Briefing Security Council, United Nations Officials Describe Syria’s Astounding Physical Destruction, Massive Humanitarian Needs following Earthquake
The brief lull in fighting in north-west Syria — in the wake of February’s devastating earthquakes — is giving way to a creeping rise in shelling exchanges, rocket fire and cross-line raids by terrorist groups, senior United Nations officials warned the Security Council today, while describing “astounding” physical destruction and massive humanitarian needs on the ground.
Geir O. Pedersen, United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, welcomed the growing international attention to the crisis in the country, declaring: “It is absolutely vital to continue to provide resources to support the emergency response to the earthquakes, while also continuing to support the broader humanitarian response.” Noting the immense suffering arising from the earthquake and the ongoing conflict, he said the earthquake response requires a sustained calm, as was seen in the weeks following the natural disaster. “For brief moments, the unimaginable became real — parties on each side of the front line largely refraining from hostilities,” he said.
Since then, however, he noted a creeping rise in hostilities, including air strikes on Aleppo International Airport — attributed to Israel — which resulted in damage and impacted humanitarian operations. Emphasizing the need to avert a broader escalation “at all costs”, he said sustained calm will also be an essential ingredient of donor confidence as they consider supporting rehabilitation and recovery efforts. Meanwhile, the recent agreement to reopen previously closed border crossings to humanitarian aid delivery — as well as new openings in sanctions regimes — shows that the parties can make constructive moves. “I sense, from all the discussions I have had, that there is an opportunity to move forward with additional moves on all sides, beyond the immediate emergency,” he said.
Tareq Talahma, Acting Director of the Operations and Advocacy Division of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said more than 56,000 people are now recorded to have died in the earthquakes that struck Türkiye and Syria in February. Thousands of survivors continue to seek treatment for physical injury and trauma, while the physical destruction has also been astounding. The United Nations has provided some 2.2 million people with food and cash transfers, carried out more than 1.1 million medical consultations and provided water and sanitation services to almost 380,000 people. It also continues to conduct daily missions in earthquake-affected areas, delivering assistance, assessing the structural integrity of buildings and identifying protection requirements.
He nevertheless emphasized that much more must be done in the weeks ahead — collective shelters must be decongested, adequate housing must be supported, and safe, voluntary and dignified return must be facilitated. “The pressures show no sign of easing,” he stressed, as food prices have almost doubled over the past year, water supplies are becoming less certain in many areas and sufficient livelihoods remain elusive for too many in Syria. The 2023 humanitarian response plan for Syria is the largest in the world but stands at only 6 per cent funded, he said, calling for stepped-up efforts by the global community.
As Council members and other concerned delegations took the floor, many speakers echoed pleas for donors to fund Syria’s dire humanitarian needs at a greater scale and more accelerated pace. Some strongly condemned the air strikes on Aleppo International Airport, which is being used as a delivery point for critical humanitarian aid. Delegates also voiced diverging opinions about the growing number of States working to normalize relations with Syria in the wake of the latest tragedy, with some speakers warning against ever accepting a dictator who has committed atrocity crimes against his own people.
On that point, the representative of the United States declared: “The earthquake has not transformed [President Bashar] Al-Assad into a statesman worthy of embrace.” Recalling that the Assad regime is the same one that carried out attacks on schools and hospitals and used chemical weapons on civilians, he said efforts to alleviate suffering and reach a political settlement must once again take centre stage. The regime has never seriously sought peace, but rather committed atrocities and hid behind its patrons, the Russian Federation and Iran, he stressed, emphasizing that ending the conflict will require that the regime engage in good faith in the United Nations-facilitated process, as required by resolution 2254 (2015).
The representative of Ghana, also speaking for Gabon and Mozambique, said there has never been a more critical time to demonstrate international support for the people of Syria — including through more resources. Thanking donors that contributed at a recent funding conference in Brussels, he said about $85 million more is still needed to fully fund the Syria flash appeal, while the country’s broader humanitarian response plan remains over 90 per cent underfunded. “The people of Syria therefore continue to count on our support […] and we must not let them down,” he said, deploring the unrelenting military hostilities amidst the current tragedy — including by the terrorist groups Da’esh and Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham — and condemning the air strike on Aleppo’s airport.
