In Meeting Following Russian Federation’s Veto of Cross-Border Aid Text, General Assembly Speakers Highlight Humanitarian Consequences for Millions
Lives ‘Should Never Be Reduced’ to Geopolitical Games, Stresses President
Debating the Russian Federation’s 11 July veto of a Security Council draft resolution that would have authorized a nine-month renewal of cross-border aid‑delivery to northern Syria, speakers took stock of its consequences for millions of Syrians in increasingly desperate need of humanitarian aid.
Csaba Kőrösi (Hungary), President of the General Assembly, noted as the meeting began that it would have been better if the Council overcame its deadlock on this matter. However, the Russian Federation’s 11 July veto meant that the Bab al-Hawa crossing — used by the United Nations and aid agencies since 2014 to deliver 85 per cent of aid into the country — has ceased to operate. Meanwhile, humanitarian needs in Syria are soaring, with 4.1 million people in its northern region all but cut off from the food, water and medicine they need to stay alive.
“The lives of those in need should never be reduced to the tactics of geopolitical games,” he stressed, noting that he would send the verbatim records of today’s debate to the Council President, as promised during the April debate on the use of the veto initiative. Emphasizing the extraordinary lengths that Syrians are pursuing just to survive, he called on the Council to “be alive to the realities and oriented towards genuine solutions” — to urgently prioritize long‑term cooperation over division.
In the ensuing debate, held under the Assembly’s standing mandate to convene within 10 working days of a veto being cast in the Council, many Member States condemned its use in a dire humanitarian context. They also underlined the importance of the Bab al-Hawa crossing, calling for unhindered access to deliver aid to those in desperate need. Others, however, stressed the need to respect Syria’s sovereignty throughout this process.
The representative of Brazil, co-penholder of the Syrian humanitarian file in the Council, said that his delegation has been guided solely by a humanitarian imperative. He noted that the proposed resolution “broke new ground in several respects: it was balanced and meaningful; it was responsible and committed”. The representative of Switzerland — the other co-penholder — recalled that the veto enabled a single Council member to question the extension of a mechanism whose objective “is purely humanitarian”.
The representative of the United States, echoing that, pointed out that “only Russia stood in the way”, with the United Nations most complicated and far‑reaching operation now frozen in place. Stressing that Moscow’s veto has “life-or-death consequences”, he stated that Syria’s proposed way forward is not a workable substitute for the cross-border mechanism. The United Kingdom’s representative said the idea that Syria is acting responsibly is a “cruel joke”, adding: “Let us not forget that this is a live conflict.”
Against that backdrop, Costa Rica’s delegate observed that the constant political weaponization of cross-border aid will impact people on the ground. Underscoring that “allowing aid is not a privilege, it is a duty of States”, she said that, with one conscious and decisive vote, the Council failed to uphold its pledge. She expressed support for United Nations agencies continuing their cross-border deliveries, stating: “Our primary objective is to ensure the uninterrupted flow of aid.”
Also emphasizing the Council’s duty was Fiji’s representative, speaking for the Pacific Islands Forum, who voiced disappointment that the Russian Federation blocked a humanitarian resolution. “Providing people with the means of survival in their most difficult circumstances should be above geopolitics,” he emphasized, noting that the use of the veto has, since its inception, allowed for inaction that endangers international peace and security.
Rejecting those positions, the Russian Federation’s delegate observed that all cross-border operations will be carried out with the authorization of Syria’s Government — and that “this is a great achievement for all of us”. He recalled that, on 11 July, the United States and its allies advanced “an ultimatum” about extending the mechanism by 12 months, while noting that Moscow’s “genuinely humanitarian wording” was removed from the draft. The Russian Federation will not waver in using its veto right, he said, as “otherwise, the Security Council is going to become a NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] get-together”.
The representative of Iran, joining several others in stating that “the situation raises legitimate concerns about Western intentions”, stressed that the continued imposition of unilateral sanctions on Syria poses a significant obstacle to improving its humanitarian and economic situation. Further, he noted that Syria has consistently emphasized that the cross-border mechanism undermines its sovereignty and territorial integrity, providing an opportunity for terrorist groups to exploit humanitarian aid for their own interests.
On that, Syria’s representative called it “reprehensible” that some delegations disregard the principles of sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, also pointing to the failure to ensure that aid does not reach the hands of terrorist organizations controlling north-west Syria. Further, he stressed that the United States’ unjust use the veto over past decades against the peoples of the region “does not qualify it to lecture here on the reasons and motives for using the veto in the Security Council”.
The representative of Kenya, meanwhile, observed that two resolutions on the renewal of the cross-border mechanism have been held captive by rivalry and conflict. Underscoring that the Council should place the needs of innocent people first, she said: “Without a more balanced Security Council, the needs of the world’s most vulnerable people will be, too often, compromised by geopolitical rivals with access to the veto.”
CSABA KŐRÖSI (Hungary), President of the General Assembly, said: “It would not have been my wish to convene this plenary meeting of the General Assembly today” — preferring to have had the Security Council overcome its deadlock on humanitarian aid delivery to northern Syria. However, today’s debate is a clear demonstration that both United Nations organs can and must work together on matters of international peace and security, especially in times of crisis. Welcoming the Council’s special report on the veto cast last week, he noted that the meeting was convened because a permanent member of the Council — the Russian Federation — cast a veto on the renewal of the cross-border mechanism to deliver life-saving aid to people in northern Syria. This meant that the Bab al-Hawa crossing with Türkiye — used by the United Nations and aid agencies since 2014 to deliver 85 per cent of aid deliveries — had ceased to operate.
At the same time, humanitarian needs in Syria are soaring, with 4.1 million people across the north all but cut off from the food, water and medicine they need to stay alive — 80 per cent of them women and children, who are desperate in the wake of two massive earthquakes and a fresh cholera outbreak. “The lives of those in need should never be reduced to the tactics of geopolitical games,” he stressed. Citing the moral responsibility to “act as one UN”, he said that when it wavers on issues as clear as humanitarian, it “confirms a false perception that we, as a whole, cannot do what is right”.
