Amid Rampant Fuel, Food Shortages in Syria, Special Envoy Calls for Enhanced Cross-border, Cross-line Access, Early Recovery Projects
Speakers Voice Concern over Humanitarian Situation, Stress Importance of Ceasefire
Syria remains desperately in need of cross-border and cross-line humanitarian aid, as well as political confidence-building measures, the Security Council heard today from senior United Nations officials.
Geir O. Pedersen, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria, introducing the Secretary-General’s latest report on the country (document S/2022/956), painted a stark picture of dark streets and unlit houses in a country where parents are skipping meals so their children can eat. Amidst rampant fuel and food shortages, even those who receive regular salaries are now in need, he said, cautioning that the situation will only get more severe as the winter progresses. Highlighting Council resolution 2642 (2022), he called for enhanced cross-border and cross-line access, as well as the implementation of early recovery projects.
While the current patchwork of bilateral agreements has brought about a relative reduction in violence, he stressed that these fragile arrangements do not amount to a comprehensive nationwide ceasefire. The maelstrom of conflict dynamics in Syria includes sporadic pro-Government air strikes in the north-west, Turkish air strikes in the north, strikes in Damascus and the south-west attributed to Israel, intermittent clashes on contact lines and attacks by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), he said.
On the political process, he underscored the need to resume and make more substantive the Constitutional Committee meetings in Geneva. Recalling his visit to Damascus two weeks ago, he called for increased dialogue and step-for-step confidence-building measures. Social trust remains in short supply, he said, paying tribute to the resilience of Syrian women. There is a growing realization in all quarters that allowing the status quo to continue is simply not an option, he added.
Also addressing the Council today was Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, who pointed out that more than 12 million people — more than half of Syria’s population — are struggling to put food on the table. The resurgence of cholera in 2022 has put the health-care system under increased strain, while winter will be especially cruel for the 2 million living in tents, camps and makeshift shelters, he said.
Highlighting funding shortages, he noted that the winterization response is only 21 per cent funded, while the country’s 2022 Humanitarian Assistance Response Plan is only 43 per cent funded. The Council must ensure the delivery of assistance to all those who need it, no matter where they are. Despite funding and operational challenges, the Organization’s humanitarian partners delivered life-saving assistance to 7.8 million people each month in 2022, he pointed out.
Outlining a variety of humanitarian efforts, from monitoring water quality to training health-care workers, he added that every month in 2022, nearly 600 trucks delivered food and other essential aid across the border to north-west Syria. The massive scale of such cross-border operations cannot be substituted by cross-line deliveries through convoys, he emphasized. Not renewing Council resolution 2642 (2022) will jeopardize humanitarian assistance delivery to north-west Syria when people need it the most amidst a cholera outbreak in the middle of winter, he warned.
In the ensuing debate, many Council members called for a comprehensive ceasefire and expressed concern about the deteriorating humanitarian situation, even as they differed on steps forward, especially with the impending expiry of Council resolution 2642 (2022), which reauthorized the cross-border humanitarian aid mechanism in Syria until 10 January 2023.
Syria’s delegate described the cross-border humanitarian aid as an ambiguous mechanism, noting that it was a temporary measure taken under exceptional circumstances that no longer exist. The insistence of the United States and European Union countries to extend that mechanism, under the pretext of humanitarian aid, is selective and discriminatory, he said. Pointing to the systematic pillage of his country’s oil, wheat and gas by United States occupying troops, he also called for the lifting of unilateral coercive measures. His Government is bolstering national unity and social cohesion, he said.
China’s delegate, stressing the need for a political solution, also said that cross-border aid was an interim arrangement. Eventually it has to transition to cross-line aid, he said, calling on the international community to advance cross-line aid with the same vigour. He was among those who pointed to the detrimental impact of sanctions.
