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9204th Meeting (AM)
SC/15121

Uptick in Violence Threatens Three Years of Relative Calm in Syria, Special Envoy Tells Security Council, Calling for De-Escalation

Cross-Border Mechanism Must Be Renewed, Speakers Say, as Need for Aid Grows

Worrying and dangerous developments in Syria risk triggering a military escalation that would threaten nearly three years of relative calm, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Syria told the Security Council today, calling on all parties to de-escalate immediately and to focus on the stalled political process instead.

Geir O. Pedersen noted in particular a slow increase in fighting between the Syrian Democratic Forces on the one side, and Türkiye and armed opposition groups on the other, across northern Syria, with violence spilling over into Turkish territory.  Recalling the Secretary-General’s plea for all parties to exercise maximum restraint and avoid escalation, he said that more violence will spell more harm for Syrian civilians and endanger regional stability with listed terrorist groups taking advantage of fresh instability.

On the political process, he looked forward to further engagement with the Government and the Syrian Negotiation Commission during a visit to Damascus next week, as part of his ongoing step-for-step confidence-building efforts to advance Council resolution 2254 (2015).  He expressed concern, however, that the Constitutional Committee has not met for six months.  The longer it remains dormant, the harder it will be for it to resume its work, he said, adding that the absence of a credible political process only promotes further conflict and instability.

“We are at something of a fork in the road,” he went on, calling for all parties to step back from escalation as well as a renewal of the humanitarian framework and a resumption of Constitutional Committee meetings.  He also appealed for prioritized efforts on detained, disappeared and missing persons as well as for more profound work on confidence-building measures.

Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said that 12 years since the conflict began, 80 per cent of Syria’s popular depend on humanitarian assistance.  “The trend is clear:  more people need our support each year to survive,” he said, warning that the number of people requiring such aid is expected to surpass 15 million in 2023, up from 14.6 million this year.  Summarizing some of the most recent incidents of violence and instability, he said all sides must take care to spare civilians during their military operations.  Emphasizing the ongoing water crisis in northern Syria and the spread of cholera, he added that Syrians are struggling to put food on the table, particularly given the country’s dependence on increasingly expensive food imports.

Against this backdrop, he stressed that cross-border humanitarian operations, in addition to cross-line deliveries within Syria, remain essential for the lives of more than million people in the north-west.  Recalling that the Council’s authorization of cross-border assistance is set to expire in six weeks, he said that Syrians want the need for outside assistance to disappear and for peace to return.

In the ensuing debate, many Council members expressed alarm at the escalation of hostilities and called on all parties to exercise maximum restraint and honour ceasefire agreements.  Several speakers also called for renewed progress on the political track.

Norway’s representative, speaking also on behalf of Ireland in their capacity as co-penholders of the Syria humanitarian file, stressed the need to renew the humanitarian cross-border mechanism, saying that it remains a critical lifeline for Syrians in the north-west as winter sets in.  The Council must follow up on resolution2642 (2022) in good faith and extend the cross-border mechanism, she said.

The United Kingdom’s representative, in the same vein, said that with 14.6 million Syrians in need of humanitarian aid, nothing can replace the scope or scale of the cross-border humanitarian operation.  She added that the deteriorating humanitarian situation is not the result of sanctions, which do not apply to humanitarian efforts but rather target those who are involved in repressing civilians.

Kenya’s delegate, also speaking for Gabon and Ghana, stressed the need for a political solution, emphasizing that military options will not yield sustainable solutions.  Resolution 2254 (2015) remains the road map for achieving an outcome that accounts for the widest spectrum of Syrians, he said.

The United States’ representative took note of the Special Envoy’s efforts to reconvene the Constitutional Committee to advance work towards a political solution.  One would hope that the Russian Federation shares that goal, but its obstructive actions suggest the contrary, she said, calling on the Government of Syria to engage in good faith in that Committee. 

The Russian Federation’s representative said that suffocating unilateral sanctions are being compounded by the plundering of Syria’s natural resources and by insufficient international assistance.  Unilateral sanctions are a topic that Western countries attempt to avoid “by hook or by crook”, he said, adding that it would be a great omission if the Secretary-General’s upcoming report on Syria fails to mention the problems that sanctions create.

