Worsening Conditions in Syria Need Urgent Concerted Efforts from All Parties to Resume Syrian-led Political Process, Special Envoy Tells Security Council
The worsening security, economic and humanitarian situation in Syria requires urgent concerted efforts from all parties to the conflict to resume a Syrian-led political process, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the country stressed, as the Security Council today took up that file once again this month.
Geir O. Pedersen, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria, warned that the Syrian people both inside and outside Syria continue to suffer acutely from the conflict in all its dimensions. The economic situation has gotten worse, with the Syrian pound losing over 80 per cent in three months of its value, and prices from essential goods spiralling out of control. While minimum State salaries have been doubled to roughly $13 per month, a monthly food basket in June cost at least $81, according to the World Food Programme (WFP).
“Syria cannot fix its economy while it is in a state of conflict,” he stressed. He welcomed the understanding reached on the continued use for the next six months of the Bab al-Hawa border crossing to deliver life-saving humanitarian assistance to millions of people in need in north-west Syria. Nonetheless, this year’s Humanitarian Response Plan is funded at 25 per cent, he reported, underscoring that any adverse effects of sanctions that could aggravate the predicament must be avoided.
It is a simple fact that no one actor or group of actors can determine the outcome of the conflict or bring about the kind of steps needed for a political solution to emerge, he emphasized. Voicing concern that, for over a year, the intra-Syrian political process has been in a deep freeze, he underscored that “the only path out of this is a political process that involves the Syrian parties themselves, in line with resolution 2254 (2015).”
Lubna Alkanawati, Deputy Director of Women Now for Development, spotlighted the efforts of Syrian women and men who have documented grave human rights violations and have briefed the Council and other international bodies “time and time again”. Despite their efforts, “you have afforded war criminals total impunity, with many countries warmly welcoming Bashar al-Assad, the main perpetrator of war crimes”, she said. “I have witnessed and survived many of these violations,” she added, recalling the mustard gas attack on Harasta and the chemical weapons massacre on Ghouta in 2013.
She further noted that, in the past 12 years, 100,000 people have been detained or forcibly disappeared, the majority at the hands of the Syrian regime. However, Islamic State of the Levant (ISIL), also known as Da’esh, as well as other armed forces, has used this practice as a weapon of war. Citing the newly established United Nations institution investigating missing persons in Syria as “a positive step”, she informed the Council that if she were to return to Syria from France, where she currently lives as a refugee, she would be detained, tortured or killed.
In the ensuing debate, although the recent convening of the Arab Contact Group/Arab Liaison Committee with the Syrian Foreign Minister was highlighted by some speakers, many echoed warnings about the worsening condition of Syria on all fronts, amid calls for the Constitutional Committee to, after more than a year, meet again, while others condemned foreign intervention and the pernicious effects of Western sanctions.
The representative of the United States, Council President for August, spoke in her national capacity to underscore that while resolution 2254 (2015) remains the road map, progress continues to be elusive due to “steadfast opposition by the Assad regime and its backers, including Russia”. More so, while discriminatory laws still exacerbate women’s challenges, they must have a seat at the head of the table towards a political solution. Recalling that it has been more than a year since the Constitutional Committee last met, she noted that that United States sanctions will remain in place until there is measurable progress towards a political solution.
In that vein, France’s delegate recounted that the United Nations has extensively documented the systematic use of torture and sexual violence by the regime. Accordingly, sanctions adopted by the European States aim to prevent these crimes. She also noted that, since the peaceful uprising of Syrian protesters in March 2011, the regime’s record is grim: 500,000 dead, 130,000 forcibly disappeared and 12 million displaced or turned into refugees.
Malta’s representative said that “much greater investment” is needed to support the full, equal and meaningful participation of women in the stalled political process. Calling for urgent political will from both Damascus and key regional and international stakeholders in Syria to ensure a nationwide ceasefire, he said that this would facilitate desperately needed confidence measures and “allow real progress to be made”.
However, the Russian Federation’s representative expressed regret that the United States presidency of the Council has turned the meeting “into a useless anti-Syrian comedy show”, adding that there is no alternative to advancing a Syrian-led political-settlement process. While terrorism continues to be a major threat to Syria and the region, the illegal military presence of the United States is another destabilizing factor. He therefore called for the withdrawal of all military contingents illegally located in that country.