Unilateral coercive measures, Iran’s delegate said, remain one of the key causes of appalling conditions in Syria. Also calling on the international community to address the discriminatory distribution of cross-line humanitarian aid delivery, he condemned the robbery of the Syrian people’s natural resources, particularly oil products, and called for a Syrian-led and Syrian-owned political process.
The humanitarian situation, the Russian Federation’s delegate said, does not set the most favourable context for discussions on extending the cross-border mechanism — not because his delegation is against helping Syrians, but because the international community must help all Syrians without politicization. Condemning Western countries’ unilateral sanctions against Syria, he said international terrorists from Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham are profiting from deliveries through the cross-border mechanism.
However, the delegate of the United States said that there is simply no substitute for cross-border assistance. He underscored that the Organization’s cross-border operations are among the most secure and transparent in the world and highlighted various efforts by his country, including funding of early recovery projects. He also called on the Assad regime to reconvene the Constitutional Committee and implement a comprehensive nationwide ceasefire.
The representative of Türkiye also emphasized that the scale, scope and efficiency of the cross-border operation has no match or substitute. Urging the Council to support the mechanism beyond January 2023, he highlighted the persistent low financing for the humanitarian response in Syria and stressed that a sustainable solution to the Syrian conflict can be achieved only through political means.
Syrians are having to work harder than ever just to survive, said the representative of Ireland, speaking also on behalf of Norway as co-penholders. All channels of access should be consistently available when it comes to delivering life-saving aid to people in need, he said, as he encouraged the continued increase in the frequency and size of cross-line convoys. “We cannot abandon these people at a time of acute need,” he emphasized.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Brazil, Gabon (also on behalf of Ghana and Kenya), Norway, United Kingdom, Albania, France, Mexico, United Arab Emirates and India.
The representative of the Russian Federation spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The meeting began at 10:15 a.m. and ended at 12:25 p.m.
GEIR O. PEDERSEN, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria, presenting the Secretary-General’s latest report (document S/2022/956), recalled his visit to Damascus two weeks ago to continue discussions on advancing the political process. Highlighting the ever-deepening humanitarian and economic crisis, he said that parents are skipping meals so their children can eat, while electricity and fuel are scarcer than ever. Amidst a lack of access to clean water and health care, connectivity outages and failing infrastructure, “even those who would not normally need assistance — those who receive regular salaries for instance — are in need”. The situation will only get more severe as the winter progresses, he cautioned, adding that in Damascus, there were tangible signs of a worsening crisis: dark streets, unlit houses and little traffic.
Turning to the continued armed conflict, he said that while there have not been large-scale military operations by any one player in December, the same dangerous dynamics exist, with sporadic pro-Government air strikes in the north-west, Turkish air strikes in the north and strikes in Damascus and the south-west attributed to Israel. Also pointing to shelling, rocket fire and intermittent clashes on contact lines, involving the Government, the armed opposition, the Syrian Democratic Forces and Security Council-listed terrorist group Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham, he also noted continuing attacks by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) against all of these actors. The first priority is to restore relative calm on the ground, he said, adding that the “patchwork of agreements and arrangements reached bilaterally” have brought about a relative reduction in violence. But these fragile arrangements do not amount to a comprehensive nationwide ceasefire, he pointed out.
Stressing the importance of unfettered humanitarian access to all Syrians in need throughout the country, by all modalities, he said that cross-border aid continues to be indispensable. It is essential to build on the progress made on all of the priorities of Council resolution 2642 (2022), namely cross-border and cross-line access, as well as the implementation of early recovery projects, he said. Underscoring the need to resume and make more substantive the Constitutional Committee meetings in Geneva, he said it is also essential to prioritize work on the detained, the disappeared and the missing. He will continue his engagement with the Syrian Government and all other stakeholders to push for releases and information, commensurate with the scale of the issue, while maintaining dialogue with family, victim and survivor associations, he said.
