Real Action Must Follow Expanded Diplomatic Efforts in Syria, Special Envoy Tells Security Council, Citing Regional Support towards Political Solution
Recent expanded diplomatic efforts must be matched with real action to build confidence on the ground and arrive at a political solution that restores Syria’s sovereignty and unity and meets the aspirations of its people, the United Nations senior official on the ground said today during his briefing to the Security Council.
Geir O. Pedersen, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria, highlighted the acceleration of diplomatic activity this past month, noting that the meetings in Amman, Jeddah and Moscow with the Syrian Government underlined the importance of a political solution, as well as appeals to reconvene the Constitutional Committee and to work for national reconciliation.
“It is vital that the recent diplomatic moves are matched with real action,” he stressed, reporting that that the Syrian people continue to suffer and have not seen any improvement in their lives. Emphasizing the crucial need for confidence-building on the ground and a genuine political process, he said he will continue to work to facilitate a Syrian-led and Syrian-owned political resolution that restores Syria’s sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity and meets its people’s legitimate aspirations.
Briefing the Council on the humanitarian front, Ghada Eltahir Mudawi, Deputy Director of the Office for the Coordination on Humanitarian Affairs, stressed that the humanitarian crisis in Syria must remain a global priority. Most Syrians continue to face challenges in meeting the most basic food, health, water, hygiene and shelter needs, she said, echoing the Secretary-General's call for a 12-month extension of the Council’s authorization of the cross-border mechanism.
Morgane Aveline, Middle East Regional Program Director, Norwegian Refugee Council, stressed that now is the time to prioritize long-term, sustainable and dignified access to essential services to foster self-reliance and durable solutions. However, progress towards that end will remain possible only with sustained and predictable access, including via the reauthorization of Council resolution 2672 (2023), she said.
In the ensuing discussion, many delegates voiced concern about the dire humanitarian situation facing Syrians and echoed calls for the Council’s renewal of the cross-border aid mechanism set forth in resolution 2672 (2023), which expires in July. Several speakers welcomed Syria’s return to the League of Arab States, while others emphasized that the country must genuinely engage in the political process for lasting security and stability in the country.
Brazil’s representative, speaking also for Switzerland as co-penholders of the Syria humanitarian file, stressed that all aspects of resolution 2672 (2023) must continue to be implemented, all aid modalities used and barriers to cross-line and cross-border humanitarian deliveries eliminated. Keeping the humanitarian imperative at the centre of debates is vital, he emphasized, declaring: “Our shared responsibility is to provide the Syrian people with the chance to escape this cycle of suffering and build a better future.”
He also stressed, in his national capacity, that only a Syrian-owned, Syrian-led process will bring a lasting peace, a point echoed by China’s representative, who pointed out that countries outside the region should fully respect the will of regional countries and their people and stop obstructing the process of dialogue and reconciliation among countries in the Middle East.
The Russian Federation’s representative, on that note, said the United States’ destructive policy aims to use militants against legitimate Syrian authorities and destabilize the country. He appealed to United Nations leadership to submit a report on unilateral restrictions’ impact on the country’s humanitarian situation. Noting that the mandate on the cross-border humanitarian aid mechanism expires on 10 July, he said: “We see no reason at all to extend it.” The United Nations has already proved it can organize its work without a Council resolution, which should cease to exist.
However, the representative of the United States disagreed, noting that her delegation will work towards the 12-month authorization of all border crossing points through a resolution in July. Moreover, the Bashar al-Assad regime must immediately announce that it will keep the crossings open until at least August 2024 or as long as needed. Spotlighting the continuing air strikes on internally displaced person camps by the regime, along with the Russian Federation, she said that United States sanctions will remain in place.
Albania’s representative urged Syria to keep the two border crossings open for as long as they are needed. The regime must take responsibility for war crimes, ensure refugees’ safe return and dismantle the drug-producing and smuggling network that has turned Syria into a narco-State. Instead, it must seriously commit to political reforms, a point echoed by France’s delegate, who said the regime’s policy of demographic engineering and many political, economic and security obstacles render a dignified, safe and voluntary return to Syria impossible to date.