Effective humanitarian assistance can never be held hostage by any political interest, he affirmed, asking how the Assembly can help the Council live up to its mandate. “Which are your proposals for what more the UN as a whole and the Security Council can and should do?,” he asked. He noted that he would send the verbatim records of today’s debate to the Security Council President, as promised during the April debate on the use of the veto initiative. Quoting the words of Syrian swimmer Sara Mardini — “It is a basic human right to live in a safe place” — he emphasized the extraordinary lengths that Syrians are pursuing just to survive, calling on the Council to “be alive to the realities and oriented towards genuine solutions” and urgently prioritize long-term cooperation over division.
DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation), noting that all cross-border operations will be carried out with the authorization of and in coordination with Syria’s Government, said: “This is a great achievement for all of us.” Recalling that, on 11 July, the Security Council was dealing with the conscious attempt of Moscow’s “Western opponents” to force it to use its veto right, he pointed out that Switzerland “monopolized the penholdership” of the resolution and rejected the demands of Syria. He said the United States and its allies advanced “an ultimatum” about extending the mechanism by 12 months, while later suggesting a compromise, while noting that Moscow’s “genuinely humanitarian wording” was removed from the draft.
Recalling that Syria remained the only country in the world in which a cross-border mechanism was operating with the authorization of the Council and not its Government, he said the Western countries have been interested in supplying assistance only to the “Idlib enclave”, controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham — acknowledged by the Council as a terrorist group. Moreover, following the earthquake in February, the Government voluntarily opened Bab al-Salam and Al-Rai crossings, he said, underscoring that there are no barriers for humanitarian assistance in Syria anymore. Pointing to Moscow’s bilateral assistance to Damascus, he observed: “Russia has never wavered and will not waver in using its right of veto, not only to protect its own interests and the interests of its allies, but also the interests of all our partners in the United Nations.” He added: “Otherwise the Security Council is going to become a NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] get-together.”
STEVEN COLLET, Deputy Vice-Minister for International Cooperation of the Netherlands, also speaking for Belgium and Luxembourg and associating himself with the statement to be delivered by the European Union, said that, since the adoption of the veto initiative, the Russian Federation has used that power on four occasions. Pointing out that Moscow has chosen to ignore the call to renew the provisions of Security Council resolution 2672 (2023) for 12 months, he said it also “singlehandedly” blocked the nine-month compromise. “This is the eighteenth time since 2011 that the Russian Federation has used its veto against Syria-related resolutions,” he stressed, noting that Moscow has politicized humanitarian aid for Syria by employing conditionality of its own and the Syrian Government’s political objectives, including demands for sanctions relief and reconstruction in exchange for humanitarian access.
“The need for unimpeded humanitarian access is at the heart of our discussions today. Not the principle of sovereignty,” he underscored, while recognizing that cross-line operations are not enough to provide aid to north-west Syria at the necessary scale. Noting that the cross-border and the cross-line aid deliveries are “at the mercy of Syria’s Government”, he said that a United Nations presence in the affected territories and respective monitoring mechanisms are key. He observed, that, without a political solution, the conflict in Syria will not end, while reiterating that unless and until such a solution is “firmly under way”, the European Union will not finance any reconstruction, nor lift sanctions or normalize its relations with Syria.
MARTIN BILLE HERMANN (Denmark), speaking also on behalf of Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, said it is appalling to observe a permanent member of the Security Council obstruct action that would provide critical humanitarian relief to people with immense needs. Noting Syria’s 13 July letter announcing the opening of the Bab al-Hawa border crossing, he stressed that the United Nations must be able to communicate with all relevant State and non-State parties, as operationally necessary, to carry out safe and unimpeded humanitarian operations. He called on all parties to find a solution that will allow for sustained, predictable and unconditional humanitarian assistance in line with international humanitarian law and the humanitarian principles. He also called on the Council to undertake every effort to find a solution that will enable cross-border assistance to continue without conditions and in line with the humanitarian principles.
Considering yet another veto in the Council, reform of the 15-member organ is necessary, he underscored, encouraging all Member States to support the French-Mexican initiative and the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Code of Conduct. The Council does its work on behalf of all Member States and its decisions affect all of them, he said, encouraging the Organization’s wider membership to be ready to take decisive action in the Assembly that would allow for the delivery of humanitarian assistance to affected people. He voiced hope that the Assembly today sends a clear signal that life-saving humanitarian assistance must not be politicized and should never be made subject to a veto. “The legitimacy of this very Organization depends on it and most importantly, countless human lives depend on it,” he stressed.
SILVIO GONZATO, Deputy Head of Delegation of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, deplored the Russian Federation’s second veto on the renewal of Council resolution 2672 (2023), stating that his bloc will continue to provide life-saving humanitarian assistance to north-west Syria through all the available modalities. Noting the Syrian regime’s 13 July decision to allow the United Nations and its agencies to cross through Bab al-Hawa for six months for aid delivery in north-west Syria, he underscored that the short-term, bilateral agreement does not provide sufficient predictability for humanitarian organizations to plan and deliver humanitarian assistance in a timely and efficient manner. He called for United Nations-coordinated cross-border delivery of humanitarian assistance to be urgently allowed, through the renewal of the Council resolution and the Syrian regime’s firm commitment not to politicize the delivery of humanitarian aid.
“The EU [European Union] will continue to support the delivery of humanitarian assistance to all those in need in Syria, wherever they are,” he emphasized, noting that, following the earthquakes, the European Union Civil Protection Mechanism and the European Humanitarian Response Capacity facilitated the delivery of aid to all Syrians affected by the disaster. This included €1.3 million worth of the bloc’s own humanitarian relief stocks and €9 million worth of aid from 16 offering countries. He went on to underscore that no normalization, lifting of sanctions or reconstruction will be possible until the Syrian regime engages in a political transition, in the framework of Council resolution 2254 (2015) and the Geneva process. Further detailing his bloc’s financial support for Syria’s people, he called on the Council to undertake every effort to find a solution that will enable cross-border assistance to continue.
REIN TAMMSAAR (Estonia), speaking on behalf of the Baltic States and associating himself with the European Union, noted that it is “the second time that the Russian Federation’s veto has put the delivery of life-saving aid to the Syrian people at risk”. “Although Security Council members, permanent members in particular, have a special responsibility to maintain international peace and security, the Russian Federation is demonstrating again and again its irresponsible behaviour and therefore casting shadow to the dignity of the entire Council,” he emphasized. The Syrian regime’s decision to allow the United Nations and its agencies to use the Bab al-Hawa border crossing for six months to deliver aid in north-west Syria does not provide humanitarian organizations enough space to plan and deliver assistance in the most efficient manner.