Syria’s delegate called on the Council to compel Türkiye to end its military presence in Syria, alongside an immediate withdrawal of United States forces in the north.  The Council’s silence on Israel’s occupation of the Syrian Golan emboldens that country to expand its attacks on Syrian territory, he added.  On the political front, he said that Damascus is continuing its engagement to settle the crisis without foreign interference, and that the Special Envoy must play his role as facilitator in line with his mandate.  He went on to say that Western countries must stop politicizing humanitarian work, honour their pledges and support early recovery projects.

Türkiye’s representative, recalling that the People's Protection Units/Kurdistan Workers Party (YPG/PKK) is a threat to national security, said that no State can tolerate deliberate attacks on its people or territory.  His country will therefore carry out counter-terrorism operations, in line with the United Nations Charter and relevant Council resolutions.

Also speaking today were the representatives of India, Brazil, Albania, Mexico, France, China, Ireland, United Arab Emirates and Iran.

The meeting began at 10:03 a.m. and ended at 12:04 p.m.

Briefings

GEIR O. PEDERSEN, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria, recalling his prior warnings of the dangers of military escalation in Syria, stressed:  “I am here in person today to tell you that escalatory dynamics are taking place, and this is worrying and dangerous.”  Those dynamics have unfolded over many months, he said, pointing to a slow increase in mutual strikes between the Syrian Democratic Forces on the one side, and Türkiye and armed opposition groups on the other, across northern Syria, with violence spilling over into Turkish territory.  On 20 November, a week after a bombing attributed by Türkiye to People’s Protection Units/Kurdistan Workers’ Party (YPG/PKK), and denied by the Syrian Democratic Forces, Türkiye launched air strikes at what it called YPG/PKK targets, some of which hit civilian infrastructure and resulted in civilian casualties, according to the Syrian Democratic Forces and its affiliates.  Stating that the Secretary-General has called for all parties to exercise maximum restraint and avoid escalation, he called on Türkiye, the armed opposition and the Syrian Democratic Forces to de-escalate immediately.

Elsewhere in Syria, Idlib has been the target of pro-Government strikes, some of which hit camps for internally displaced persons, killing and injuring civilians and damaging health care facilities, he said.  Attacks were also reportedly carried out by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham on Government forces and Government-controlled areas, with civilian casualties.  Strikes attributed to Israel, meanwhile, hit Damascus, Homs, Hama and Latakia, prompting Government anti-aircraft fire in response.  Also, rockets reportedly hit United States-led coalition forces in Al-Shaddadi, while Deraa has seen clashes between local factions and Syrian Government forces.  The rape and murder of two Egyptian girls is a reminder that the situation in Al-Hol camp remains of grave concern, he added.

Against that backdrop, he warned the Council that large-scale military operations by one actor can have knock-on effects across all other theatres, unravelling a strategic stalemate that has brought a measure of relative calm to Syria for almost three years.  Such an escalation would compound the devastating harm to Syrian civilians and endanger regional stability, with listed terrorist groups taking advantage of fresh instability.  All actors must therefore restrain themselves, reinstate calm and move towards a nationwide ceasefire and a cooperative approach to counter-terrorism in line with international humanitarian law.  Syria needs less military activity and more focus on the political process and implementation of Security Council resolution 2254 (2015), he emphasized.

Turning to the plight of Syrian civilians, he said their needs have grown due to catastrophic economic conditions, resulting from more than a decade of conflict.  Only this week, the Syrian pound has reached record lows.  The Government and outsiders must take steps to stem the crisis, with the humanitarian effects of sanctions avoided and mitigated.  On the issue of arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances and missing persons, he emphasized the need for transparency, clear data and monitoring mechanisms.  He also called for increased and unfettered humanitarian access to all people in need throughout Syria.

Turning to the political process, he said that considering the realities on the ground, he will keep working with all stakeholders on step-for-step confidence-building measures to help build trust among all players and advance resolution 2254 (2015).  He looked forward to further engagement with the Government and the Syrian Negotiation Commission during his visit to Damascus next week.  However, he expressed concern that the Constitutional Committee has not met for six months.  The longer that body remains dormant, the harder it will be for it to resume its work.  The absence of a credible political process can only promote further conflict and instability, he added.