China’s representative, noting that the humanitarian situation in north-west Syria has been “tugging at the heartstrings of the international community” since the first earthquake struck, said more progress is now needed to improve cross-line relief operations into the country’s north-west. Meanwhile, the safe operation of Aleppo International Airport must be guaranteed, and the “temporary relaxation” of sanctions must be made permanent. Emphasizing that the long-term systemic damage caused by those measures can never be covered up, he added that all foreign forces must end their illegal presences in Syria and stop their plundering of the country’s natural resources.
Striking a similar tone, the representative of the Russian Federation rejected the continued occupation of the resource-rich trans-Euphrates region by the United States, which is hampering humanitarian response operations. That country and its satellites are violating Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and attempting to deny the country its right to develop independently. Despite humanitarian exemptions in sanctions, the delivery of heavy construction equipment to Syria — which is needed to remove the rubble created by the earthquake — has not been possible, he said, also citing such challenges as banking overcompliance and the United Nations disparate attitude towards cross-border and cross-line aid.
Syria’s delegate said letters sent by his country to the Council over the last 12 years — detailing the aggression against its sovereignty and the blatant interference in its internal affairs — have been ignored, due to three of the organ’s permanent members. The latest example of those countries’ double standards was the series of air strikes on Aleppo International Airport — a double crime against a civilian facility, which is being used to support humanitarian aid delivery in the wake of the earthquakes. Also citing a recent visit by United States officials to an American military base that is illegally located in north-east Syria, he went on to decry the politicization of humanitarian assistance, noting that plans for the recent Brussels Donor Conference were made without any coordination or consultation with Damascus.
Also speaking were the representatives of Brazil, United Arab Emirates, Ecuador, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Japan, France, Albania, Malta, Iran and Türkiye.
The meeting began at 10:03 a.m. and ended at 12:08 p.m.
GEIR O. PEDERSEN, United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, briefing the Security Council via video link from Geneva, said he recently returned from Amman, where he briefed and engaged with senior officials from a range of countries on the way forward following last month’s tragic earthquakes. Welcoming the attention of regional States on the crisis in Syria, he said his message to all partners has been the same: “It is absolutely vital to continue to provide resources to support the emergency response to the earthquakes, while also continuing to support the broader humanitarian response, both in Syria and in neighbouring countries.” Drawing attention to the immense suffering arising from the earthquake and the ongoing conflict, he welcomed pledges made recently by donors and welcomed broad support from across the United Nations system.
“We need a sustained calm on the ground, especially in areas affected by the earthquakes,” he stressed. The week after the earthquakes saw signs of such calm emerging, with a relative lull in violence in most quarters. “For brief moments, the unimaginable became real — parties on each side of the front line largely refraining from hostilities,” he said. However, since then, there has been a creeping rise in shelling exchanges, rocket fire, cross-line raids by listed terrorist groups and air strikes attributed to Israel — including on Aleppo International Airport — among other incidents. The latter resulted in material damage and a closure of the airport, impacting humanitarian operations.
Emphasizing the need to avert a broader escalation “at all costs”, he outlined his engagement with key stakeholders towards a sustained calm, starting in the areas affected by the earthquakes in north-west Syria. He has raised that matter widely, including in Damascus and with Iran, Türkiye, Russian Federation and the United States, as well as with all other members of the Ceasefire Task Force. Sustained calm will also be an essential ingredient of donor confidence in supporting genuine rehabilitation in areas affected by the earthquakes. The recent agreement to reopen previously closed border crossings to humanitarian aid delivery — as well as new openings in sanctions regimes — shows that the parties can make constructive moves. “I sense, from all the discussions I have had, that there is an opportunity to move forward with additional moves on all sides beyond the immediate emergency,” he said.