Dialogue is needed, he said, to identify and implement initial step-for-step confidence-building measures. The Syrian stakeholders and international players should find a way to make some precise, concrete, reciprocal steps. Noting his meetings with Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad in Damascus, as well as Badr Jamous, the President of the Syrian Negotiation Commission, in Geneva, he also highlighted the insights and advice of the Syrian Women’s Advisory Board. “I will continue to mainstream gender in all our work,” he pledged, adding that social trust remains in short supply in Syria. Syrian women have been admirably resilient, enduring mounting hardships, particularly as heads of household, he said. The hour is darkest before dawn, he added, saying that there is a growing realization in all quarters that allowing the status quo to continue is simply not an option.
MARTIN GRIFFITHS, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, highlighting worrying trends in Syria, reminded the Council that many records were broken in 2022, all of them overwhelmingly negative. Hostilities continued to take a substantive toll, with at least 138 civilians killed and 248 others injured between January and November in north-west Syria alone. The number of people in need of humanitarian aid climbed to 14.6 million people — reflecting an increase of 1.2 million — and is expected to reach 15.3 million in 2023. More than 12 million people — more than half of the population — are struggling to put food on the table. Nearly 3 million more could slide into food insecurity, he continued, noting that the international community has not seen these kinds of numbers since the start of the crisis in 2011.
More broadly, socioeconomic conditions continued to deteriorate as spiralling domestic inflation and rising global food and fuel prices have put basic food items and other essentials out of the reach of millions of families, he continued. “I don’t think 2023 will bring much relief to the people of Syria,” he added, emphasizing that this degradation is the worst it has been since 2011. However, despite funding challenges and a complex operational environment, the Organization’s humanitarian partners delivered life-saving assistance to 7.8 million people each month in 2022, which includes 2.7 million through cross-border operations.
He went on to say that 2022 was also the year that cholera made a resurgence for the first time in 15 years, resulting from a health-care system under strain. Some 62,000 suspected cholera cases have been reported as of 18 December and 100 people have died. Humanitarian partners have scaled up surveillance and testing capacities, monitored water quality, trained health-care workers and promoted awareness. Nonetheless, there is an urgent need for additional funding to continue responding to the outbreak, including by training health workers and providing medical supplies and support to laboratories.
Regarding the millions of people spending their twelfth consecutive winter in displacement, he underscored that for the 2 million living in tents, camps and makeshift shelters, winter is especially cruel with its sub-zero temperatures, strong winds, snowstorms and flooding. Some 6 million people — an increase of 33 per cent from last year — need urgent assistance. However, the winterization response, led by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), is only 21 per cent funded, meaning that more than two thirds of people who need help will not receive it. Families will not have fuel, heaters, blankets, winter clothes and other items they need; families headed by women will be most impacted.
With only 43 per cent of the country’s 2022 Humanitarian Response Plan funded, the general funding outlook is discouraging, he reported, urging the Council not to let this become yet another disappointing record for the year. Millions of people count on the international community’s support, now more than ever. Women and girls bear the brunt of the continuing humanitarian crisis and continue to experience gender-based violence, be it through physical, sexual, psychological or economic abuse. Some 7.3 million people in Syria — the overwhelming majority of whom are women and girls — need support to confront and overcome gender-based violence. “We must ensure that they receive this support; we must give them our help and a steady shoulder,” he stressed.
Turning to Council resolution 2642 (2022), which permits the Organization to deliver cross-border humanitarian assistance to north-west Syria and is due to expire in less than three weeks, he asked for the Council’s support in allowing the delivery of assistance to all those who need it, no matter where they are. Not renewing the resolution jeopardizes the delivery of aid when people need it the most amidst a cholera outbreak and in the middle of winter, he warned.