Such a short-term bilateral agreement cannot be seen as an alternative to Bab al-Hawa as the latter has been used to deliver 85 per cent of the life-saving aid to the more than 4 million people in north-west Syria, he said. The Security Council must continue its efforts in finding a solution that will allow humanitarian agencies to continue delivering essential cross-border aid to the people in north-west Syria. “We also urge the Syrian regime to retract its unacceptable demands that infringe on the independence of the United Nations humanitarian operations,” he stressed. The European Union and its member States remain the largest provider of humanitarian assistance inside Syria and in neighbouring countries. For their part, the Baltic States will continue to support United Nations initiatives ensuring the delivery of aid to Syria’s people.
ROBERT ALEXANDER POVEDA BRITO (Venezuela), speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends in Defense of the Charter of the United Nations, said any Council outcome must always guarantee full respect for the sovereignty, the right of peoples to self-determination, the territorial integrity, political unity and independence of Member States, including Syria, while accounting for the positions of the concerned States. He echoed the Syrian Government’s request to let the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent supervise and facilitate the distribution of humanitarian aid in the north-west region of Syria. Supporting all measures that truly aim to improve the humanitarian situation in Syria, the Group supports the complete and immediate lifting of all unilateral coercive measures that have been illegally and cruelly applied against the Syrian people on and off for the past 40 years, he said.
These so-called sanctions have had a devastating impact on the lives and livelihoods of the Syrian people and have hindered the work of the United Nations and its humanitarian agencies on the ground, he said. The sanctions have impeded the broadening of humanitarian activities and the implementation of early recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction projects, as called for in Council resolution 2585 (2021), 2642 (2022) and 2672 (2023). He said the Group is aware of the negative impact of the potential entrenchment of a cold-war-era mentality based on nothing more than confrontation, the deepening of divisions and the imposition of disparate visions and agendas. “We are at a juncture in which the strengthening of the rule of law, multilateralism, diplomacy and political dialogue are needed more than ever,” he said, urging all Council members to fulfil their responsibility to maintain international peace and security in accordance with the Charter and without double standards.
SATYENDRA PRASAD (Fiji), speaking for the Pacific Islands Forum, expressed disappointment that the Assembly was again meeting on the same topic, voicing hope that the session will lead to better standards governing the more transparent and limited use of the veto. Further voicing disappointment that the Russian Federation had blocked a humanitarian resolution, he emphasized that the Security Council has a duty to prevent innocent people from suffering. Forum leaders previously called on all members of the Council to provide leadership, but the use of the veto on a humanitarian resolution is of particular concern, as the provision of such aid should follow the principles of neutrality, impartiality, humanity and independence. “Providing people with the means of survival in their most difficult circumstances should be above geopolitics,” he stressed, noting the use of the veto has plagued the United Nations since its inception — allowing for inaction that endangers international peace and security.
Emphasizing the importance of Council reform to ensure transparency, accessibility, accountability and equal representation, he called for the safe and unhindered access for all humanitarian personnel in Syria, with 12.1 million people facing acute food insecurity and 15.3 million — half of them women and girls — requiring humanitarian aid. In that context, the use of a veto “is simply a travesty”, he stressed. The Forum has consistently opposed the unconstrained use of the veto, and in such situations, “we can see clearly how outdated and obstructionist the veto is”, he stated.
CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein) said the Assembly must discuss the relevant legal arguments and political implications of the Russian Federation’s 11 July veto to block Council action on Syria and underscored that the intentional starvation of civilians is a prosecutable crime under international criminal law and the Rome Statute. He voiced support for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ ongoing efforts to find modalities for the delivery of humanitarian aid through Bab al-Hawa, stressing that the United Nations and implementing partners must be able to engage with relevant State and non-State parties as operationally necessary to carry out safe, unimpeded humanitarian operations. As it awaits the outcome of ongoing discussions between the Office and the Government of Syria, the Assembly, in line with its powers and functions under the United Nations Charter, should reflect on possible action to ensure the flow of aid, based on the Secretary-General's regular reporting.
MARITZA CHAN VALVERDE (Costa Rica) said those present should do everything they can to help people in north-west Syria. Recognizing that constant political weaponization of United Nations cross-border aid will impact people on the ground, she stressed that the Council’s failure will exacerbate the situation. “Allowing aid is not a privilege, it is a duty of States,” she underscored, observing that arbitrary denial of assistance, the use of starvation as a form of warfare and targeting humanitarian workers is wrongful. “UN humanitarian aid should not be abused, diverted, obstructed or used to fund or fuel the conflict,” she emphasized, noting that with one conscious and decisive vote, the Council has failed to uphold its pledge. Expressing her support to United Nations agencies for continuing their cross-border aid delivery, she said: “Our primary objective is to ensure the uninterrupted flow of aid.”
ALEXANDER MARSCHIK (Austria), associating himself with the European Union, stressed that veto power was not accorded to permanent members of the Security Council so they could prevent the organ from fulfilling its mandate. Effective multilateralism requires the willingness to compromise, meaning that national positions are sometimes amended to enable results supported by a majority. This holds particularly true for humanitarian resolutions, where lives of civilians are at stake. The legitimacy of using the veto to prevent humanitarian action supported by a large majority, cannot be justified — not morally, not legally, not by reference to the Charter of the United Nations, and not by an attempt to create a parallel reality, he stressed. The Syrian authorities agreed to open the Bab al-Hawa crossing for six months, he noted, saying this is a positive step. But, the mandate of the cross-border mechanism needed to be renewed for at least 12 months to plan and prepare their work, he emphasized.
FERGAL MYTHEN (Ireland), associating himself with the European Union, expressed concern that, in 2023, the number of people in need in Syria has climbed to 15.3 million. “Their well-being and survival hangs in the balance because of the reckless and irresponsible actions of the Russian Federation, a permanent member of the Security Council,” he said. Conditions imposed by Syria’s Government are simply unacceptable. “They jeopardize the impartial and independent nature of humanitarian assistance,” he continued. The uncertainty we now see has a root cause — the Russian veto. “The instrumentalization of this privilege is shameful,” he stressed, also adding: “It is plain for all the world to see that it is an anachronism which undermines the Council’s ability to deliver on its responsibilities.” The longer reform is postponed, the more we risk further undermining the credibility of the Security Council as the guarantor of international peace and security.