Against that backdrop, he called for more engagement with the Syrian parties on ways to create an enabling environment for earthquake rehabilitation, and with outside actors on how they can provide enhanced resources and remove hindrances arising from sanctions. Also calling for forward movement on confidence-building measures, he noted his own priority attention to the plight of those detained and missing, as well as their families. Earlier in March, he met representatives of the Truth and Justice Charter, who relayed to him how the earthquake had further compounded the anxiety of not knowing the fate or whereabouts of their beloved ones, or if they had been impacted by the earthquakes. His office is also pressing that matter with interlocutors in Damascus.
Calling for concerted efforts by all parties on a coordinated way forward, he looked forward to further engagement with the Government of Syria and the Syrian Negotiations Commission in the period ahead, and to more engagement in the region and beyond. “The good offices of the United Nations will need the strong support of all outside actors in this next phase,” he said, also pledging to engage with a wide range of Syrians through the Civil Society Support Room and through the Women’s Advisory Board, among other groups. Gradual steps are now urgently needed towards a political solution to the conflict, he said, emphasizing that the status quo is unacceptable. “The renewed diplomatic attention on Syria, including in the region, and the shared suffering of all Syrians in the aftermath of the earthquakes, create new obligations and opportunities,” he said, stressing that a political solution must restore Syria’s sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity, and meet the legitimate aspirations of its people.
TAREQ TALAHMA, Acting Director of the Operations and Advocacy Division of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said that the 6 February earthquake — and its aftermath — was a “stark reminder of the speed at which tragedy can strike”. The death toll continues to climb — with more than 56,000 dead now recorded — while thousands of survivors continue to seek treatment for physical injury and trauma. The physical destruction has also been astounding, he said, citing World Bank estimates that total losses in Syria amount to $5.2 billion — with the actual total likely much higher. He reported that, despite considerable challenges, the United Nations released $15 million from its emergency fund within hours of the earthquake, a figure that rose to $40 million over the following days. Further, the Organization provided 2.2 million people with food and cash transfers, carried out more than 1.1 million medical consultations and provided water and sanitation services to almost 380,000 people.
He went on to state that the United Nations continues to conduct daily missions in earthquake-affected areas, delivering assistance, assessing the structural integrity of buildings and identifying protection requirements. Blanket approvals for staff movement and assessment have already assisted these efforts, he noted, also stressing that an expanded cross-border modality has proved essential in north-west Syria. However, much more must be done in the weeks ahead — collective shelters must be decongested, adequate housing must be supported, and safe, voluntary and dignified return must be facilitated. Additionally, the public-health situation must be monitored amidst an ongoing cholera outbreak. Underscoring that financial and in-kind assistance from donors has been a lifeline for the Syrian people, he urged the international community not to lose sight of the immense tragedy that has struck millions already suffering from poverty, displacement and deprivation over 12 years of conflict.
“The pressures show no sign of easing,” he stressed, as food prices have almost doubled over the past year, adequate water supplies are becoming less certain in many areas and sufficient livelihoods remain elusive for too many in Syria. These deepening needs will require continued resolve from the international community and, while the 2023 humanitarian response plan for Syria is the largest worldwide, it is only 6 per cent funded at present. He thus urged that the generosity demonstrated in recent weeks be extended to — and not come at the expense of — the ongoing humanitarian response across Syria. Also noting that a United Nations team delivered emergency supplies to Ras al-Ayn in late February, he said that this cross-line mission was “a welcome step” and expressed hope that similar progress in cross-line operations will be made soon in north-west Syria.
JOÃO GENÉSIO DE ALMEIDA FILHO (Brazil), also speaking for Switzerland, as co-penholders of the “Syria humanitarian file”, spotlighted the dire situation and called for ensuring humanitarian assistance. Recognizing steps to facilitate the delivery of aid, he reiterated that all its modalities — including cross-border and cross-line — should be made available to humanitarian actors. Commending the opening of the two additional crossings and noting that more than 937 trucks crossed Bab al-Hawa, Bab al-Salam and Al Ra’ee, he lamented that no cross-line convoy has taken place. Underlining the importance of unhindered access for humanitarian actors, he called on all parties to facilitate access for humanitarian relief and open all routes to all people in all ways possible. Humanitarian operations also need resources, he said, welcoming the pledges made during the International Donors’ Conference in Brussels and the financial support of the flash appeal to help Syrian quake victims. He, thus, encouraged the donor community to continue contributing to the Syria Humanitarian Assistance Response Plan for 2023.