Since January, at least 125 humanitarian agencies have been implementing 374 early recovery projects throughout Syria, which received a record $517 million, he noted. There must be continued facilitation and support of all parties to improve cross-line access and more inter-agency convoys to deliver food, medicines, sanitation and hygiene items, reproductive health kits and other assistance. On average, nearly 600 trucks delivered food and other essential aid across the border to north-west Syria every month in 2022. Still, while cross-line deliveries through convoys are an important complement, at present, they cannot substitute the massive scale of cross-border operations, he emphasized.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) noted the Special Envoy’s efforts to depoliticize the Geneva platform and maintain contacts with Syrians, including during a visit to Damascus from 7 to 9 December. The situation in northern Syria continues to cause concern, with military operations in the Governorates of Aleppo, Raqqa and Hasakah already leading to casualties among the Syrian military, as well as civilians, including reporters. Condemning ongoing illegal air attacks by the Israeli Air Force, he stressed that long-term stability and security in Syria is only possible through full restoration of its sovereignty and territorial integrity. Highlighting the continuing deterioration of the humanitarian and socioeconomic situation, he cited catastrophic power outages; some provinces only have 20 minutes of light every 5 hours, including to hospitals and schools. The outbreak of cholera in Aleppo province in September spread not only to all of Syria, but also to neighbouring Lebanon. Yet, while half of the world’s stock of cholera vaccines has gone to the Syrians, the World Health Organization (WHO) reaction plan for the epidemic is only one-third funded. He observed that the humanitarian situation does not set the most favourable context for discussions on extending the cross-border mechanism — not because his delegation is against helping ordinary Syrians, but because the world community must help all Syrians without any discrimination or politicization. He condemned Western countries’ criminal and illegal unilateral sanctions against Syria, which have a detrimental impact on ordinary Syrians. Stating that Western countries are cosseting international terrorists from Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, he noted they profit from deliveries through the cross-border mechanism.
ROBERT A. WOOD (United States), noting that the United Nations cross-border operations is among the most secure and transparent in the world, said there is simply no substitute for cross-border assistance. On the implementation of resolution 2642 (2022), he said the United States has done its part, including funding early recovery projects in all 14 governates of Syria and encouraging the provision of cross-line aid as determined by humanitarian needs. Voicing concern about the situation in displacement camps and detention centres, he called on all States to repatriate their citizens from those facilities. He also welcomed the adoption of resolution 2664 (2022), reporting that, just yesterday, the United States Department of Treasury released a new package of general licenses to implement the resolution across its domestic sanctions programmes, including some of those programmes related to Syria where humanitarian authorizations did not otherwise already exist. However, he voiced regret that there has been no progress on the Constitutional Committee as its work has been blocked by the Russian Federation’s arbitrary demands on unrelated issues. He called on the Assad regime to cooperate with the Special Envoy’s efforts to reconvene the Constitutional Committee, agree to and implement a comprehensive nationwide ceasefire and humanely release the more than 130,000 missing and arbitrarily detained persons.
FERGAL MYTHEN (Ireland), speaking also on behalf of Norway as co-penholders, stressed that the situation could not be clearer: Syrians continue to suffer; the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate; and aid continues to be indispensable for millions of people across the country. Syrians are having to work harder than ever just to survive as humanitarian suffering has been exacerbated by food insecurity, the COVID-19 pandemic, a dire economic situation, water crisis and cholera. Four-hundred and fifty civilians, including 123 children, were killed as a result of hostilities and violence between 1 January and 30 September, he continued, echoing the Secretary-General’s call on all parties to spare civilians and civilian objects. Turning to the record-high food insecurity, he stressed the importance of early recovery assistance. The progress in reaching an estimated 10.8 million Syrians through projects to increase resilience — which was underpinned by Council resolution 2642 (2022) — must continue. All channels of access should be consistently available when it comes to delivering life-saving aid to people in need, he said as he encouraged the continued increase in the frequency and size of cross-line convoys. It is within the Council’s power to address some of the hopelessness caused by the burden of the ongoing conflict and the resulting extreme hardship by ensuring that aid continues to reach those in need, he emphasized, adding “we cannot abandon these people at a time of acute need”.