“We are at something of a fork in the road,” he said, reiterating his worry at the prospect of a major military operation.  He thus called for all parties to step back from escalation; to renew the framework in the Council on the humanitarian front; to resume and make more substantive the Constitutional Committee meetings; for work to be prioritized on the detained, disappeared and missing; and for work to be deepened towards identifying and implementing step-for-step confidence-building measures.

MARTIN GRIFFITHS, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said the international community must focus its attention back to the people of Syria and re-evaluate how effectively it is meeting their most basic needs.  “The trend is clear:  more people need our support each year to survive,” he said, warning of an expected surge in the number of people needing humanitarian assistance from 14.6 million this year to over 15 million in 2023.  Almost 12 years since the conflict in Syria started, 80 per cent of its population depend on aid, yet the international community continues to fail them, he said, adding that communities in Syria, having lived through a cataclysm, are struggling to survive.

Shelling, air strikes and clashes in the vicinity of Idlib have destroyed the homes of hundreds of displaced families in three camps supported by humanitarian organizations, he said.  At least nine civilians were killed and 75 injured, including children, and more than 400 families displaced.  Last week, air strikes struck close to a clinic at Bab al-Hawa hospital, leading to the evacuation of at least 90 patients, health workers and other civilians.  Recent hostilities in the north-west and north-east have meanwhile had a detrimental impact on civilian lives and critical civilian infrastructure, with civilians fleeing their homes in both Aleppo and Al-Hasakeh Governorates and some humanitarian services suspended. All parties must take care to spare civilians and civilian objects throughout their military operations, he stressed, expressing horror at the deaths of two girls, aged 12 and 15, in Al-Hol Camp.

Turning to water and food security issues, he said that insufficient rainfall, severe drought-like conditions and low water levels in the Euphrates River, and damaged water infrastructure continue to deprive millions of people of safe drinking water.  “We have consistently alerted this Council to the water crisis in northern Syria,” he said, drawing attention to the rapid spread of cholera, which has seeped into Lebanon.  Syrians are struggling to put food on the table, with skyrocketing global food prices hitting particularly hard given Syria’s dependence on imported essential commodities.  The price of a standard food basket, as defined by the World Food Programme (WFP), has increased four-fold in the past two years, with prices for most commodities in it climbing by 40 per cent this year alone.  Another harsh winter will soon bring snowstorms, cold weather, strong winds, rains and flooding, he said, stressing that the millions of families who live in tents know what is coming but have no way to avoid it.

“Today, we are exactly six weeks away from yet another expiration of the authorization of cross-border assistance,” he continued.  Cross-line deliveries can and should be an important complement to the cross-border operation, he added, voicing hope of further progress on those operations as well.  Nonetheless, cross-border operations remain essential for the lives of more than 4 million people now living in the north-west, he stressed.  Syrians want the need for aid to disappear and peace to arrive, he said, pointing to the Council’s principal task and raison d’etre in that regard.

Statements

MONA JUUL (Norway), speaking also on behalf of Ireland in their capacity as co-penholders of the Syria humanitarian file, expressed alarm at the ongoing escalation of hostilities in Syria as winter sets in.  Concerned by the danger and desperation that children are facing in camps and detention facilities, she added that life-saving aid and protection must continue to be delivered.  The humanitarian cross-border mechanism remains a critical lifeline for the delivery of the humanitarian response to the north-west, she said, adding that with the onset of winter, humanitarian needs will again rise.  It is therefore imperative that the Council follow up on resolution 2642 (2022) in good faith and extend the cross-border mechanism.

Speaking in her national capacity, she warned that an escalation of hostilities risks further destabilizing the region.  All parties must exercise maximum restraint, protect civilians and civilian infrastructure, and take positive steps to lower tensions.  Syria needs a nationwide ceasefire, she said, calling on the parties to sit down together at the negotiation table.  She expressed disappointment at the lack of progress in the Constitutional Committee and stressed the need to remain focused on missing and arbitrarily detained persons.  “Accountability and justice will serve as the building blocks for lasting peace in Syria,” she added.