Arab countries, the representative of Syria reported, have affirmed support for his country in preserving its sovereignty and territorial integrity. On the other hand, American forces remain illegally present on Syrian territory, supporting separatist militias in the north-east and plundering Syrian oil and wealth, while offering “crocodile tears” over Syrian suffering as Israel, and its extremist authorities continue to inflame the situation in the region. Syria will not normalize with those who occupy its lands, he emphasized.
Iran's representative concurred, noting that unilateral sanctions have significantly impeded improvement of Syria’s humanitarian and economic situation. Commending the Syrian Government for its decision to extend permission to use the Bab al-Salam and Al-Ra’ee border crossings until 13 August, she said the extension enables the crucial delivery of humanitarian aid to Syrian civilians in need, particularly in north-western Syria.
On that point, Türkiye’s delegate underscored that the Council’s reauthorization of resolution 2672 (2023) for at least 12 months with at least multiple border crossings is essential to deliver humanitarian assistance in a scale and scope needed. More so, given the need to reduce dependency on humanitarian aid, a longer-term Council renewal of resolution 2672 (2023) in July will also ensure the continuity of early recovery projects. Achieving political stability can pave the way for the solution of interrelated issues, including breaking the political impasse, she stressed.
The meeting began at 10:40 a.m. and ended at 12:55 p.m.
GEIR O. PEDERSEN, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria, highlighted the acceleration of diplomatic activity this past month, including a meeting in Moscow of the foreign ministers of Iran, the Russian Federation, Syria and Türkiye; a meeting in Amman of the foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Syria; and the solutions adopted in Cairo and Jeddah by the League of Arab States, among others. The meetings in Amman, Jeddah and Moscow, in dialogue with the Syrian Government, considered issues in resolution 2254 (2015), he said, noting that the importance of a political solution was underlined, as well as appeals to reconvene the Constitutional Committee and to work for national reconciliation.
“Common attention to these themes and points should present a real opportunity to move forward,” he stressed, noting that that has been his key message during his engagements during the reporting period. Recalling his consultations with foreign ministers and senior officials of countries in the region, and a range of other players, he said his goal is to enhance coordination, complementarity and coherence of efforts under way. In that regard, he welcomed that that same goal is clearly being stated by regional actors.
“It is vital that the recent diplomatic moves are matched with real action,” he underscored, reporting that the Syrian people continue to suffer on a massive scale and have not yet seen any improvement in the reality of their lives. Nor have they seen renewed signs that the intra-Syrian political process will resume and start to move forward, he added, stressing that: “It will only be if those two things change — confidence-building on the ground and a genuine political process — that we can say that the current opportunity has been seized.”
The latest survey of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees published last week notes that most Syrian refugees still hope to return one day, although only a small fraction hope to return in the next 12 months, he continued. If the Syrian Government were to start to address in a more systematic manner the protection concerns of the displaced and work closely with the United Nations in that regard and if donors were to work with the Organization to do more to address Syrians’ concerns about livelihoods, then confidence could be built and realities could start to change on the ground.
Addressing the fate of the detained, disappeared and the missing is a core issue for moving forward in Syria, he emphasized, calling on all parties in Syria to take concrete and meaningful steps to that end. He also urged Member States to support United Nations efforts towards the General Assembly’s establishment of an institution dedicated to the search for missing persons as per the Secretary-General’s recommendation. Turning to the economy, he said the Syrian lira reached its lowest level ever this month and inflation is on the rise. Changing the acute economic morass of Syrians must be a key priority of any confidence-building process, too.
Resuming a credible intra-Syrian political process, starting with reconvening the Constitutional Committee was of great importance, he said, adding he is in close touch with relevant authorities to reconvene the Committee in Geneva. However, too many Syrians are still affected by violence, and engaging all actors to sustain calm, and to work on a nationwide ceasefire remains of vital importance.
In that regard, the level of humanitarian suffering has never been higher, he pointed out, welcoming the Syrian Government’s extension of Bab Al-Salam and Al Ra’ee crossings for three more months. Pointing to the United Nations’ continued consultations with the broadest spectrum of Syrians, he said at the core of their messages is the need for a safe environment and a comprehensive and sustainable political process in line with resolution 2254 (2015) that would create the conditions for Syrians to return home.