Addressing the political situation in his national capacity, he voiced his serious concern over the continuing hostilities on the ground, particularly the escalation in the north in recent weeks. Indiscriminate attacks are unacceptable and prohibited under international humanitarian law, he reminded. Those who violate international humanitarian law must be held accountable. Parties must exercise maximum restraint, he urged before reiterating the need for a nationwide ceasefire in line with Council resolution 2254 (2015). Spotlighting the dire security situation in Al-Hol camp, he echoed the Secretary-General’s call for local authorities in control of such camps to abide by their obligations and noted his concern over the lack of access to life-saving sexual and reproductive health services for women and adolescent girls. For its part, the international community must take action to ease the suffering of people in Al-Hol and other camps for internally displaced persons. He then expressed further concern over the plight of those who are detained and missing in Syria. The Government and non-State groups must account for their fate and whereabouts and allow human rights agencies to access places of detention.
GENG SHUANG (China), stressing that Syria is a sovereign State, called on Türkiye and Israel to immediately cease all cross-border attacks. Underscoring the need for a political solution, he hoped the Constitutional Committee will reconvene as soon as possible. Noting that Council resolution 2642 (2022) will expire in January 2023, he said that cross-border aid was an interim arrangement. Eventually it has to transition to cross-line aid, he said, calling on the international community to advance cross-line aid with the same vigour. Pointing to the importance of early recovery projects, he said that, while funding for such projects has improved, it is still far behind the needs of the Syrian people. Urging all donors provide sufficient financial support with no strings attached, he said that unilateral sanctions and excessive enforcement of them run counter to the efforts of the Council and the international community to alleviate the suffering in Syria.
RONALDO COSTA FILHO (Brazil) noted that, unfortunately, after 11 years of conflict, the humanitarian situation in Syria continues to take an appalling toll on human life, both in Government-controlled and non-controlled areas, particularly in the north-west. Stressing that the protection of civilians must remain a priority, he called for avoiding politicizing the humanitarian response, with impartial, non-discriminatory delivery of aid to reach all those in need, regardless of political affiliation. For the time being, the cross-border mechanism — set to expire in less than a month — remains a vital component of that response. Recognizing the persistence of obstacles preventing the scaling up of cross-line deliveries, he welcomed progress, albeit limited, in deliveries through the cross-line modality since the adoption of resolution 2642 (2022). In keeping with Syrian sovereignty and territorial integrity, he called for redoubled efforts to tackle the causes delaying a more significant increase. Welcoming the adoption of resolution 2664 (2022), which may enhance aid delivery in areas outside Government control — including sites where Al-Qaida or Da’esh affiliates are present — he further called for efforts to unlock the political stalemate in line with resolution 2254 (2015). A truly Syrian-led and -owned political process is essential to promote sustainable peace while preserving its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
MICHEL XAVIER BIANG (Gabon), also speaking for Ghana and Kenya, voiced concern about intensified hostilities in various parts of Syria and condemned indiscriminate attacks impacting civilians and civilian infrastructure. Noting continued attacks by Da’esh, he called for concerted efforts to combat terrorist groups listed by the Security Council. Voicing concern about the squalid conditions in Al-Hol camp, he said it is urgent to improve the treatment and living conditions of detainees and called once again on States to repatriate their citizens, especially women and children, in a safe and dignified manner. He urged the Government to develop legislative and policy measures to eliminate discrimination against women and girls in all spheres of life and to achieve gender equality, including using quotas and special measures.
Gabon, Ghana and Kenya support the United Nations-supported cross-border operation, he said, underscoring that the renewal of the cross-border aid mechanism is not just necessary, but pertinent and urgent. On the political front, he welcomed the Special Envoy’s continued efforts to convene a ninth session of the Syrian-led Constitutional Committee facilitated by the United Nations, and voiced hope that the meeting will make it possible to address the fundamental challenges facing the Committee. Noting the urgent need to achieve a nationwide facilitated ceasefire, he called on all parties to prioritize the needs of the Syrian people, exercise restraint and engage in serious negotiations.