ENRIQUE JAVIER OCHOA MARTÍNEZ (Mexico) noted the Syrian Government’s offer to keep the Bab al-Hawa crossing open for six months, as well as United Nations humanitarian actors’ concerns over the conditions imposed by Damascus for its operation. Fairness and independence in Syria are crucial to the lives of millions of people. “We regret that once again, an issue that should be strictly humanitarian is politicized,” he said. A predictable and uninterrupted humanitarian border crossing for north-west Syria is necessary and humanitarian assistance cannot be held hostage to political considerations. He called on all current and future Council members to seek a sustainable solution that lets humanitarian organizations operate in Syria. He condemned the use and abuse of the veto. The present situation only puts at risk equipment, personnel and resources that represent the minimum standards of humanitarian aid in a conflict that has lasted for more than 12 years.
PASCALE CHRISTINE BAERISWYL (Switzerland) said that, at a time when humanitarian needs are greater than ever, millions of people in north-west Syria are plunged into uncertainty by the current impasse. “The international community must find a solution to meet the needs of these people,” she emphasized, calling for rapid and unhindered access for humanitarian actors. She rejected any politicization of humanitarian aid, recalling that the veto of the resolution enabled a single member of the Council to call into question the extension of the cross-border aid mechanism, “the objective of which is purely humanitarian”. As a matter of principle, Switzerland is not in favour of using the veto. Highlighting a collective responsibility towards people in need in north-west Syria, she reiterated her Government’s commitment to finding a solution that will allow the continuation of the United Nations cross-border aid that provides assistance to the most vulnerable, including protection services.
TAKEI SHUNSUKE, State Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, expressed deep regret that the Russian Federation chose to cast a veto to block the reauthorization of the cross-border humanitarian aid mechanism in Syria. Moscow’s veto is a clear reflection of its indifference to the suffering of Syrian people and goes against the solemn duty of a Council permanent member. Listening attentively to the explanation given by the Russian Federation, he said he is not convinced that the veto is responsible behaviour, adding that abuse of the veto damages the United Nations and multilateralism. The Secretary-General’s report is clear. The cross-border mechanism under the Council resolutions is the only way to effectively deliver life-saving humanitarian assistance to the people of north-western Syria. His country, as a responsible Council member, will continue to work constructively with other partners to this end, he vowed, declaring: “The needs of the Syrian people should be our top priority.”
MARK SEAH (Singapore) expressed regret that a permanent member of the Security Council had cast a veto on a draft resolution on humanitarian assistance for the Syrian people. “We are concerned that the veto was used to block a resolution on humanitarian assistance, after a similar veto was used just last year on this same topic,” he said. Singapore calls on all Member States, especially members of the Council, to avoid the politicization of humanitarian assistance to people in need. The provision of humanitarian assistance is one of the key responsibilities of the United Nations. “We hope that the Council would be united on matters concerning humanitarian assistance to facilitate the work of humanitarian actors,” he added. Singapore continues to support a more transparent and effective Security Council, one that is accountable and able to respond efficiently to global challenges.
RENÉ ALFONSO RUIDÍAZ PÉREZ (Chile), noting that the Secretary-General had called for renewal of the cross-border aid mechanism for 12 months, emphasized the priority of providing humanitarian assistance and ensuring the protection of civilians, essential infrastructure, and humanitarian workers in a crisis such as the one in Syria. He called for the Security Council to act in a cohesive and united manner in the negotiations on the cross-border crossing in north-western Syria, which allows for 85 per cent of United Nations aid delivery. He further cited the importance of the France-Mexico initiative to restrict the use of the veto in the event of mass atrocities, serious violations of human rights and international law. Use of the veto must be conceived within comprehensive reform of the United Nations system, to guarantee greater accessibility, equality of its members and to better reflect the current geopolitical reality.
CARLA MARIA RODRÍGUEZ MANCIA (Guatemala) said that the misuse of the veto due to political or ideological positions has highlighted the need for United Nations structural changes. Noting that the “United for Peace” resolution does not change the basic problem, she said it helps shed light on the need for democratizing and increasing representativity to ensure that the maintenance of international order does not depend on the unilateral and non-representative decisions of a few States. She expressed support for the mechanism, while underscoring that cross-border deliveries do not undermine Syria’s sovereignty. Advocating for the mechanism’s 12-month extension, she stressed: “Each and every path to provide humanitarian assistance must be maintained and expanded.” Further, she rejected the Russian Federation’s use of the veto to block the mechanism’s nine-month extension, while underscoring the importance of Security Council reform.
ANA PAULA ZACARIAS (Portugal), associating herself with the European Union, as a co-sponsor of the veto initiative, expressed regret over the Russian Federation’s use of the veto. “If approved, that resolution would have ensured further predictability for humanitarian actors on the ground,” she underscored, noting that cross-border assistance to Syria remains a critical and efficient way of bringing help and hope. While recognizing the Government’s decision to allow the United Nations and its agencies to deliver aid to north-west Syria through Bab al-Hawa crossing for six months, she pointed out that this short-term arrangement does not provide sufficient predictability to plan and deliver assistance. In this regard, she insisted on allowing the aid provision through all modalities across the border and cross-line from Damascus. Further, she underscored the importance of education in the humanitarian context, adding: “It is the very foundation of tolerance and peace, and the cornerstone of sustainable development.”
ANDRÉS EFREN MONTALVO SOSA (Ecuador) said this is the second time the veto initiative has been activated on the same issue, the renewal of the humanitarian border crossing in Syria. This meeting contributes to the transparency and accountability that strengthens the General Assembly’s role and authority and its relationship with the Security Council. The veto mechanism favours the strengthening of the United Nations system. When resolution 76/262 was adopted, his delegation emphasized the importance of having all Assembly members contribute to the debate. “This debate is an amplifier of the positions of Member States,” he said. His delegation regrets that the veto was used despite a unanimous position of the 10 elected members, which reflects a cohesion of the majority of Member States from all regions. He defended the need to systematically guarantee the predictability, certainty and planning of humanitarian efforts, through effective mandates of sufficient duration, particularly when it comes to border crossings. “The lives of millions of people and humanitarian needs cannot be buried by battles in the Council,” he added.