Echoing that, Iran’s delegate stressed that Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are persistently violated through the occupation of certain areas by illegal foreign forces. “On the political track, there is no alternative to pursuing a Syrian-led and Syrian-owned settlement with UN assistance,” he said, underlining the importance of resuming the Constitutional Committee’s meetings. However, the Committee’s work must be free from external interference, pressure and artificial deadlines, he emphasized.
The representative of Syria also voiced concern over the continued illegal presence of United States forces supporting terrorist organizations and separatist militias and of Turkish military forces hindering the stabilization process. Additionally, the illegal unilateral coercive measures imposed by the European Union and the United States and the looting of national wealth by their forces negatively affect the economic situation.
Highlighting the recent meeting of the Arab Liaison Committee, he cited its final statement affirming respect for Syria’s sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity and calling for the exit of all foreign forces illegally present there. The statement also welcomed the agreement reached between the Syrian Government and the United Nations on 7 August regarding the delivery of humanitarian aid through the Bab al-Hawa border crossing for a period of six months, as well as its decision to extend the opening of Bab al-Salam and al-Ra’ee crossings for three months, he said.
THE SITUATION IN THE MIDDLE EAST
GEIR O. PEDERSEN, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria, warned that the Syrian people both inside and outside Syria continue to suffer acutely from the conflict in all its dimensions. A bad economic situation has gotten even worse, with the Syrian pound losing over 80 per cent of its value in three months and hitting an all-time low of 15,500 to the United States dollar at the unofficial market rate; in 2011, it was 47 to the dollar. Further, prices are spiralling out of control for essential goods such as food, medicine, fuel, and basic commodities. Some steps have taken to respond, including doubling the minimum state salaries to roughly $13 per month. However, a monthly food basket in June cost at least $81, according to the World Food Programme (WFP), a rise of roughly 70 per cent in just a year.
“Syria cannot fix its economy while it is in a state of conflict,” he stressed, adding that also applies to the crises of displacement, the detained, abducted and missing, human rights abuses, terrorism, and the de facto division of the country. He welcomed the understanding reached on the continued use for the next six months of the Bab al-Hawa border crossing to deliver life-saving humanitarian assistance to millions of people in need in north-west Syria. He also welcomed the extension of authorization for the United Nations to use the Bab al-Salam and al-Ra’ee border crossings for an additional three months, and the consent to cross the lines within Syria at Sarmada and Saraqib for the next six months. Highlighting funding gaps, he recalled that this year’s Humanitarian Response Plan is funded at 25 per cent and the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan at roughly 10 per cent.
He stressed that any adverse effects of sanctions that could aggravate the predicament of ordinary Syrians must be avoided, with the essential full use of existing humanitarian exemptions by sanctioning States to counter overcompliance. Further, despite a broad military stalemate, the violent conflict continues, causing civilian deaths and destruction on all sides. This last month saw airstrikes attributed to Israel near Damascus; reports of pro-Government airstrikes in north-west Syria, with attempted drone attacks by listed terrorist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham on Syrian Government positions; and attacks claimed by Islamic State of the Levant (ISIL), also known as Da’esh, near the Sayida Zeynab shrine, to name a few. Calling for a sustained calm supported by all key Syrian and international players to build a nationwide ceasefire, he highlighted the Arab Contact Group — which recently met in Cairo with the Syrian Foreign Minister — and their expressed aspiration to see the next meeting of the Constitutional Committee in Oman before the end of the year.
“It is a simple fact of Syria that no one actor or group of actors can determine the outcome of the conflict or bring about the kind of steps needed for a political solution to emerge,” he said, noting his recent dialogue with the Foreign Ministers of Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and contact with senior Turkish officials. However, it remains to be seen whether the Syrian Government is ready to do more to address continuing protection concerns. More so, for their part, donors could do more to address the concerns all Syrians have about basic services and livelihoods.