MONA JUUL (Norway), speaking in her national capacity on the political situation, said it is heart-breaking to have seen a continuation of hostilities, civilian casualties and escalations in the past two years. As there truly are no military solutions to this conflict, a nationwide ceasefire must be prioritized. Norway will continue to call on all parties to exercise maximum restraint and abide by their obligations to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure, she pledged. Turning to Special Envoy’s efforts to implement Council resolution 2254 (2015), she expressed her full support for his step-for-step approach to seek a new dynamic towards a solution, encouraged the Constitutional Committee to have a renewed sense of urgency and urged all parties to work in good faith with the Special Envoy. In recognizing his inclusive approach to the political process, she stressed the importance of women’s participation and the engagement of Syrian civil society organizations. She then voiced her regret over the lack of progress in resolving the important issue of the missing and arbitrarily detained. While the announced general amnesty for non-lethal terrorist crimes was positive, this amnesty must be implemented broadly and with priority to build confidence and share information with the public, she said.
BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom), underscoring the importance of renewing the cross-border mandate in January and continuing cross-border assistance, pointed out that a political solution is the only way to bring an end to the humanitarian crisis. Recalling that thousands of Syrians are arbitrarily detained in regime detention centres and information on their whereabouts is withheld from their families, she spotlighted the deaths of hundreds of detainees, including children, that were never reported to their families. Three weeks ago, the United Kingdom hosted an international Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative conference, she recalled, calling for the immediate reconvening of the Constitutional Committee in Geneva to focus on the substance of political transition. The Syrian opposition remains ready to engage in good faith, she said, urging the Russian Federation and the regime to do the same. Underscoring that continuing the status quo is not an option, she called on the Council to unite.
ALBANA DAUTLLARI (Albania), noting how little has been achieved despite efforts, expressed support for the Special Envoy’s step-for-step initiative for building trust. There is no alternative to the constitutional route in Syria, she underscored, adding that the humanitarian catastrophe in that country is a political choice. The Secretary-General’s reports emphasize that cross-line operations, while important, cannot replace the scope of the cross-border operations, she said, adding that the Council will lose credibility if it does not live up to its minimum humanitarian obligations. The Syrian regime has filled its people with false hope regarding the whereabouts of detainees, she said, expressing support for a new mechanism for missing persons. Syria needs help to get out of the “hellish place” it has been forced into, she said, “but we cannot pay for the rehabilitation of normal life in Syria” without accountability.
NATHALIE BROADHURST ESTIVAL (France), expressing regret over the absence of a political process, reiterated her country’s call for a nationwide ceasefire. However, the Syrian regime refuses to engage in a political process as defined by Council resolution 2254 (2015), does not work with the Organization on the fate of more than 100,000 missing persons and does not want to engage in the Special Envoy’s step-for-step approach. The regime has also committed atrocities — which the United Nations has largely substantiated — and have systematically used sexual violence, including against children. In absence of any progress on the political process, France and the European Union will maintain their positions on sanctions lifting, normalization and reconstruction. Turning to the humanitarian situation in Syria, she underscored the regime’s responsibility for the greatest population displacement in the twenty-first century. Many of the 12 million displaced persons or refugees do not want to return today. The few hundred people who have chosen to return have undergone security checks and administrative detention on arrival in places where the United Nations usually does not have access and numerous cases of torture, enforced disappearances and executions have been reported. The international community cannot be complicit in this deliberate policy of demographic engineering, she stressed. As only the Organization’s humanitarian assistance can help the Syrian population, she endorsed the renewal of the cross-border mechanism.