RUCHIRA KAMBOJ (India), expressing grave concern about the impact of hostilities against civilians, said the Special Envoy’s step-by-step approach is the only way to end the conflict.  She urged greater donor support for the humanitarian resource plan for Syria and called on the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) to focus more on early recovery projects.  Humanitarian development must not be politicized, she added.  Warning that the cross-border mechanism cannot become an end in itself, she called upon OCHA and other United Nations agencies to engage with Damascus to ensure more efficient cross-line operations.  As Chair of the Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee, India remains concerned by reports of a resurgence by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) in the region and calls on all sides to tackle terrorism with the utmost seriousness.  She went on to report on a recent visit to India by the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Syria, during which reconstruction, humanitarian assistance, development support, capacity-building and scholarships for students, among other topics, were discussed.

VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) noted the continuing terrorist threat on the ground in Syria, alongside the ongoing, unlawful foreign military presence in the north, north-east and south.  The deleterious effects of suffocating unilateral sanctions are being compounded by the plundering of Syria’s natural resources and by insufficient international assistance, he added.  Further, the Rukban and Al-Hol refugee camps are hotbeds of extremism and unlawful activity, with recent attacks becoming a cruel part of everyday life.  The Powers occupying the area beyond the Euphrates are fully responsible for everything happening in these camps, he stressed.  He also called on the United States to ensure that its occupying forces in Syria comply with international humanitarian law.  Turning to unilateral sanctions, a topic that Western States try to avoid “by hook or by crook,” he said that a failure in the Secretary-General’s upcoming report to mention the problems they create will represent a great omission.  He went on to say that his delegation expects to receive updates necessary to make an informed decision regarding the future of resolution 2642 (2022), and trusts that Council colleagues will adopt a constructive approach during negotiations.

LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States) took note of the Special Envoy’s efforts to reconvene the Constitutional Committee to advance work towards a political solution in line with Council resolution 2254 (2015).  One would hope that the Russian Federation shares that goal, but its obstructive actions suggest the contrary, she said, calling on the Government of Syria to engage in good faith in the Constitutional Committee.  Turning to the situation in north-west Syria, she called for immediate de-escalation and for a comprehensive nationwide ceasefire, adding that recent military activities threaten stability as well as the shared goal to fight ISIL/Da’esh.  On the humanitarian crisis, she emphasized the critical need for cross-border assistance, alongside cross-line deliveries and early recovery projects.  Between January and September of 2022, 374 early recovery projects have been underway throughout Syria, directly benefiting 2.4 million people, she said, adding that to claim otherwise constitutes deliberate misinformation with malicious intent.  Going forward, Council members must work towards renewing the cross-border mechanism, she said.

JOÃO GENÉSIO DE ALMEIDA FILHO (Brazil), calling for an immediate halt to attacks against civilians, said that all parties must exercise maximum restraint, maintain agreed-upon ceasefires and respect Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.  The Constitutional Committee must resume its work, he added, agreeing with the Special Envoy that a decision on its venue will lead nowhere if the parties fail to agree to resume negotiations.  Noting the outbreak of cholera and leishmaniasis in Syria, he hoped that ongoing early recovery actions, as well as the work of agencies in the field, can help to alleviate suffering.  Brazil remains committed to a Syrian-led and Syrian-owned process, he said, adding that his country will continue to support humanitarian efforts.

FERIT HOXHA (Albania) said that with the humanitarian crisis deteriorating, full implementation of resolution 2642 (2022) remains an indispensable part of efforts by the United Nations and its partners to reach everyone in need.  Cross-line operations can complement cross-border access, but they are not and cannot be an alternative to it, he said, emphasizing that renewing the cross-border mechanism on 23 January is vital.  He added that the Syrian regime and its backers continue to frustrate all meaningful steps towards political transition.  Moreover, the Syrian regime is still inflicting pain and suffering on the people it claims to represent, he added.  He welcomed a proposal to set up a mechanism to address the issue of missing persons and reiterated his call for the immediate release of those who are wrongfully detained.

BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom), pointing to reports of torture and killing in detention centres across Syria, particularly in Sednaya Prison, condemned systemic human rights violations and called for the release of detainees.  The deteriorating humanitarian situation is not about sanctions, which target entities involved in repressing civilians and exempt humanitarian provisions, she said.  With 14.6 million Syrians in need of humanitarian aid, nothing can replace the scope or scale of the cross-border humanitarian operation.  The “fate” of this mandate is the “fate” of 4.1 million people who rely on its assistance.  The cholera outbreak requires an effective United Nations response, including in early recovery, she continued, adding that 30 per cent of her country’s funding will go to such projects, mainly on water and health care.  She welcomed progress on cross-line efforts, which are slowed by the Syrian regime’s insistence on approving each convoy and by ongoing fighting, cautioning that it is “simply impossible” to replicate cross-border operations with cross-line assistance.

BRUNO RÍOS SÁNCHEZ (Mexico) underscored the need for the Syrian Constitutional Committee – which has not met in six months – to resume its work.  Economic reconstruction, the safe return for refugees and counter-terrorism are complex issues that can only be resolved through the political will of relevant parties.  He also stressed that counter-terrorism efforts must comply with international law, expressing concern over invocation of Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations as a justification to combat terrorism.  Urging full respect for Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, he condemned recent violence in the Al-Hol refugee camp – notably, the murder of two girls in November.  He called on countries of origin of foreign persons located in that camp to take necessary measures to repatriate such individuals.  He went on to stress that demands for justice and accountability for arbitrary detentions, forced disappearances and human-rights violations must be addressed to open the way for reconciliation in Syria.  On implementation of resolution 2642 (2022), he welcomed ongoing efforts to increase deliveries between the lines of conflict.  However, given the food crisis, cholera epidemic and imminent onset of winter, he underscored the need to make use of all available channels for aid distribution.  The Council must, therefore, renew the authorization for cross-border deliveries through Bab al-Hawa.

NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) expressed deep concern over the recent escalation of violence in the north of Syria and the announcement of a possible ground intervention by Türkiye in the north-east.  He called for restraint on any actions that will threaten the stability of the region and security of its inhabitants, when the threat posed by ISIL (Da’esh) is still looming.  The status quo benefits no one, but the Syrian regime refuses to engage in negotiations in line with the road map represented by Council resolution 2254 (2015).  The work of the Constitutional Committee is therefore at a dead end, with the Syrian Government refusing to engage in a step-by-step approach.  Meanwhile, Syrians are calling for justice, with as many as 100,000 people still missing and many United Nations reports detailing crimes committed by the regime.  France will fight tirelessly against any impunity that benefits the Syrian regime.  In the absence of progress on the ground, France’s position on lifting sanctions, normalization and reconstruction is unchanged.  Such sanctions are targeted, he said, deploring “fallacious” claims to the contrary.  He emphasized the need for the cross-border mechanism to be maintained, pointing out that such access cannot be substituted by crossline deliveries, given the scale of needs on the ground.  As many as 6 million people in the north-west need aid, he said, representing a 30 per cent increase compared to 2021.

GENG SHUANG (China) said the international community must stand firm in preserving Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.  He called on Türkiye and Israel to immediately stop their cross-border attacks, avoid any actions that may escalate the situation and adhere to dialogue and consultation to resolve issues.  Also, the international community must work together to combat all terrorist organizations in Syria listed by the Security Council, cut off their sources of weapons, personnel and funding, and stop condoning, harboring or politically exploiting terrorist forces.  Urging continued promotion of a Syrian-led and Syrian-owned political process, he said the just-concluded Astana meetings send an important signal of support for the political process in Syria.  He called for implementation of resolution 2642 (2022) in a comprehensive and balanced manner, noting that the cross-border modality is a temporary arrangement made under special circumstances.  The transition to cross-line humanitarian assistance must be accelerated, he said, voicing regret that, in the past month, no new cross-line delivery was completed in north-west Syria.  The international community should dedicate the same level of effort to promote cross-line delivery as they do with cross-border operations, striving to provide the entire population of Syria with access to humanitarian resources without discrimination, he said.