Recalling his recent in-depth exchange with the Truth and Justice Charter representatives, among the key drivers towards the General Assembly’s decision to create the Independent Institution on Missing Persons in Syria, he said: “For these families and victims, the decision is a bitter-sweet milestone.” Tens of thousands of men, women and children are detained or missing, with ongoing abductions and arbitrary detentions still happening across the country. Syrians have the right to be provided full and transparent information about their fate and whereabouts. Voicing concern that, for over a year, the intra-Syrian political process has been in deep freeze, he stressed that “a political process is the right of the Syrian people. They are entitled to chart their own destiny.” Meanwhile, there is no military victory on the horizon for any one actor. As international attention and funding for Syria wane, the situation will become ever more unsustainable, and “the only path out of this is a political process that involves the Syrian parties themselves, in line with resolution 2254 (2015),” he stated.
LUBNA ALKANAWATI, Deputy Director, Women Now for Development, highlighted the efforts of Syrian women and men who have documented grave human rights violations and have briefed the Council and other international bodies “time and time again”. Yet, despite their efforts, “you have afforded war criminals total impunity, with many countries normalizing relations with the Syrian regime, warmly welcoming Bashar al-Assad, the main perpetrator of war crimes and the man who turned Syria into a narco-State”, she said, adding: “I have witnessed and survived many of these violations,” recalling the mustard gas attack on Harasta and the chemical weapons massacre on Ghouta in 2013.
“I lived under the regime siege of Ghouta, completely cut off from all services, at a time when obtaining even a loaf of bread was a battle,” she continued. Starvation and dire economic conditions were the main features of that period. The regime intentionally crushed that area with no regard to the lives of people living there. “It is no wonder that the same regime does not care that 90 per cent of Syrians today are living below the poverty line,” she said.
She also noted that, in the past 12 years, 100,000 people have been detained or forcibly disappeared, the majority at the hands of the Syrian regime. However, ISIL and other armed forces have also used this practice as a weapon of war. Families of the disappeared continue to wait in anguish for any news regarding their missing loved ones, not knowing if they are alive or dead. Citing the newly established UN institution investigating the fate of missing persons as “a positive step”, she said it is the duty of the international community to ensure the collaboration of the Syrian regime with this humanitarian mechanism to reveal the fate of all missing in Syria.
Now a refugee in France, she noted that her returning to Syria would mean “I will end up detained, tortured or killed”. The UN-backed Constitutional Committee has failed to produce any tangible outcomes, largely due to systemic disruption by the Syrian regime, she observed, adding that the political and peace process cannot be reduced to mere constitutional debates. Political processes must prioritize the release of all detainees and ensure participation of Syrians of all components and geographic location, including civil society, survival-led groups and women, she emphasized.
DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation), expressing regret that the United States presidency of the Security Council “has decided to turn our meeting into a useless anti-Syrian comedy show”, stressed that there is no alternative to advancing the political settlement process in Syria, led and implemented by Syrians. Direct intra-Syrian dialogue must continue, the primary platform for which remains the Constitutional Committee. Fundamental decisions regarding the modalities for that entity’s further work — including venue — should be made by Syrians. While terrorism continues to be a major threat to Syria and the region, the illegal military presence of the United States is another destabilizing factor. This de facto occupation of vast areas of resource-rich north-east Syria — as well as ongoing illegitimate sanctions pressure on Damascus — leads to further deterioration of the socioeconomic situation and contributes to mobilizing the extremist underground in Syria. He therefore called for the withdrawal of all military contingents illegally located on that country’s territory. Adding that Syria’s return to the Arab family and progress towards restoring relations with Türkiye contribute to improving the atmosphere in the Middle East, he underscored that persistent attempts by Western countries to interfere with these processes are “counter-productive”.
MICHEL XAVIER BIANG (Gabon), also speaking for Ghana and Mozambique, voiced concern over the paralysis of the Syrian political process, despite a consensus on the importance of reconvening the Constitutional Committee’s meetings. Thus, the proposal of the Arab Contact Group to hold the next meeting of the Committee in Oman is a step in the right direction. However, the threat posed by terrorist acts, as well as arrests, enforced disappearances and torture, continue to undermine efforts towards a peaceful resolution of the conflict, he stressed, calling for an immediate ceasefire. Meanwhile, the presence of foreign military forces undermines regional and international security, he added, emphasizing that Syria should not be used as a battleground for geopolitical rivalries. Welcoming Syria’s reintegration into the Arab League, he noted it signals a willingness to engage in dialogue and can contribute to the promotion of improved relations between Arab countries.