ENRIQUE JAVIER OCHOA MARTÍNEZ (Mexico), spotlighting the unacceptable human cost of the conflict and the political stalemate, advocated for increased cross-line deliveries and redoubled efforts to overcome related security and clearance challenges. As all forms of humanitarian access must be preserved, there is no substitute for the volume of aid entering through the Bab al-Hawa humanitarian crossing, he said, while underscoring the importance of early recovery projects for the rehabilitation of basic infrastructure. In expressing his dismay over the upsurge in hostilities and the military movements along the border between Türkiye and Syria, he called for restraint and the ceasefire’s observance. The only way to achieve sustainable peace in Syria is through an inclusive political process in accordance with Council resolution 2254 (2015), he emphasized. The international community must urge the parties to engage in discussions to move towards national reconciliation and a repaired social fabric. Only this can create the conditions for the safe, dignified and voluntary return of millions of Syrian refugees, he stressed. He then urged the authorities to release detainees, clarify the facts surrounding those who disappeared and allow humanitarian agencies to access detention centres since accountability remains central for conflict resolution. He also called for strengthened collaboration with the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism and the commission of inquiry. For 12 years, the international community has failed the Syrian people, he said, adding that the very least the Council can do is to confirm the renewal of the Bab al-Hawa border crossing’s authorization.
MOHAMED ISSA ABUSHAHAB (United Arab Emirates), noting both Syria’s worsening humanitarian conditions and a deepening of divisions in and outside of the Council, stressed the importance of not politicizing the humanitarian file. He voiced his support for extending resolution 2642 (2022) for an additional six months, ensuring the cross-border mechanism to Syria and emphasizing the importance of providing electricity to Syrians. The text is currently the best solution to move forward and should benefit Syrians in all governorates — not only those in north-western Syria. Citing the Secretary-General’s report, he stressed that more than 15 million out of 22 million Syrians will need humanitarian assistance in 2023; these are families of women and children, not only numbers. Therefore, all parties on the ground must allow for unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid and commit to non-interference in humanitarian operations to ensure help reaches those in need. Delivery of cross-line assistance requires security guarantees from all parties on the ground and the removal of all obstacles. This will enable the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to increase cross-line humanitarian operations — both in terms of frequency and scale. Stressing that the cross-border mechanism was established as an exceptional and temporary measure, he called for prioritizing the political track, including through support of the Special Envoy’s efforts. Without a political solution to this crisis, the humanitarian situation in Syria will not be addressed, he said.
RUCHIRA KAMBOJ (India), Council President for December, speaking in her national capacity, said the revival of the Constitutional Committee process is crucial to move forward on the political track. The step-by-step approach advocated by the Special Envoy requires engagement and response from all sides and cannot be a one-sided process. In that regard, the progressive normalization of Syria’s relations with its neighbours can contribute positively in that regard. Voicing concern about unilateral actions violating Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, she said the withdrawal of all foreign forces is necessary to achieve a nationwide ceasefire. In regard to the projected increase in the number of people in need of humanitarian aid, she said the distribution of humanitarian assistance to Syria, whether by cross-line or cross-border mechanisms, should be guided by a needs-based assessment and not political motivations. Turning to the threat of terrorism in Syria and the region, she called once again for caution and due diligence to be exercised while extending humanitarian assistance to proscribed United Nations entities and individuals. The international community must display zero tolerance towards terrorism without double standards, she added.
Taking the floor for a second time, Mr. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) underscored that his country had serious reasons to suspend the meetings of the drafting commission of the Constitutional Committee, noting that at the time there were no appropriate guarantees extended to those who were arriving on behalf of the host country. Pointing out that the meaning of such a pause for the Committee’s deliberations should not be overstated, he recalled the long-standing stagnation of the Israeli-Palestinian process, which resulted from the efforts of Washington, D.C. to block the Middle East Quartet and any other international initiatives and platforms, including the Council.