FERGAL MYTHEN (Ireland) reiterated his serious concern about continuing hostilities on the ground in Syria and condemned the series of strikes conducted by pro-government forces earlier this month in Idlib and its environs.  These attacks resulted in the death of at least 10 people, including children, and injured at least 27 others.  This is simply unacceptable, he said.  All parties to the conflict are obliged under international law to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure.  He reiterated the urgent need for a nationwide ceasefire in line with resolution 2254 (2015), calling on all parties to exercise maximum restraint and maintain previously agreed ceasefires.  Further, he underscored his condemnation of the killing of two young girls in the Al-Hol Camp earlier this month.  He remained greatly concerned over the plight of those detained and missing in Syria, supporting in principle the Secretary-General’s recommendation to establish a new international body, which will aim to support families in desperate need of answers on the missing.

MOHAMED ISSA ABUSHAHAB (United Arab Emirates) said the international community must prioritize the Syrian people without politicizing the cross-border mechanism’s renewal.  He rejected foreign intervention, calling for the safeguarding of Syria’s sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity.  Ending the political stalemate and intensifying diplomatic efforts at all levels remains the only solution to the crisis.  In that regard, he welcomed the Special Envoy’s efforts, reaffirming that the Constitutional Committee is the only platform for a constructive national dialogue between Syrians, under Syrian leadership and ownership, without external interferences, and separate from geopolitical complications.  On the humanitarian side, he called for early recovery projects to rebuild Syrian societies and infrastructure, including access to electricity.  Expressing appreciation for OCHA’s tireless efforts in responding to the alarming spread of cholera, he stressed the importance of delivering humanitarian aid to all Syrian regions, both across borders and across conflict lines, with the goal of increasing cross-line deliveries.

MARTIN KIMANI (Kenya), also speaking for Gabon and Ghana, underlined that, despite the Council’s monthly deliberations, “the situation in Syria remains unchanged”.  The resumption of military operations and escalation of kinetic activity on the front lines is pushing the country into deeper levels of instability and — condemning the targeting of civilians and infrastructure — he stressed that all parties must adhere to relevant Council resolutions and international humanitarian law.  Calling on parties to exercise maximum restraint, avoid escalation and honour all ceasefire agreements, he underscored that “military options will not yield sustainable solutions”.  Rather, with escalating violence, the need for a political solution is urgent, he said, calling on parties to commit to the political process and cooperate to break the current deadlock in the Constitutional Committee.  Resolution 2254 (2015) remains the road map for achieving a desired political solution that accounts for the widest spectrum of Syrians, he said, including the voices of women and civil society.

Turning to the humanitarian situation, he said rising levels of violence and the economic slump have confined millions of Syrians to worsening food insecurity, unreliable access to safe water and malnutrition.  This dire situation has pushed some of the needy into unacceptable coping mechanisms, such as early marriages or recruitment into armed and terrorist groups.  Underscoring the need to work together to support humanitarian action for the suffering people of Syria, he stressed that the cross-border aid mechanism as well as cross-line deliveries are crucial for humanitarian assistance and must be sustained.  As the expiry of resolution 2642 (2022) approaches, he urged Council members to engage constructively to ensure renewal of the cross-border mechanism.  This will guarantee life-saving assistance to millions of Syrians, especially in the wake of the cholera outbreak and arrival of winter.  Further, to ease the “colossal” humanitarian burden in camps, he called on States to repatriate their citizens, especially women and children, in a safe, dignified manner pursuant to international humanitarian law.  He added that there is also a need for concerted international action to address the plight of Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries, particularly those in Lebanon.

ALHAKAM DANDY (Syria) said that the Council’s monthly meetings on the situation in his country ignore the fundamental challenges it faces, including terrorism, violations of Syrian sovereignty and the suffering created by unilateral coercive measures.  He condemned Türkiye’s attacks in northern Syria a week ago, calling them a flagrant violation of international law and the United Nations Charter.  Türkiye’s pretext for such attacks fools no one, given its support for terrorist groups including ISIL/Da’esh and Al-Nusra Front.  He called on the Council to compel Türkiye to end its military presence in Syria, along with the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of United States forces which support militia in the north.  The Council’s silence on Israel’s occupation of the Syrian Golan emboldens that country to expand its attacks on Syrian territory using flimsy excuses, risking a regional escalation, he added.

