council President for October, also speaking for Kenya and Ghana, expressed concern that Idlib has become a scene of persistent violence. Bombings continue to prevent the delivery of vital humanitarian aid, he noted, calling on all parties to ensure a safe environment for unimpeded access of aid. The daily lives of Syrians are marked by difficulties in accessing food and drinking water, he added, also noting the impact of the outbreak of cholera epidemic. The cross-border operation remains indispensable, he said, stressing that there is no substitute in terms of its scale. Expressing support for extending the mandate of the cross-border mechanism, he also welcomed the sixth and seventh cross-line convoys of food aid. Noting the low levels of funding for the humanitarian response in Syria, he pointed out that 6 million people in Syria are in urgent need of assistance this winter, up more than 30 per cent from compared to last year. Calling for greater solidarity from the international community, he said that increased humanitarian funding for early recovery and livelihood programs is essential.
BASSAM SABBAGH (Syria) said that any illegitimate military presence in his country is a breach of the United Nations Charter and his country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and must cease. Counter-terrorism cannot be achieved without cooperation and coordination with Syria, he said, rejecting an announcement by the White House on 12 October that extended what it called a national emergency on Syria. Such justifications from parties that interfere in Syrian affairs and support parasitic militias and terrorist groups are unacceptable, he said.
He outlined the steps taken by Syria towards adopting measures to allow Syrians to exercise their rights and duties, including local municipal elections held on 18 September. Steps have also been taken to promote cohesion and unity, including through ensuring wide democratic participation and the promotion of local administration in every city and governorate. Syria will continue its efforts to permit many Syrians to resume their livelihoods, he said.
Turning to the political front, he said that Syria has addressed all efforts to engage within the Astana Format, most recently in Tehran, and is also continuing to engage with the Special Envoy. He recalled that during the Special Envoy’s visit to Damascus a few days ago, Syria called on the United Nations to put an end to breaches of its sovereignty, including by the United States in the north-east, Turkey in the north-west and Israel in occupied Golan. On the humanitarian front, he said that his formerly prosperous and self-sufficient country is now facing a grave crisis following a terrorist war that began in 2011 and which has been exacerbated by unilateral coercive measures and the plunder of Syria’s wealth. Nonetheless, Syria is extending help to the United Nations, including with respect to early recovery projects in line with resolution 2642 (2022), he said, adding that he looked forward to a genuine discussion to defining the obstacles and difficulties in implementing it before the expiry of the mandate of the resolution and the end of the year. He renewed his call for “inhumane and immoral” unilateral coercive measures to be lifted and called on the United States to put an end to its illegitimate presence in north-east Syria and to provide compensation for losses of $107 billion stemming from its presence in one of the region’s biggest oil fields. Further, he stated that Türkiye’s presence in Alouk water station is depriving al-Hasaka of its sole source of water and risks causing the deaths of women, children and the elderly.
AMIR SAEID JALIL IRAVANI (Iran) said that preserving Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity must be accomplished as soon as possible by ending foreign aggression and foreign occupation, dealing with terrorist threats and lifting sanctions imposed on the Syrian people. Noting the importance of early recovery projects, he urged all stakeholders and donors to support the full implementation of Council resolution 2642 (2022), stop politicizing humanitarian and development efforts, and remove obstacles, particularly by refraining from imposing unilateral coercive measures. Politicizing a meeting such as the informal interactive dialogue will only undermine the resolution’s goal and implementation, he pointed out, voicing hope that the next meeting will be a real interactive dialogue about identifying obstacles to implementation, and ways to avoid them, before the resolution’s mandate expires early next year.
The only way to improve the situation in Syria is a political solution through a Syrian-owned and Syrian-led political process facilitated by the United Nations, he said, noting that his delegation maintains contact with the Government, the Special Envoy and Astana Format partners in order to facilitate the next Constitutional Committee meeting as soon as possible. The Israeli regime’s aggression against Syrian sovereignty and territorial integrity continues unabated, despite Syria’s repeated requests for the Council’s condemnation, he added. The Council’s silence has emboldened the Israeli regime to carry out its aggression and crimes more openly and broadly, most particularly the systematic and intentional targeting of civilians and vital infrastructure in Syria, he said, urging the Council to stop using a double standard, condemn Israeli aggression unequivocally and hold it accountable for crimes jeopardizing regional peace and security.
FERIDUN HADI SINIRLIOĞLU (Türkiye), stressing that the Syrian crisis must not be treated as a frozen conflict, added that the Syrian opposition has displayed a constructive attitude since the very beginning and the regime should reciprocate this approach. Emphasizing the importance of a Syrian-led political solution, he said that the PKK/YPG [Kurdish Workers’ Party] poses a grave threat not only to Syria’s territorial integrity but also to his country’s national security. Noting that the agreements of October 2019 with the United States and Russian Federation have yet to be fully implemented, he said that the claim that the PKK/YPG and the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces are fighting ISIL/Da’esh is misguided. In fact, they are attacking Syrian civilians with weapons provided to them to fight ISIL/Da’esh. Türkiye will carry out counter-terrorism operations in exercise of its inherent right to self-defense, he said, calling on the regime and its supporters to adhere to the ceasefire arrangement of February 2020. The negative attitude of the regime has prevented the Syrian population from benefiting from the humanitarian assistance, he added.