FIONA WEBSTER (Australia) cited the Russian Federation’s veto of the Security Council resolution authorizing the delivery of critical aid to Syrians in need as “indefensible”. “For this to happen, at a time when humanitarian needs in Syria are at their highest, defies humanity,” she stressed. Every single month, support delivered through the Bab al-Hawa crossing provides 2.7 million people with the food, medicine and humanitarian supplies they desperately need. The 12 years of violent conflict, economic collapse and devastating earthquakes earlier this year have led to a dire situation in Syria — a staggering 15.3 million Syrians require humanitarian assistance. Alleviating the suffering in north-west Syria requires unhindered and uninterrupted access for humanitarian actors. Accordingly, a 12-month extension of this vital cross-border lifeline is necessary to ensure that reliable aid reaches the most vulnerable. “We cannot in good conscience allow vulnerable Syrians to be held captive to the political whims and ambitions of the Syrian regime and its Russian enablers,” she declared.
JOAN CEDANO (Dominican Republic) noted that 15.3 million people in Syria require humanitarian aid — 6.5 million of them children — and 4.9 million people are in extreme distress. In June, 896 trucks with humanitarian assistance in areas such as water, sanitation and hygiene, education, nutrition, shelter and health were able to meet the needs of almost 2 million people in the north-west. She therefore expressed regret that the Security Council has not been able to reach a decision that would keep this safeguard alive, calling on it to continue deliberations focused on the needs of the people. It is everyone’s responsibility to guarantee that the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence prevail in all humanitarian action coordinated by the United Nations. She further called on the Council to engage in a negotiation process that delivers good-faith decisions in a constructive spirit.
JAMES KARIUKI (United Kingdom) said that today’s meeting is on the Russian Federation’s seventeenth use of the veto on Syria, adding: “This time the veto has been particularly cruel.” Noting that 14 Council members were ready to agree on a resolution and made “compromise after compromise” to find common ground, he said that Moscow offered a “take-it-or-leave-it” counter proposal, supported by one other delegation. “Let us not forget that this is a live conflict,” he stressed, pointing out that the regime continues to launch aerial assaults against people in north-west Syria. He said that the idea that Syria is acting responsibly is a “cruel joke”, noting that the United Nations is now only able to operate across Al‑Ra’ee and Bab al-Salam crossings, that are only open for another three and a half weeks. “Humanitarian assistance needs to be delivered in line with international humanitarian law. Not held hostage to politics,” he underscored.
JOONKOOK HWANG (Republic of Korea) said predictability is important for humanitarian organizations as they plan the delivery of humanitarian assistance during the harsh winter months. The resolution that was vetoed was the outcome of extensive consultations and he commended the efforts of all parties to find common ground. It is imperative that the Council find unity on providing cross-border humanitarian assistance and find a solution that puts the needs of Syria’s people first. The Republic of Korea has pledged to provide humanitarian assistance to Syria and neighbouring countries. The only way to end the crisis is through a ceasefire and finding a solution that lets the Syrian people determine their own future. His delegation is committed to finding a lasting solution. Each veto undermines the Council’s credibility and its failure to respond to humanitarian issues. He reiterated his support for initiatives to limit the use of the veto.
ANTHONY SIMPSON (New Zealand), describing the veto as an undemocratic and anachronistic device that has no place at the United Nations, said its callous use has once again prevented the Council from fulfilling its responsibilities. In vetoing this resolution, the Russian Federation has acted to undermine the Council’s credibility, he stressed. The resolution proposed by Switzerland and Brazil introduced a mechanism that is exclusively humanitarian in nature, containing elements necessary to ease the suffering of millions of Syrians. Moreover, it is fully consistent with international humanitarian law and provides operational certainty for humanitarian organizations on the ground. “This is not an abstract or an academic debate; indeed, the stakes for the people of Syria could hardly be higher,” he said, strongly criticizing Moscow’s decision to block this resolution with irresponsible disregard to the lives of million before any alternative modality was in place.
LUKÁŠ PETER PRVÝ (Slovakia), associating himself with the statement delivered by the European Union, deplored the use of the veto by the Russian Federation. The extension of the mechanism´s mandate was a humanitarian imperative to preserve the functioning of a critical humanitarian lifeline for 4.1 million Syrian men, women and children, including 2.8 million internally displaced in north-west Syria. The compromise proposal calling for a nine-month renewal had garnered wide support from Security Council members, with 13 votes in favour. “Russian Federation, ignoring these calls, has once again politicized the discussion, took the Security Council hostage and in a cynical way blocked paths towards predictable, long-term, cross-border humanitarian access in Syria,” he said. Slovakia calls on all parties to the conflict to join forces to reaffirm and consolidate strong support for a political solution in accordance with the Security Council resolution 2254 (2015).
AMIR SAEID IRAVANI (Iran), aligning himself with the Group of Friends in Defense of the Charter of the United Nations, underscored that the delivery of impartial and non-politicized assistance to all regions of Syria is paramount for saving lives and reaching the most vulnerable. However, it is crucial to uphold Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity throughout this process. The continued imposition of unilateral sanctions poses a significant obstacle to improving the country’s humanitarian and economic situation. In providing humanitarian aid, the United Nations should address Syria’s legitimate concerns. The country has consistently emphasized that the cross-border mechanism undermines its sovereignty and territorial integrity, providing an opportunity for terrorist groups to exploit humanitarian aid for their own interests. “The situation raises legitimate concerns about Western intentions, that they may seek to divide Syria and establish a self-governing region led by terrorists in the north-west,” he observed, calling on Western countries to reconsider their approach.
ROBERT KEITH RAE (Canada) condemned the use of the veto by the Russian Federation on 11 July — the eighteenth veto it has used on issues relating to Syria since 2011. He noted that the text proposed by Switzerland and Brazil and supported by a majority of the Council was a compromise position, already less than what the United Nations, the international community and humanitarian actors on the ground had said was required. Citing the Russian Federation’s refusal to negotiate with other Council members, telling them to adopt its competing resolution or they would get nothing, he stressed: “We can only call this obstructionist behaviour for what it is — bullying.” Taking the Council hostage on a humanitarian issue is the very height of cynicism, as “there should be no conditions on the delivery of humanitarian assistance”, he stressed, noting that Canada has committed over $775 million to Syria since 2016.