There are now common and concrete points that many players are focused on and that could be meaningfully discussed and advanced, he observed, noting that he looks forward to engaging the Syrian parties, as well as the Arab, Astana, and Western players, and all in the Council, and eliciting positive progress. “It is time to see the Syrians engaged in dialogue and return to discussing their own future together in the Constitutional Committee,” he stressed. He will continue to work to facilitate a Syrian-led and Syrian-owned political resolution that restores Syria’s sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity and meets the Syrian people’s legitimate aspirations, he said.
GHADA ELTAHIR MUDAWI, Deputy Director of the Office for the Coordination on Humanitarian Affairs, stressed that the humanitarian crisis in Syria must remain a global priority. After 12 years of conflict, the vast majority of the Syrian population continues to face daily challenges to meet the most basic food, health, water, hygiene and shelter needs with a staggering 15.3 million people requiring humanitarian assistance, representing nearly 70 per cent of the population. For the first time in the history of the crisis, people across every subdistrict in Syria are experiencing some degree of humanitarian stress, with 12 million people — more than 50 per cent of the population — currently food insecure and a further 2.9 million at risk of sliding into hunger. She pointed to recent data showing that malnutrition is on the rise, with stunting and maternal malnutrition rates reaching levels never seen before.
The earthquakes compounded this already bleak humanitarian situation, with over 330,000 people displaced and thousands more without access to basic services and livelihoods, she continued. The situation is still critical for families that remain in collective shelters. However, protection concerns, including gender-based violence and mental health needs are on the rise. She further cited the ongoing water crisis that is increasing the risk of cholera and other water-borne diseases. In the coming months and years, support from donors and the Council will be crucial, as the preliminary Syria Earthquake Recovery Needs Assessment has estimated almost $9 billion in damage and losses and $14.8 billion in recovery needs over the next three-year period.
Despite a challenging operating environment, she reported that the United Nations and its partners continue to deliver life-saving aid and protection services. She welcomed the Syrian Government’s decision to extend until 13 August the emergency measures implemented since the earthquakes to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance, including access for shipment and relief teams via the Al-Ra’ee and Bab al-Salam border crossings — a vital complement to the massive cross-border assistance operation through Bab al-Hawa. The United Nations and its humanitarian partners have rapidly scaled up the cross-border response. More than 2,330 trucks loaded with aid from seven agencies have crossed into north-west Syria since the earthquakes. People inside Syria have welcomed the opportunity to speak directly with the United Nations and in north-west Syria, humanitarians will expand the hotline for the prevention of sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment, she added.
She also echoed the Secretary-General call for an indispensable 12-month extension of the Security Council’s authorization of the cross-border mechanism. In the north-east, the cross-line mission to Tell Abiad was completed last week, delivering water, sanitation, hygiene, and humanitarian items from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). She stressed that all parties must allow and facilitate the unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief and ensure humanitarian workers the freedom of movement to perform their work.
“We are witnessing dangerously dwindling resources for the humanitarian response”, she warned the Council, adding that the revised 2023 Humanitarian Response Plan requires $5.4 billion to assist 14.2 million people throughout Syria. However, five months into the year, it is less than 10 per cent funded, with the World Food Programme (WFP) warning that 2.5 million people are at risk of losing food or cash assistance from July onward. She expressed hope that the upcoming seventh Brussels Conference will see generous pledges and swift disbursement of the funding required.
MORGANE AVELINE, Middle East Regional Program Director, Norwegian Refugee Council, said she had just returned from Syria, where women, teachers and young Syrians were desperately calling for a better future, one filled with hope and a dignified life. More than 15 million Syrians need assistance and are constantly struggling to cope with the multiple crises facing the country. The earthquakes that devastated parts of Syria three months ago added an additional layer of suffering to an existing crisis. With Syrians consistently calling for international donor support for early recovery and rehabilitation of civilian infrastructure, she stressed that it is possible to implement long-term rehabilitation in a principled and conflict-sensitive way. In this regard, actors such as the Refugee Council have proven this across Syria. “Instead of relying on temporary fixes, now is the time to prioritize long-term, sustainable and dignified access to essential services to foster self-reliance and durable solutions,” she said.