BASSAM SABBAGH (Syria) noted that the Syrian Government managed to liberate wide swathes of its territories from the control of terrorist groups and forged ahead with local settlements and national reconciliation. Noting that a number of presidential amnesty decrees have been issued, he pointed out that the Government bolstered national unity and Syrian social cohesion. Syria has actively responded to the initiatives made on the political track, supported the Astana meetings and followed up with the work of the Constitutional Committee, and maintained communication with the Special Envoy, he said, emphasizing that “only Syrians should determine their destiny without any external interference”. Turning to the informal interactive dialogues, he noted that Syria has in detail showed the weaknesses in the implementation efforts of the report, including that certain Council members are not willing to implement the respective provisions.
Detailing some relevant aspects, he underscored that cross-border humanitarian aid was a temporary measure taken under exceptional circumstances that no longer exist, pointing out that insisting on the continuation of this “ambiguous” mechanism is selective and discriminative in the approach to providing humanitarian aid. The pursuit by the United States and European Union countries of an extension of the mechanism — under the pretext of their keenness to provide humanitarian aid — runs counter to their siege on the Syrian people, he said, noting that the underfunding of the humanitarian response compromises the effectiveness of the action. Pointing out the systematic pillage of his country’s national resources — including oil, wheat and gas — at the hands of the United States occupying troops, he said that the total value of direct and indirect losses caused by the “international coalition” has exceeded $100 billion. He further urged that the persistent cutting off of water by Türkiye’s regime be denounced and condemned, underscoring that the humanitarian crisis can only be addressed if the Council immediately acts to fight terrorism, ends the violation of Syria’s sovereignty and calls for the lifting of the unilateral coercive measures.
AMIR SAEID JALIL IRAVANI (Iran), stressing the importance of a Syrian-led and Syrian-owned political process, said the Constitutional Committee’s work must be conducted without interference from outside parties or outside pressure. The role of the United Nations should be restricted to facilitation. Further, the ending of the occupation and the full restoration of respect for Syria’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity are preconditions for any political settlement. Any military action would only worsen the humanitarian situation, he said, condemning the robbery of the Syrian people’s natural resources, particularly oil products. In addition, the illegal presence of foreign forces in parts of Syria has created ideal conditions for terrorist activities.
Noting the humanitarian challenges, including those of the COVID‑19 pandemic and the spread of cholera, he expressed support for early recovery projects, including electricity. Unilateral coercive measures remain one of the key causes of appalling conditions, he said, also adding that discriminatory distribution of cross-line delivery is a challenge that must be handled appropriately. In addition, he pointed out that despite repeated appeals from Syria, the Security Council refuses to condemn the Israeli regime’s continued aggressions and systematic and intentional targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure in Syria. He voiced support for initiatives such as local and national reconciliation, which are vital to facilitating the return of refugees and internally displaced people, adding that a secure, stable and prosperous Syria is in the interests of the region.
FERIDUN HADI SINIRLIOĞLU (Türkiye) emphasized that the scale, scope and efficiency of the cross-border operation has no match or substitute. Noting the forthcoming expiration of its authorization by the Council, he urged the 15-member organ to support the mechanism beyond January 2023. He also highlighted the persistent low financing for the humanitarian response in Syria and echoed calls for adequate funding to be allocated to the United Nations humanitarian response in the country. Voicing concern about crimes committed by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party/Kurdish People’s Protection Units (PKK/YPG), he said that in the last two years more than 500 Syrians have been killed as a result of that group’s attacks in northern Syria.
They also pose a vital threat to his country’s national security, he pointed out, emphasizing that no country is entitled to give his country lessons about its fight against terrorism. He also said he rejected the self-entitled statements heard today about what Türkiye should or should not do while it protects its border and its people, stressing that his country will continue to take the necessary steps towards that end. A sustainable solution to the Syrian conflict can be achieved only through political means in line with resolution 2254 (2015), he said, stressing that the Constitutional Committee meetings hosted by the United Nations should continue. Addressing Syria, he said he would not honour the representative or his delusional statement with a response.