Speaking in his national capacity, he reported that Brazil’s humanitarian donations to Syria included 7 tons of nutritional dehydrated food and 90 water purifiers with the capacity to produce more than 500,000 litres daily, serving more than 25,000 people. Noting that a military solution is “illusory and deleterious”, he called for a ceasefire. He then expressed hope that the Syrian Constitutional Commission can resume its work and encouraged further cooperation between Damascus and the United Nations, including other regional actors.
JEFFREY DE LAURENTIS (United States) declared: “The toll of this war is unimaginable.” Outlining the dire statistics emanating from 12 years of war, he said the Al-Assad regime has never seriously sought peace, but rather committed atrocities and hid behind its patrons, the Russian Federation and Iran. The Special Envoy for Syria has diligently sought any means to end the conflict by engaging with all parties, a strategy which the United States supports, but such efforts require that the Al-Assad regime engage in good faith in the United Nations-facilitated process, as required by resolution 2254 (2015). Efforts to alleviate the suffering of civilians must take centre stage, he said, recalling that the regime is the same one that carried out attacks on schools and hospitals, and used chemical weapons on its own people. “The earthquake has not transformed Assad into a statesman worthy of embrace,” he stressed. Noting that the United States has been the largest donor to Syria over the course of the conflict, providing over $16 billion, he said it has also announced over $200 million in aid to Türkiye and Syria in the aftermath of the earthquakes. He also rejected assertions that United States sanctions are the cause of suffering in Syria, or that its sanctions are preventing aid delivery in the wake of the earthquakes, citing careful humanitarian carve-outs for such assistance.
VASSILY NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said that the humanitarian situation in Syria following the February earthquake was further compounded in March by Israeli missile strikes on Aleppo International Airport. The continued occupation of the resource-rich trans-Euphrates region by the United States also hampers humanitarian operations, he said, emphasizing that abiding by Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity “is not part of American plans”. Rather, because Syria is trying to pursue an independent policy, the United States and its satellites are denying Syria’s right to develop independently. He also pointed out that, despite humanitarian exemptions, the delivery of heavy construction equipment to Syria, which is needed to remove the rubble created by the earthquake, has not been possible. Banking overcompliance is also undermining humanitarian efforts. He went on to highlight the United Nations’ disparate attitude towards cross-border and crossline aid, calling on the Organization’s humanitarian leadership to “stop hiding behind politically correct language”. There is good reason to question the need for the cross-border mechanism, he added, stressing that hypocrisy regarding crossline assistance “convinces us more and more” that humanitarian assistance across Syria must be delivered with the Government’s consent.
MOHAMED ISSA ABUSHAHAB (United Arab Emirates) said States must move away from polarization and division in the international system to resolve the Syrian crisis, adding that traditional and hard-line positions that distinguish between Syrians in Damascus and those in Idlib must be set aside. Reiterating support for the efforts of the Special Envoy for Syria to bridge regional and international political viewpoints, he supported the call for a ceasefire. Rejecting foreign interference in Syrian affairs, he condemned air strikes of the Aleppo airport. Further, he underscored the importance of activating the Arab role in resolving Arab crises, including the Syrian crisis. Syria is an Arab country, and it cannot be separated from the Arab region, he said, noting that Arab countries should help “heal its wounds”. Turning to the humanitarian situation, he reported that his country provided an aid package of more than $300 million for Syria and Türkiye — impacted by the recent earthquake — including $20 million to support the Flash Appeal for Syria. Moreover, the United Arab Emirates has also received several survivors in critical condition for medical treatment. Expressing disappointment that humanitarian assistance has not been delivered through cross-line missions since the earthquake, he underlined the importance of ensuring that cross-line aid is unobstructed and reaches those in need.