It is always painful to be reminded of the international community’s collective failure to make substantial progress on durable solutions for millions of displaced Syrians over the span of more than a decade, she continued. Concerns about forced returns and future deportations of Syrian refugees reinforces the urgent need for systematic monitoring of return movements to better protect any returnees. The protection of refugees in the host countries and principle of non-refoulement needs to also be respected now more than ever. Better donor funding, as well as appropriate governmental policy approaches in host countries and in Syria, would give displaced Syrians needed resilience, rights and protection.
She also observed that this session takes place at a crucial time for the long-term access pathways in Syria. Progress towards improved assistance, protection, recovery and durable solutions will only remain possible with sustained and predictable access, including via the reauthorization of resolution 2672 (2023). Welcoming recent progress in humanitarian access, including the Council’s historic action for asset freezes in United Nations sanctions regimes and the reopening of border crossings in Syria, she added that these developments must be complemented by renewing humanitarian safeguards in sanctions and authorizing the United Nations cross-border response in Syria. This mechanism ensures response continuity, transparency, oversight and access to funding for Syrian non-governmental organizations.
“Disruptions to cross-border access risk cutting off 4.5 million people in north-west Syria from efficient assistance modality,” she pointed out. The cross-border resolution must be renewed for a minimum of 12 months and the bilateral access agreements should be extended and expanded. It is also essential to scale up cross-line assistance in a principled manner and waive administrative impediments. “We must depoliticize access modalities and the broader Syria humanitarian response, allowing all actors to work efficiently and in a principled way,” she stressed.
JOÃO GENÉSIO DE ALMEIDA FILHO (Brazil), speaking also for Switzerland as co-penholders of the Syria humanitarian file, spotlighted the dire humanitarian situation. While expanded access for humanitarian assistance is having a positive impact, predictability nevertheless remains key. In that regard, all aspects of Council resolution 2672 (2023) must continue to be implemented; all aid modalities should be used; and all parties must eliminate barriers to cross-line and cross-border humanitarian deliveries. Early recovery projects remain crucial for restoring basic services, he said, voicing his regret that WFP will most likely have to stop providing food assistance to 2 million Syrians after July due to a severe lack of funding and supply chain disruptions. To address Syria’s humanitarian needs, the Organization and its partners need adequate funding for the 2023 Humanitarian Response Plan. Considerable pre-existing protection needs — such as legal identity, housing, land and property rights — must recognized and considered. Similarly, the specific needs of women must be integrated and their vulnerabilities addressed. Keeping the humanitarian imperative at the centre of debates is vital, he underscored, emphasizing: “Our shared responsibility is to provide the Syrian people with the chance to escape this cycle of suffering and build a better future.”
Speaking in his national capacity on the conflict’s political aspects, he stressed that only a Syrian-owned, Syrian-led, United Nations-facilitated political process with due regard for the preservation of Syria’s territorial integrity will bring a lasting peace — especially since a military solution remains elusive and deleterious for the country’s future. With resolution 2254 (2015) providing a clear road map for such a process, a meaningful dialogue towards reconciliation must resume and the small body of the Constitutional Committee must reconvene. A comprehensive ceasefire is also urgent, he added, condemning all forms of terrorism and attacks by foreign forces. While the path towards reconciliation is full of challenges, tackling outstanding issues gradually may ensure a steadier course towards a peaceful resolution. In that vein, he pointed out that the Government’s posture in response to the recent tragic earthquakes can open other avenues for cooperation and that the recent agreement between Saudi Arabi and Iran can yield a new regional dynamic for stability. Nevertheless, all parties must put the needs of civilians first in the search for the conflict’s solution, he stressed, emphasizing that Syrians deserve nothing less than a peaceful, stable and prosperous country.
LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States) noted that despite reports of Syria’s evolving relationship with its neighbours, the situation in-country has not fundamentally changed for the better. After more than 12 years of war and the recent earthquakes, more than 6.8 million Syrians remain displaced, with 5.3 million living as refugees in neighbouring countries. Further, the country continues to export instability and remains a safe haven for extremist groups. While welcoming the United Nations continued access to the Bab al-Salam and Al-Ra’ee border crossings through 13 August, she stressed that “human suffering does not occur in three-month increments”. The Bashar al-Assad regime must immediately announce that it will keep the crossings open until at least August 2024 or as long as needed. Her delegation will work towards the 12-month authorization of all border crossing points through a resolution in July. She called on the Arab League to hold Syria to its commitments and release the more than 130,000 detainees held in prisons and torture chambers. Stressing that the regime, along with the Russian Federation, continues air strikes on internally displaced person camps, she emphasized that United States sanctions will remain in place. Those who blame sanctions for the situation in Syria must acknowledge it was Bashar al-Assad who shattered Syria with his brutal war, torture and killing, she pointed out.