JEFFREY DELAURENTIS (United States), recalled that, in 2022, the Russian Federation has vetoed its sixteenth Security Council resolution on Syria, adding: “last week it made it seventeenth”. Noting that the majority of the Council members were unified, he said that “only Russia stood in the way”. The United Nations most complicated and far-reaching operation is frozen in place, he lamented, while urging the co-penholders to propose a viable next step to resolve this issue in the Council. Noting that Moscow’s veto has “life or death consequences”, he recalled that Washington, D.C., and its partners have contributed billions of dollars in humanitarian assistance. However, that aid cannot be delivered without the cross-border mechanism, he underscored, adding: “There is no replacement for it.” Pointing out that the proposed way forward, announced by Syria, is not a workable substitute, he emphasized that humanitarian aid should never be used as a bargaining chip.
VANESSA FRAZIER (Malta) said the lives of millions of Syrians remain in jeopardy with the Russian Federation’s decision to block the Council resolution allowing the extension of cross-border humanitarian assistance. The devastating earthquake in February worsened a severe situation. The veto action places political objectives ahead of the humanitarian needs of people. “It is unacceptable,” she said. She recalled the early days of the Syrian conflict, when humanitarian assistance was routinely denied by the Syrian regime and the Council was determined to find a pathway to continue aide even as the conflict persisted. This year’s resolution was a compromise text that would extend the cross-border operation for nine months and support the safe and legal return of refugees. This humanitarian resolution was blocked by a permanent member of the Council. Now, as in 2013, the ability to deliver aid is in jeopardy. The Council must not spare any efforts to adopt a resolution to restore this vital mechanism.
MOHAN PEIRIS (Sri Lanka) said Member States must explore alternative mechanisms that promote consensus-building, dialogue and cooperation, ensuring that all their voices, particularly those most affected by humanitarian crises, are heard and considered, while assuring to the permanent members primacy in the decision-making process. However, for the veto power to contribute towards plurality, it requires responsible and judicious usage by the exercising member State, he pointed out, adding that transparency, accountability and a genuine commitment to United Nation principles are essential for ensuring that the veto is used for the common good of the international community and the preservation of the objectives of the Charter of the United Nations. Comprehensive efforts beyond the veto power, including international cooperation, diplomacy, advocacy and sustainable development initiatives, must be met through constructive dialogue among Member States aimed at fostering an environment of social justice towards a more equitable and just world order, he added.
BASSAM SABBAGH (Syria), aligning himself with the Group of Friends in Defense of the Charter, noted his delegation has already joined the consensus on Assembly resolution 76/262, but some exploit it “in a politicized way that does not serve the goals envisaged by it”. There is an effort by some, he said, to turn this into a session to make false accusations against the Russian Federation, after that delegation, on 11 July, took a balanced and wise decision to vote against a draft resolution to extend the provisions of resolution 2672 (2023), as it did not meet the real needs of Syria’s people. Stressing the principle of respect for Syria’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, he stated “it is reprehensible to listen to some delegations today disregarding this principle”. When the Security Council established the cross-border aid delivery mechanism, it was a temporary measure imposed by exceptional circumstances that no longer exist.
He pointed to the failure to ensure that aid does not reach the hands of terrorist organizations that control north-west Syria, a lack of funding which will force the World Food Programme (WFP) to reduce its assistance by 40 per cent and the negative impact of unilateral sanctions on humanitarian work. The Syrian Government granted the United Nations and its agencies permission to use the Bab al-Hawa crossing for six months, starting 13 July, as well as opening two additional crossings for a period of three months. “It is shameful that some Western countries insist on continuing the policy of collective punishment of the Syrians, and the use of financial extortion,” he stated. He further stressed that the United States’ record of unjustly using the veto over the past decades against the peoples of the region “does not qualify it to lecture here on the reasons and motives for using the veto in the Security Council”.
SÉRGIO FRANÇA DANESE (Brazil), as a co-penholder of Syria’s humanitarian file in the Security Council, said that his delegation has been guided solely by a humanitarian imperative, which is one of the beacons of its foreign policy and a pillar of the democratic State. Conscious of divisions among Council members, his country has worked in good faith with all of them, while also consulting with Syria and other interested parties. “Time was provided for such efforts to the limit and beyond,” he said, noting that all along the way, the co-penholders have discussed and agreed on each step. The aim has always been to reach a compromise, he stressed, underscoring that Brazil has also sought to address the Syrian Government’s concerns, with which it consulted constantly.
Despite such pleas, in order to avoid the lapse of authorization, the resolution proposed a nine-month renewal and included provisions on cross-line delivery, calls for more funding and enhanced early recovery activities, among other aspects. “I can assure you, it broke new ground in several respects: it was balanced and meaningful; it was responsible and committed,” he emphasized, while recognizing that the resolution, that obtained support from the Council’s majority, failed. Pointing to the new developments since 11 July, he reiterated his country’s commitment to work together with all stakeholders to ensure that the ultimate goal of assisting Syria’s population is met, and that Brazil’s role as a co-penholder, is fulfilled at its best.
LACHEZARA STOEVA (Bulgaria), associating herself with the European Union, said that by terminating the humanitarian cross-border mechanism in Syria, the Russian Federation put an end to the only tool that “for years has literally made the difference between life and death for millions of Syrian people”. “Let us be clear: this is a blatant misuse of the veto, and the Russian Federation must be held to account,” she emphasized. Just two days ago, the Russian Federation terminated the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which played a significant role in supporting WFP’s fight against food insecurity in vulnerable countries and regions. She urged the Security Council to make every effort to ensure the continuation of predictable and people-oriented cross-border humanitarian assistance in Syria. “Humanitarian assistance should not and cannot be used as a tool for the achievement of selfish political goals,” she said.
SHAHD JAMAL YOUSUF IBRAHIM MATAR (United Arab Emirates), noting her country’s efforts in the Security Council to extend the cross-border aid mechanism for 12 months — and when that proved impossible, for nine — emphasized that it endeavoured to bridge viewpoints and find a solution suitable for everyone. Given the Council’s inability to extend the mechanism, her country welcomed the Syrian Government’s decision to grant the United Nations permission to deliver humanitarian aid through the Bab al-Hawa crossing for a period of six months, she said. While it will need time to adapt to this new reality, the international community must move quickly to ensure that aid is delivered to the Syrian people through all available means. The Council must refrain from divisions over a purely humanitarian issue, and instead find common ground on which to move forward in a spirit of cooperation, understanding and mutual respect, she added.