GENG SHUANG (China), noting that the humanitarian situation in north-west Syria has been “tugging at the heartstrings of the international community” since the first earthquake struck, called for the next phase of recovery to be more organically integrated with longer-term reconstruction efforts. Several main obstacles must be overcome in that regard. More progress is needed in improving the cross-line relief operations into north-west Syria, the safe operation of Aleppo International Airport must be guaranteed and the “temporary relaxation” of sanctions must be made permanent, as the long-term systemic damage caused by those measures can never be covered up. He expressed support for the resumption of the Constitutional Committee’s meetings as soon as possible, in line with the principle of a Syria-owned and Syria-led political solution, and called for additional assistance from regional States and other partners. Finally, all foreign forces must end their illegal foreign presences in Syria and stop their plundering of the country’s natural resources, he said.
HERNÁN PÉREZ LOOSE (Ecuador) observed that Syria’s health system is on the brink of collapse — a situation made worse by growing incidences of cholera, COVID-19, stomach infections and skin conditions. Further, a sense of insecurity prevails, particularly among the women and children who have been left homeless without adequate food or health care in the wake of the earthquake. He went on to underscore that, with the country devastated by war and natural disaster, it is “unacceptable” that attacks on the civilian population and crucial infrastructure continue. These are flagrant violations of international humanitarian law, and he therefore condemned missile attacks conducted against a residential neighbourhood in Damascus and the destruction perpetrated at Aleppo International Airport, which impeded transport at a particularly sensitive time. Recalling that resolution 2672 (2023) made it possible to keep the Bab al-Hawa border crossing open, he observed that the crossing — along with the two additional ones that were opened — made it possible for 910 trucks loaded with humanitarian aid to enter north-west Syria. He urged the Government to keep these crossings open indefinitely.
PASCALE CHRISTINE BAERISWYL (Switzerland) said that, 12 years after the first demonstrations erupted in Syria, the country remains marked by conflict. “The repression of the civic aspirations of a whole generation of Syrians, the destruction of infrastructure and cultural and social links, [and] the forced displacement of millions of people inside and outside the country have changed it forever,” she said. The issue of detainees and missing persons remains a central concern. Emphasizing that a political solution to the conflict is paramount, she said Syrian women have an important role to play in that regard, and welcomed the inclusive nature of the Syrian Women’s Advisory Board and its efforts to promote dialogue. She expressed support for the Special Envoy’s efforts to rebuild trust between the parties, calling for a fresh turning point in the conflict. She also expressed concern about continued violations of international law by all parties, called on them to respect their obligation to protect civilians and stressed that justice and the fight against impunity are prerequisites for a lasting peace.
JAMES KARIUKI (United Kingdom), recalling that his country provided $4.6 billion in humanitarian assistance since 2011, said it announced an additional $52 million across Syria and Türkiye to fund food, medical supplies and shelter in the wake of the earthquake. Noting that these resources must reach the over 4.1 million people in north-west Syria, including through predictable cross-border access, he welcomed the efforts of the United Nations in this regard. Recalling that even since the earthquake hostilities have resumed, he spotlighted that the “billion-dollar narco-industry of Captagon”, stemming from Syria, presents a new risk to the region. He went on to say that support and solidarity provided in the aftermath of the earthquake must be channeled into renewed energy on the political track, underscoring the need for an inclusive and accountable end to the conflict. Welcoming all efforts to make progress on this track, he urged Council members to play their role in delivering peace for the Syrian people.