MICHEL XAVIER BIANG (Gabon), speaking also for Ghana and Mozambique, noted that the humanitarian and security crisis in Syria has been exacerbated by the earthquake which struck the country in February. Welcoming the decision of its Government to prolong the emergency measures, he said this has allowed the United Nations to continue to deliver humanitarian aid to the north-west of Syria to those in need. However, the delivery of cross-line aid remains marginal, he pointed out, stressing the need to reverse this trend in light of the urgent need. Proactive measures must be taken to avoid almost 2.5 million people being affected by food insecurity by July 2023, he said, highlighting the lack of access to sufficient potable water in the north of the country, the total collapse of basic social services and the increase in gender-based violence and psychological issues.
Noting the success of the earthquake flash appeal which raised $398 million, he expressed the hope that the forthcoming Brussels conference will attract similar international support. Turning to the political front, he stressed the need for a political solution, beginning with the cessation of hostilities, restoration of State authority throughout Syrian territory and inclusive dialogue. Cautioning that the fragmentation of the Syrian political class and the crisis of trust between the various protagonists can annihilate any chance of dialogue, he encouraged regional protagonists to support Syrians in their search for peace and stability. Welcoming the participation of Syria in the recent Arab League Summit, he expressed concern regarding the persistent hostilities, particularly in the north of Syria. Calling for an immediate ceasefire, he said all the parties to the conflict must uphold their obligations pursuant to international humanitarian law.
VASSILY NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) welcomed the recent League of Arab States’ decision to resume Syria’s participation in meetings and noted the positive trend in Syrian-Turkish normalized relations. Further, Moscow hosted a quadrilateral meeting on 10 May of the foreign ministers of the Russian Federation, Iran, Syria and Turkey in the Astana format. However, the United States’ destructive policy, which has begun to create an “army of free Syria”, aims to use militants against legitimate Syrian authorities and destabilize the country, he said, also voicing concern about the intensification of Israeli air strikes on Syrian territory. Expressing his continued support for the Special Envoy’s mediation efforts in strict accordance with resolution 2254 (2015) and without any external interference, he appealed to United Nations leadership, including the new Resident Coordinator in Syria, to submit a report on unilateral restrictions’ impact on the country’s humanitarian situation. The Syrian Government's unprecedented decision to extend two border crossings on the border with Türkiye (Bab al-Salam and Al-Ra’ee) until August 13, in addition to the Bab al-Hawa checkpoint operating, does not receive due credit. The United Nations mandate to use the cross-border humanitarian aid mechanism expires on 10 July. “We see no reason at all to extend it,” he said, adding the United Nations has already proved it can organize its work without a Council resolution, which should cease to exist.
FERIT HOXHA (Albania), urging Syria to keep the two border crossings open for as long as they are needed, stressed that the sole aim of the draft General Assembly resolution on a new institution to determine the whereabouts of forcibly disappeared Syrians is to provide closure. “These are matters we should all agree on and never succumb to the temptations of scoring political points on the back of the aggrieved,” he emphasized, adding that the Syrian drama will continue to unfold if there is no proper, genuine and inclusive political progress. In that vein, Syria’s recent reintegration with the League of Arab States should not be seen by its regime as a concession or acceptance that its scorch-earth strategy has worked, but rather as a hand extended by Arab neighbours to all Syrians. To begin the Syrian-led transition towards a free, democratic and prosperous Syria for all, the regime must seriously commit to political reforms, take responsibility for war crimes, ensure refugees’ safe return and dismantle the drug-producing and smuggling network that has turned Syria into a narco-State. Ending impunity for serious crimes by ensuring accountability will lay the foundations for reconciliation and a future that is different and better than the past, he emphasized.