He outlined the steps taken by Syria to ensure a return to normalcy and to foster national unity, including amnesty decrees, the latest of which comprehensively deals with terrorist crimes.  On the political front, Syria is continuing its engagement to settle the crisis without foreign interference, he said, adding that the Special Envoy must play his role as facilitator in line with his mandate.  On the humanitarian front, he said that Syria is doing its utmost to assist the Syrian people, and that it is cooperating with the United Nations and humanitarian agencies to this end.  However, Western countries must stop politicizing humanitarian work, honour their pledges and support early recovery projects.  He also stressed the need for more funding to remove anti-personnel mines and unexploded ordnance planted by terrorists.

He expressed outrage at the refusal by Western countries to allow the Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of the unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights to participate in an informal interactive dialogue on 21 November.  He also condemned the plunder by United States occupying forces of oil, wheat and other agricultural produce, and the presence of Türkiye and mercenaries in Alouk water station, which is depriving Al-Hasaka of its sole source of water.  Further, he condemned the dispatch by some States, most recently France and the Netherlands, of delegations to northern Syria in violation of Syrian sovereignty.  Unilateral coercive measures are inhumane and immoral and they must be lifted, he reiterated.

AMIR SAEID JALIL IRAVANI (Iran) said the ongoing unilateral coercive measures imposed by Western countries have exacerbated the humanitarian situation in Syria despite United Nations efforts.  At the same time, donor countries remain hesitant to fund Syria’s humanitarian response plan.  He voiced support for the cross-line delivery of humanitarian aid, but added that an inequitable and discriminatory distribution of early recovery projects remains a challenge that must be improved.  Turning to the cross-border mechanism, he said that its shortcomings and Syria’s legitimate concerns must be addressed.

Voicing support for the reconvening of the Constitutional Committee, he said that an end to occupation and the full restoration of Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are prerequisites for any political solution.  In the meantime, efforts under the Astana format will continue to bring the crisis to an end and alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people.  Security and stability in the north can only be achieved by preserving and fully respecting Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, he added, condemning “the robbery of Syrian people’s natural resources” in areas occupied by foreign forces.

The Council must strongly condemn the Israeli regime’s ongoing aggressions and terrorist attacks against Syria, he continued.  Its repeated violations of Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and its systematic targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure, particularly commercial airports and humanitarian shipments, are flagrant violations of international law, international humanitarian law and the United Nations Charter.  The international community must support the Government of Syria’s ability to achieve economic and social stability and to improve the living conditions of its people, he said.

FERIDUN HADI SINIRLIOĞLU (Türkiye) reported that his country is taking all necessary measures to facilitate cross-border aid and cross-line convoys.  Since the adoption of resolution 2642 (2022), regular cross-line deliveries have been made to north-west Syria and cross-border aid has reached millions of Syrians every month through Bab al-Hawa.  Expressing concern over November attacks targeting camps for internally displaced persons, he called on all relevant parties to end attacks on civilians “for once and for all”.  All regions in Syria must benefit fairly from early recovery efforts, he added, urging that these projects be implemented based on United Nations needs assessments.  Noting that the Council is a few weeks away from deciding whether to renew cross-border aid operations, he said that such assistance is a moral and humanitarian imperative, not a political issue.  It is not up to the Council to decide who in Syria can receive humanitarian aid and who cannot; rather, it must support a highly scrutinized, meticulous United Nations humanitarian operation that saves lives.  He called on Council members to be guided solely by humanitarian considerations, as politicizing this issue would condemn civilians to death.  He went on to say that the PKK/YPG is a threat to Türkiye’s national security.  Recalling terrorist attacks in Taksim on 13 November, he said that no State can tolerate deliberate attacks on its people or territory.  Therefore, Türkiye will continue to carry out counter-terrorism operations to protect its people and ensure the security of its borders, in line with the United Nations Charter and relevant Council resolutions, he emphasized.

For information media. Not an official record.