SHINO MITSUKO (Japan) urged the Council not to forget the tragic stories of each and every victim of Syria’s long conflict. “The earthquake was a nightmare on top of a nightmare,” she said, stressing the need for an unprecedented approach to that unspeakable calamity, including a drastic expansion of humanitarian aid. Noting that Japan has provided assistance amounting to about $18.5 million, she said that, with its own history of major earthquakes, her country can share its experience. The priority now should be to promptly address secondary disaster risks, including the further collapse of buildings and the spread of epidemics, as well as making buildings and local communities earthquake-resilient. She welcomed the agreement reached between the Syrian Government and the United Nations to establish two additional cross-border points for aid delivery, describing the arriving convoys as a “glimmer of hope amidst the devastation” and decrying any military actions that would exploit the emergency for selfish gain. In that vein, the recent air strikes on north-west Syria and the attack on Aleppo International Airport are extremely disturbing, she said.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) reported that his country announced on 20 March an additional contribution of €7 million to aid the Syrian people, bringing its total assistance to €26 million since the earthquake. He further noted that his country immediately mobilized following that disaster, dispatching 40 tons of emergency equipment to meet pressing needs. He underscored, however, that the humanitarian crisis cannot allow the international community to forget the realities of the war in Syria — a national ceasefire must be a priority for all parties. In the interest of Syria’s people — who desire lasting peace — France will not change its position regarding the Syrian regime until genuine, sustainable progress has been made towards a political solution based on resolution 2254 (2015). “The earthquake cannot wipe away the regime’s brutality towards its own people,” he underscored, stating that war crimes will be investigated. He also noted that Syria now accounts for 80 per cent of global Captagon production, and that this State-controlled drug trafficking is worth an estimated $57 billion. This benefits the regime and destabilizes the region, and he called on the United Nations to provide further information regarding the production of this substance.
ARIANI SPASSE (Albania) commended the European Union and other international donors for pledging $7 billion during the fundraising conference in Brussels to help Syria and Türkiye in the aftermath of the earthquake. Noting that “the conflict is anything but frozen”, he said Syria remains the “killing field drenched in the innocent blood of civilians”. Recalling that over 100,000 Syrians have been detained or forcibly disappeared, he said there is no political process in the country and the “stillborn” Constitutional Committee shows no signs of life. Underscoring that the Assad regime is responsible for ranking Syria the third least peaceful country in the world, he said the Council has collectively failed to hold the regime accountable. He expressed support for a new mechanism to clarify the fate and whereabouts of missing persons, while underscoring the importance of renewing cross-border aid operations in north-west Syria, including reopening new cross border points. Humanitarian aid must never be politicized, he stressed.
DARREN CAMILLERI (Malta), while commending the work of the United Nations and its agencies, acknowledged the need to increase the amount of aid to north-west Syria. Without greater support, the levels of “avoidable” mortality are bound to rise. In this regard, he commended the increase of the number of trucks crossing through Bab al-Salam, underscoring the importance of the cross-border mechanism. He also called on all parties to support and facilitate the flow of cross-line aid from Damascus into the north-west and north-east areas. Expressing concern over the air strikes targeting Aleppo airport, he highlighted their impact on humanitarian aid operations. Noting that release of the detainees and providing information on the whereabouts of the missing and forcibly disappeared people would result in a political breakthrough, he urged Syrian authorities to allow the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to visit Syria and to establish a field presence in the country. The reconvening of the Syrian Constitutional Committee in Geneva would also send a positive signal, including the development of policies and legislation to eliminate discrimination against women and girls. He then called on the Syrian Government to strengthen the national child-protection framework and to prevent the recruitment and use of children.
HAROLD ADLAI AGYEMAN (Ghana), also speaking for Gabon and Mozambique, said there has never been a more critical time to demonstrate international support for the people of Syria — including through more resources. Thanking donors that contributed to the recent funding conference, he said about $85 million more is needed to fully fund the Syria flash appeal, while the country’s broader humanitarian response plan remains over 90 per cent underfunded. “The people of Syria therefore continue to count on our support […] and we must not let them down,” he said. He deplored the unrelenting military hostilities by the parties amidst the current tragedy — including terrorist attacks by the Da’esh and Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham groups — and condemned the targeting of innocent civilians and civilian infrastructure in particular.
Continued attacks by foreign forces targeting civilian infrastructure in Syria is also of great concern, he went on, rejecting the recent Israeli air strikes on Aleppo International Airport and calling on that country to resort to peaceful means to address its concerns, with the support of the international community. The need for a political solution in Syria is ever more urgent, and resolution 2254 (2015) remains the foremost road map to achieving it. The parties must therefore commit to that resolution’s full implementation, including a nationwide ceasefire and cooperation to break the current deadlock in the Constitutional Committee. He also voiced his support for the use of all modalities to deliver humanitarian aid to all those in need across Syria.