SHINO MITSUKO (Japan) reiterated her call for Syria to improve the humanitarian situation and implement its obligations under resolution 2254 (2015), especially in light of changing regional dynamics. Syrians — many of whom are still suffering from the damages caused by the earthquakes earlier in the year — remain desperately in need of aid, she said, spotlighting Tokyo’s recent announcement of $14.3 million to build earthquake resilience, conduct damage assessments and restore critical infrastructure. As a country that has suffered from many earthquakes, Japan is willing to consider additional assistance which reflects needs on the ground. Welcoming the Government’s three-month extension of the two additional crossings for emergency humanitarian assistance, she underscored the paramount importance of ensuring smooth humanitarian access to the devastated areas. In that regard, the Council should extend its resolution on the cross-border aid mechanism again in July. Yet despite new regional dynamics, the Syrian Government should not be granted immunity from what it has done to its own people, she stressed, voicing her support for an accountable and effective independent institution to determine the fate of missing persons.
VANESSA FRAZIER (Malta) stressed that Syria is first and foremost a protection crisis, with half the population facing hunger with malnutrition rates on the rise and over 600,000 children under the age of five already stunted, leaving them contending with irreversible physical and psychological damage. Across all displacement camps, only half of pregnant women and new mothers have access to maternal health services and emergency care, with 8.5 million people in need of assistance for gender-based violence, and the so-called “widow camps” in the north-west largely neglected. “We are witnessing a lost generation of women and children before our eyes,” she stressed. Looking towards the seventh Brussels Syria Conference on 15 June, she called for a July agreement in the Council on the extension of the cross-border mechanism at Bab al-Hawa. Underscoring that a United Nations-facilitated political process is the only way forward, she further urged the Council to remember the ongoing suffering, the forcibly disappeared, and those who remain arbitrarily detained and voiced support for all mechanisms designed to pursue justice and accountability in Syria for the atrocities committed over the past decade.
GENG SHUANG (China), expressing support for the revitalization of efforts by Arab countries, welcomed Syria’s return to the League of Arab States. Countries outside the region should fully respect the will of regional countries and their people and stop obstructing the process of dialogue and reconciliation among countries in the Middle East, he said. Stressing the need to create enabling conditions for the political settlement of the Syrian issue, he welcomed the Syrian Government’s renewed extension of the use of border crossings and called on the party in control of north-west Syria to stop obstructing crossline aid operations. The Secretariat should report to the Council on the difficulties faced by the cross-line aid operations and propose solutions, he said, also underscoring that Israel must immediately cease attacks on all civilian facilities in Syria. Noting that illegal sanctions severely impede serious economic recovery in Syria, he said they must be immediately and unconditionally lifted.
ISIS MARIE DORIANE JARAUD-DARNAULT (France), recalling the Council’s unanimous adoption of resolution 2254 (2015), said the road map is being ignored by the regime, which refuses to engage politically. Voicing full support for the mediation led by the Special Envoy, she stressed that the regime must make tangible stops to ensure that a genuine political process is begun. The recent earthquakes have added further difficulties to an already deteriorating situation, she pointed out, underscoring that the delivery of aid must be guaranteed by all available means. She called for the Bab al-Hawa crossing to be renewed in July for a further 12 months. The earthquake has also shown that it is essential to have several cross-border points to supply assistance most effectively, she added. Since the beginning of the conflict, the European Union and its member States have been the main donors to people affected by the conflict in Syria. A seventh Brussels conference on the assistance to provide for the future of Syria and countries in the region will be held on June 21 to mobilize the international community, particularly for refugee-hosting. Unfortunately, the regime’ policy of demographic engineering and the many political, economic and security obstacles render a dignified, safe and voluntary return to Syria impossible to date, she said.
HERNÁN PÉREZ LOOSE (Ecuador) acknowledged the Syrian Government’s decision to keep the Bab al-Salam and Al-Ra’ee cross-border crossings open, further expressing support for renewal of the mandate to keep the Bab al-Hawa crossing operational, guaranteeing that United Nations agencies and other humanitarian organizations can still reach those who depend on humanitarian assistance to survive. Voicing concern over ongoing violent attacks that endanger the life and safety of civilians, he called on the parties to silence their guns. Humanitarian indicators continue to deteriorate, with 4.1 million people in need of assistance in the north-west, 3.3 million at severe risk of food insecurity, and more than 1 million children at risk of not returning to the educational system. Further, 350,000 Syrians do not have a permanent home and shelters do not provide safety and stability conditions. He underlined the urgency of a negotiated political outcome to the crisis, making way for transitional justice, national reconciliation, and, above all, an end to the suffering and hopelessness of the Syrian population.