JASSIM SAYAR A. J. AL-MAAWDAXX (Qatar) stressed his delegation’s commitment to multilateralism and strengthening and revitalizing the Assembly, the Organization’s most representative body. Pointing out that Assembly resolution 76/262 does not infringe on the Council’s mandate or functions, he said the humanitarian situation in Syria is very important to Qatar and other Member States, not just Council members. The use of the veto last week prevented a critical lifeline to provide food, health care and basic supplies to civilians in north-west Syria, according to humanitarian actors on the ground. There are no acceptable, realistic and adequate alternatives that can replace this cross-border mechanism, which is essential to avoid a disaster.
SAŠA JUREČKO (Slovenia), aligning herself with the European Union, noted that 12 years of conflict have pushed 90 per cent of Syrians below the poverty line, with the recent earthquake worsening the situation. Therefore, she stressed that renewal of the cross-border mechanism remains critical to adequately address humanitarian needs, expressing alarm that the Assembly is once again called on to discuss that renewal, due to the use of the veto by the Russian Federation. While acknowledging the Syrian Government’s decision to extend the Bab al-Hawa crossing for six months, she noted that the main aim is for unhindered delivery of aid in a safe and predictable way, and humanitarian actors had asked for a 12-month extension. She noted that Slovenia has provided €30 million in humanitarian aid since 2014 to the people of Syria and the region through various United Nations agencies and humanitarian organizations.
CEREN HANDE ÖZGÜR (Türkiye) said that, since 2014, the cross-border mechanism has facilitated humanitarian assistance to millions of people. Given the record level of humanitarian need in Syria — only exacerbated by the earthquake — she observed: “It is clear that this mechanism should continue.” While expressing regret that the Council failed to reach agreement, she acknowledged the Syrian regime’s grant of permission to use the Bab al-Hawa crossing. However, she echoed the concerns of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs regarding the conditions attached to that permission, also pointing out that the mechanism remains the most transparent and impartial method of aid delivery. It is disconcerting when the veto prevents humanitarian action, she said, calling on the Council to redouble its efforts to forge common ground. Recalling that the last humanitarian-aid convoy crossed Bab al-Hawa 10 days ago, she emphasized: “The cross-border aid deliveries should continue as soon as possible and as long as needed.”
LUIS UGARELLI (Peru) said that resolution 76/262 ensures transparency and reaffirms that the Council’s mandate is entrusted to all Member States. The veto should not be used in ways that negatively impact the Organization’s purposes, he stressed, noting that the United Nations faces a very different situation today than it did in 1945 and that the Council holds much more experience in the use of the veto. On 11 July, the Council was unable to adopt a resolution allowing the renewal of the cross-border mechanism. “We do not jump to conclusions, we listen to all the facts,” he stated, calling on all Council members to avoid politicizing humanitarian issues. The Council must make diplomacy a priority and avoid the use of the veto in situations involving such issues, he underscored.
SONG KIM (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said that the Council’s work must be carried out in full compliance with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, with every decision respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States. The Syrian Government has long expressed its concern that the cross-border aid mechanism infringes on that sovereignty, and has reiterated its position that cross-line relief and its own processes, in cooperation with United Nations entities, should be the primary aid modality. Noting that the cross-border mechanism was temporary, he called for transition to cross-line deliveries at the earliest date. Unfortunately, however, the United States and its Western allies tried to pass a politically motivated resolution, drafted without the full engagement of members or sufficient flexibility. As such, he said that the Russian Federation had no alternative but to oppose that unjustified draft.
CARLOS ERNESTO MORALES DÁVILA (Nicaragua), pointing to Western countries’ “manoeuvres and abuses” in the Security Council on 11 July, said that these countries are responsible for undermining good-faith negotiations. He stressed that the mechanism could have been extended if the Russian Federation’s resolution had been adopted, thanking Moscow for its solidarity regarding the humanitarian situation in Syria and for not allowing the politicization of aid. “We were really struck by the Western discourse,” he said, pointing to the continuous application of “criminal” double standards and the imposition of “illegal and inhumane” unilateral coercive measures against Syria. As a country whose people love peace and respect international law, he said that Nicaragua does not recognize or accept initiatives that violate Syria’s sovereignty. Any resolution or decision — by either the General Assembly or the Security Council — must bear that State’s concerns, he underscored.
DIARRA DIME-LABILLE (France), aligning herself with the European Union, expressed regret that the draft resolution was not adopted, following the veto used by the Russian Federation. Worse, that delegation issued an ultimatum: use its text, or nothing, thus taking hostage not only the Council, but more than 4 million people in urgent need of humanitarian assistance in north-western Syria, more than 80 per cent of them women and children. Although the Russian Federation tries to disguise its manipulations as humanitarian concerns, “no one is fooled”, she stated, and the decision not to extend the Black Sea Grain Initiative is similarly cynical. It is now essential that a solution be found as soon as possible to guarantee the conditions for the delivery of predictable, transparent humanitarian aid to the Syrian population. She recalled that 96 per cent of humanitarian funding comes from the European Union, United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Norway and Japan.
MAURIZIO MASSARI (Italy), associating himself with the statement delivered by the European Union delegation, said that the Russian Federation’s decision to veto the resolution will have tangible humanitarian consequences. “Russia’s decision to veto the draft after a genuine diplomatic effort will create once again a sense of uncertainty about the future for the Syrian population and will put the humanitarian system under heavy stress,” he added. The veto power “blatantly contradicts a fundamental principle of the UN Charter, namely, sovereign equality of States, and in too many occasions, has prevented the Security Council from discharging its vital responsibilities on international peace and security”, he emphasized. The Security Council cannot fail to address the urgent humanitarian needs of a suffering population, ensuring the continuation of cross-border assistance to the people in north-west Syria through Bab al-Hawa. “It is the only lifeline for millions of people,” he added.