BASSAM SABBAGH (Syria) said letters sent by Damascus to the Council over the last 12 years — detailing the aggression against his country’s sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity, and the blatant interference in its internal affairs — have been ignored, due to the destructive policies of three permanent members. Those same nations, along with Germany, recently made a joint statement attempting to reverse facts and manipulate events, in line with their campaigns to mislead public opinion since 2011. Noting that the joint statement aimed to evade those countries’ involvement in the bloodshed of Syrians — whether through direct aggression or through their use of terrorist organizations as tools — he decried such policies of double standards, noting that systemic and repeated Israeli attacks on Syrian territory has gone unaddressed. The latest example was a strike targeting Aleppo International Airport on 22 March, which knocked the airport out of service — a double crime against a civilian facility, which is being used to support humanitarian aid delivery in the wake of the recent earthquake.
“How can it be accepted that some in this Council provide an umbrella of protection for Israel and help it escape punishment for its terrorist crimes?”, he asked. Citing a recent visit by United States officials to an American military base that is illegally located in north-east Syria, he also asked how it is possible for the Council not to condemn such a blatant violation of his country’s sovereignty. The United States supports a base for terrorists in Al-Tanf in south-west Syria and promotes — along with its allies — groups such as the White Helmets, which is in fact an arm of a terrorist organization. Meanwhile, some States continue to insist on politicizing the issue of human rights and are seeking to launch yet another politicized international mechanism whose aim is to distort the facts and increase pressure on a country that has fought terrorism in the name of people all around the globe.
Noting that the Syrian Government is committed to searching for missing persons in line with its legal procedures, he went on to decry the politicization of humanitarian assistance in the wake of the recent earthquake, as preparations were made for the Brussels Donor Conference without any coordination with Damascus. The organizers of the conference excluded the participation of the most prominent national humanitarian actors, he said, also noting that politicization is evident in the insistence of the United States and the European Union to continue imposing their illegal and inhumane coercive measures on the Syrian people — which prevented the provision of equipment needed for earthquake search-and-rescue operations. Syria remains committed to providing facilities to the United Nations and international organizations that aim to deliver aid to Syrians by various means, including through the two additional border crossings, he said, rejecting all allegations of the diversion of such assistance.
ZAHRA ERSHADI (Iran), commending United Nations humanitarian agencies and their partners that are working tirelessly in Syria, nevertheless cited remaining funding gaps and called on the international community and donors for more support. There must be a focus on early recovery projects, as well as efforts to improve cross-line humanitarian aid operations, and all assistance should be provided impartially and without any political considerations. The international community must also lift the inhumane unilateral sanctions imposed by some on Syria, which has made it hard for civilians to access basic services and life-saving aid. She strongly rejected ongoing air strikes by the Israeli regime against critical infrastructure in Syria — including on Aleppo International Airport, which forced its closure — stressing that such terrorist attacks have serious consequences for civilians. Reaffirming her support for Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, she said the illegal presence of foreign forces there remains the primary source of insecurity and called for their immediate and unconditional withdrawal.
SEDAT ÖNAL (Türkiye), noting that even before the earthquake the humanitarian plight of Syria’s people was at unbearable levels, underscored the importance of the cross-border humanitarian assistance. Earthquakes and post-disaster emergency needs demonstrated the risks of procrastination, he said, underscoring the importance of reinvigorating the political process. Preservation of calm on the ground is important for the continuation of humanitarian efforts and advancing the political process, he added, pointing out that creating suitable conditions for the voluntary and safe return of refugees is the collective responsibility of the international community. Reiterating his country’s commitment for political unity and the territorial integrity of Syria, he said it is also determined to disrupt malign and separatist agendas of terrorist organizations, primarily PKK (Kurdish Workers’ Party)/YPG and Da’esh. Recognizing that it takes a multidimensional approach and the involvement of all stakeholders to alleviate the plight of Syria’s people, he said Türkiye will continue to be a part of all international efforts towards this end.