AMEIRAH OBAID MOHAMED OBAID ALHEFEITI (United Arab Emirates), reaffirming that a political solution is the only way to end the crisis, said Syria’s return to the Arab League is just the starting point and an important step in the Arab-led track towards achieving peace, closely coordinating with the Special Envoy and the United Nations. “For the first time in the history of this devastating war that has profoundly impacted Syria, developments on the political track are emerging on the horizon, which offer hope for progress on this track,” she said, adding that these developments have stemmed from the initiative of Arab States. Turning to the humanitarian situation, she said the acute crisis requires finding sustainable solutions to solve it. As for cross-line aid, it is concerning that since the onset of this disaster, aid convoys to north-west Syria have been unable to pass due to the obstruction of terrorist groups. Aid must reach all regions in Syria, without hindrance, in accordance with international humanitarian law and resolution 2672 (2023), she emphasized, adding that she looked forward to the extension of the cross-border mechanism into Syria, which remains an essential lifeline for millions of Syrians.
BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom) declared: “Now is the time to redouble our efforts for an inclusive and accountable end to the conflict so that Syrians enjoy peace, Syria no longer exports instability to the region and refugees can return in safety and with dignity.” In that vein, resolution 2254 (2015) provides the framework to deliver sustainable and lasting peace. While access across Bab al-Salam and Al-Ra’ee was rightly extended, such last minute agreements for short-term periods are not workable — especially since humanitarians need predictable access to plan effectively and deliver indispensable support. Beyond that, the people of Syria deserve answers on the whereabouts of their loved ones, she said, underlining the importance of progress on this issue for rebuilding trust and putting in place the necessary conditions for refugees to safely choose to go home. There must also be effective action to stem the trade of the illegal drug Captagon and demonstrate that regional stability comes above the billion-dollar income from which the regime currently benefits. “For a stable region, we need a sustainable end to this conflict,” she asserted, calling on the Syrian regime to engage meaningfully.
PASCALE CHRISTINE BAERISWYL (Switzerland), Council President for May, speaking in her national capacity, endorsed Brazil’s statement delivered on behalf of their two countries. She also welcomed the willingness expressed at the recent Arab League meeting in Cairo to work at implementing the relevant Council resolutions and the wish by the States parties to the League’s Ministerial Committee to support the “step-by-step” approach towards a just and comprehensive solution to the conflict in Syria. Coherence between the various international efforts under the aegis of the United Nations is essential, she added, calling on the countries of the region to intensify the coordination of their efforts with those of the Special Envoy. She further welcomed the determination expressed in the recent Amman communiqué to work towards the resumption of the work of the Constitutional Committee as soon as possible. As well, parties must put an end to the practices of arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance and allow specialized humanitarian organizations access to all places of detention in Syria. Pointing to violations of international humanitarian law and human rights, she reiterated her country’s full support for the Human Rights Council's Commission of Inquiry and for the International, Impartial, Independent Mechanism.
BASSAM SABBAGH (Syria) noted that Arab countries have affirmed support for Syria in preserving its sovereignty and territorial integrity and in overcoming the difficult circumstances as a result of the terrorist war it faced, the economic sanctions and the repercussions of the devastating earthquake. He further cited the quartet meeting in Moscow on 10 May with the foreign ministers of Syria, the Russian Federation, Iran, and Türkiye also affirming commitment to that sovereignty. In contrast, American forces remain illegally present on Syrian territory, supporting separatist militias in the north-east and plundering Syrian oil and wealth, while offering “crocodile tears” over Syrian suffering. Israel and its extremist authorities also continue to inflame the situation in the region, committing acts of aggression and gross violations of international law and the Charter of the United Nations. In addition, his Government extended its voluntary initiative to grant the United Nations permission to use the Bab al-Salam and Al-Ra’ee border crossings for an additional three months, ending on 13 August. It has also continued to issue visas, facilitate field visits, and provide the necessary facilities to the United Nations and partners.