ARIAN SPASSE (Albania), aligning with the European Union, deplored the use of the veto by the Russian Federation for the second time on the renewal of resolution 2672 (2023). “This is another shameless misuse of the veto and a terrible setback,” he said, adding: “Now, the veto of Russia — a permanent member of the Security Council — stands between the food and medicine and the life-saving humanitarian assistance to more than 4 million people in need in north-west Syria,” Humanitarian aid should flow to all those who need it in a predictable manner, in line with humanitarian principles and without interference. “We strongly underline the need for the continuation of the monitoring mechanism in any decision about the continuation of humanitarian aid in Syria,” he stressed, reiterating that humanitarian realities on the ground must drive Member States to find a solution sanctioned in a resolution.
MARCUS KREFT (Germany) said his delegation deeply regretted the veto cast by the Russian Federation last week on the resolution allowing for a 12-month extension of the cross-border mechanism in Syria. The casting of the veto is irresponsible and inhumane. The Russian Federation has again shown it does not live up to its responsibility as a permanent Council member. Humanitarian access is governed by international humanitarian law and consent to areas requiring assistance must not be refused, he stressed. He called on the Council to renew the extension of the cross-border mechanism and on Syria to not politicize delivery of humanitarian aid. The nine-month extension resolution was a genuine compromise. However, the real solution for sustainable peace in Syria lies with resolution 2254 (2015). So long as one Council member disregards the international principles governing humanitarian assistance, the Assembly should place a stronger emphasis on humanitarian aid to Syria.
YURI ARIEL GALA LÓPEZ (Cuba), associating himself with the Group of Friends in Defense of the Charter, pointed to the shortcomings of Assembly resolution 76/262, which provides no leeway for Member States to decide whether a General Assembly meeting is necessary. Rejecting politicization of humanitarian assistance and its use for political blackmail, he said the consent of the country concerned is essential as regards to humanitarian assistance. “The ultimate responsibility to ensure that humanitarian aid reaches all Syrians rests with the Syrian Government,” he stressed, stressing that the Council should take into account the Government’s concerns in this regard. The United States promotes a punitive approach against Syria, based on manipulation, selectivity and political bias, including unilateral coercive measures, he said, adding that such measures are deepening the consequences of the war imposed on Syria. “If the United States were truly concerned about the Syrian people, it would urgently eliminate the unilateral coercive measures,” he underscored.
GENG SHUANG (China) welcomed the Syrian Government’s decision to allow humanitarian aid delivery through the Bab al-Hawa crossing. He observed that the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs confirmed that this decision can be the basis for the United Nations to conduct humanitarian operations. While encouraging the Organization and Syria’s Government to resolve operational issues through dialogue and consultation, he said the international community should create favourable conditions to deepen cooperation. The cross-border mechanism is a temporary arrangement, made under specific circumstances, he underscored, pointing to the need for speeding-up the transition to cross-line assistance. Further, he underscored the importance of stepping-up funding, adding that greater support is needed for early recovery efforts. In this regard, unilateral sanctions should be lifted to mitigate disruption of humanitarian assistance, he stressed, asserting that the ultimate solution to Syria’s problem lies in a political settlement.
SIARHEI MAKAREVICH (Belarus), describing the right of the veto as an “integral question” of Council reform, called for preserving the existing format of intergovernmental negotiations. Differences in States’ approaches are fundamental in nature, he said, adding that not one of the proposed solutions has any tangible majority support. To achieve a mutually acceptable outcome, it is necessary to gradually move towards mutual trust and confidence. The veto mechanism — enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations — is an important tool for balanced decisions that determine peace and security on the planet. Accordingly, he criticized attempts by some countries to reverse the Charter’s principles, as well as their desire to divide the world into blocs — consciously ignoring the existence of a multipolar world. True multilateralism is only possible through the pursuit of compromises that account for the interests of all existing parties, he stressed.
KHRYSTYNA HAYOVYSHYN (Ukraine) associating herself with the European Union, condemned yet another abuse by the Russian Federation of its veto power. “Russia behaves as a failed State that uses civilian people, both in Syria and elsewhere, as a means of blackmail against the international community,” she stressed, emphasizing that it will be held to account. Drawing attention also to its unilateral withdrawal from the solely humanitarian Black Sea Grain Initiative, she emphasized that the consequences of that country’s destructive actions are being felt more and more across the globe. She called on all Member States to exert all possible pressure on the Russian Federation to make it refrain from misusing its veto power, one which it has unlawfully obtained. The United Nations-coordinated cross-border delivery of humanitarian assistance should be allowed as soon as possible, she stressed, affirming her country’s support for actions aimed at alleviating the plight of the Syrian people.
NJAMBI KINYUNGU (Kenya), noting that the two resolutions on the renewal of the cross-border mechanism had been made captive to geopolitical rivalry and conflict, stressed: “This is unacceptable. The Security Council should place the needs of innocent people first.” Underscoring the need for a more balanced, democratic and inclusive Council, whose decisions greatly impact Africa, she warned: “Without a more balanced Security Council, the needs of the world’s most vulnerable people will be too often compromised by geopolitical rivals with access to the veto.” She further called for the elimination of the veto in line with the Ezulwini Consensus. Failing that, the new permanent Council members for Africa should have the veto with its full prerogatives, she added. She called for renewed efforts to strengthen the Syria cross-border mechanism. Voicing concern about the non-renewal of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, she urged all parties to return to the negotiating table for the resumption of these critical humanitarian mechanisms.
PAUL BERESFORD-HILL, Permanent Observer for the Sovereign Order of Malta, recalled recent discussions at the United Nations that focused on the Sustainable Development Goals and that “no one should be left behind”. This mantra seems very hollow when actions taken in other chambers do not protect the vulnerable, sick and homeless, he observed. Noting his visit to north-west Syria — where aid supplied by the United Nations and other organizations was the last means of support — he underscored that the medicine and other assistance going through the Bab al-Hawa crossing is the difference between life and death for many people. He urged those making decisions about entry points — even those in disputed areas — to remember both that this aid is crucial and that it goes to people who will be needed to rebuild the country.
Right of Reply
The representative of the Republic of Korea, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said that combined military exercises conducted with the United States are defensive in nature, intended to protect the lives and safety of his country’s people from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. It is nonsense to compare these lawful military exercises with Pyongyang’s illicit military provocations, he stressed, urging that country to cease such provocations and return to dialogue.