He stressed that the United Nations and its representatives must not communicate with terrorist organizations and affiliated illegal entities in north-west Syria, calling for the International Red Cross and Syrian Arab Red Crescent to supervise the distribution of humanitarian aid in these areas. International donors should also provide the funding for United Nations activities and programmes, he added, also condemning “all Western calls for refugees not to return to their homeland and homes under false pretexts”. Stressing the need for an immediate, unconditional lifting of illegal unilateral coercive measures imposed on the Syrian people, he further underscored that the alleged exemptions announced by the United States and the European Union from these measures are nothing but cheap propaganda and did not achieve any tangible results. Syria will not normalize with those who occupy its lands, he emphasized, adding that the political solution that it seeks requires the elimination of terrorism, cessation of interference in its internal affairs and the rejection of the destructive initiatives of some well-known countries aimed at obstructing this solution.
ZAHRA ERSHADI (Iran) said the shortage of current funding allocated for the Syrian humanitarian response severely hinders the United Nations’ ability to provide adequate assistance. Further, unilateral sanctions have significantly impeded improvement of Syria’s humanitarian and economic situation. These unlawful measures have further exacerbated the challenges faced by Syrians and hampered the Syrian Government’s capacity to deliver critical services. A comprehensive approach requires securing sufficient funding, ensuring impartial distribution of aid and removing counterproductive sanctions. Substantial efforts must be made in delivering humanitarian aid across all regions of Syria, including improving cross-line aid delivery, as outlined in resolution 2672 (2023). Commending the Syrian Government for its decision to extend permission to use the Bab al-Salam and Al Ra’ee border crossings until 13 August, she said the extension enables the crucial delivery of humanitarian aid to Syrian civilians in need, particularly in north-western Syria.
Reaffirming her support for the Special Envoy’s efforts, she welcomed his recent visit to Tehran where he held discussions on Syria’s humanitarian and political situation with Iran’s foreign minister and other Iranian relevant authorities. Adding her support for the prompt resumption of the Constitutional Committee meetings, she said that her country, with the Russian Federation and Türkiye in the Astana format, will keep working towards long-term and sustainable normalization in Syria. The continuation of the Syrian-Turkish dialogue is also a crucial component of broader efforts. She also highlighted the two-day official visit by Iran’s President to Syria, the first visit by an Iranian President in more than 13 years, in which the two Presidents signed a comprehensive agreement on long-term and strategic cooperation. Lastly, she categorically rejected the unjustifiable reference and groundless claims made against Iran by the representative of France in her statement. It is expected that France, as a permanent member of the Council, behave more responsibly and refrain from labelling other members without evidence, she said.
CEREN HANDE ÖZGÜR (Türkiye) said that to her country as an immediate neighbour to Syria and the United Nations’ main partner on cross-border mechanism, the Council’s reauthorization of resolution 2672 (2023) for at least 12 months with multiple border crossings is essential so that that lifeline and only viable method can continue to deliver humanitarian assistance in a scale and scope needed. Pointing to critical funding gaps, including on the Syria Humanitarian Response Plan, she said it is time to carefully consider how to improve the financing of vital humanitarian needs on a sustainable footing. Given the need to gradually reduce dependency on humanitarian aid, a longer-term Council renewal of resolution 2672 (2023) in July will also ensure the continuity of early recovery projects. To complement those humanitarian efforts, all parties must facilitate regular cross-line missions.
Her country is among the most affected from 12 years of conflict in Syria and has spearheaded numerous initiatives to ensure security and stability in Syria since the beginning of the conflict, she continued. Detailing its ongoing efforts to that end, including meetings between the foreign and defence ministers of the two countries, she stressed that achieving political stability can pave the way for the solution of interrelated issues. Noting her country’s efforts toward breaking the political impasse and the convening of the Constitutional Committee, she voiced support for the Special Envoy’s efforts toward that objective. The recent engagement process does not mean a change in her country’s determination to eliminate terrorism from its borders, she pointed out, noting that the terrorist organization PKK-YPG [Kurdish Workers’ Party] and its off-shoot “the so-called SDF”, pose a major threat to both her country and Syria and have no place in the region’s future.