While Council resolution 2254 (2015) remains the main road map for achieving a political solution, with respect for the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country, he stressed that the solution to the conflict lies in the hands of Syrians themselves. This process must be conducted under the auspices of the United Nations; a political solution to the conflict is the only desirable alternative. To this end, he called for necessary cessation of hostilities, the restoration of State authority over the entire Syrian territory and an inclusive dialogue involving all segments and actors of Syrian society, including women, young people and minority groups. Reaffirming support for the Special Envoy and his step-by-step approach to end the crisis, he urged the international community to “do their utmost to end this conflict”.
GENG SHUANG (China), noting that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria must be respected, voiced deep concern that one certain country has continued to strengthen its illegal military presence in Syria. He urged that country to stop the illegal plundering of Syria’s natural resources. Also calling for a political solution to the Syrian issue, he underscored that resolute action must be taken to combat all terrorist forces in Syria, including Da’esh and al-Nusra. In that regard, China supports the Syrian Government in taking all necessary measures to combat terrorism and maintain the country’s security and stability, he stated. The international community should — in accordance with international law — take a zero-tolerance approach to combating terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. This month, the Council has considered the question of Syria three times – “which is not the best way to approach the issue”, he observed. Instead, the Syrian files should be consolidated and dealt with in a more appropriate arrangement.
JAMES KARIUKI (United Kingdom) noted that, eight years after the adoption of resolution 2254 (2015), “there has been next to no political progress” in Syria. The conditions that drove the conflict — including the Assad regime’s behaviour — have not changed. Spotlighting that regime’s complicity in the production and trafficking of captagon as a recent example of this, he stressed that, as ever, “the regime and its allies profit whilst the Syrian people and the region suffer the consequences”. He went on to recognize the enormous generosity of regional States hosting Syrian refugees, noting that his country will continue to support them. Agreeing with the UN’s assessment that conditions in Syria do not currently allow for such refugees to return, he underscored that the onus must be on the Assad regime to provide verifiable protection assurances. If that regime wants to show that its behaviour has changed, genuine engagement on the missing and detained would be an important step, he added.
DARREN CAMILLERI (Malta) underlined the importance of resuming the Constitutional Committee’s work to advance the stalled political process, as this remains the only format that convenes all parties for dialogue. He also stressed that much greater investment is needed to support the full, equal and meaningful participation of women in this process. Without a safe, calm environment in Syria, conditions will not be right for the safe, voluntary and dignified return of refugees and internally displaced persons to their area of origin. Calling for urgent political will from both Damascus and key regional and international stakeholders present in Syria to ensure that a nationwide ceasefire can take effect, he said that this would facilitate desperately needed confidence measures and “allow real progress to be made”. He also called for the immediate cessation of continuing arbitrary arrests, forced detention, torture and recruitment of children into the military.
RICCARDA CHRISTIANA CHANDA (Switzerland), underlining the importance of the women, peace and security agenda in Syria, called for the full, equal, meaningful and safe participation of Syrian women in the political process. Throughout Syria, civil-society organizations — many of which are based on voluntary commitments by women — play a key role in the search for lasting peace. As such, she welcomed the close collaboration between the Special Envoy and the Civil Society Support Room — a platform that ensures the broad participation of civil society in the political process. She also pointed out that women currently comprise 43 per cent of the Support Room, which ensures that their priorities and realities are taken into account on the ground and in the political process. Expressing concern over the way in which Syria’s humanitarian and socioeconomic crises affect women, she called on all parties to the conflict to end all violations of international humanitarian and human-rights law committed against civilians in Syria.
SÉRGIO FRANÇA DANESE (Brazil) welcomed the reinstatement of Syria’s full membership to the Arab League — an extremely positive development in the region — in support of a Syrian-led and Syrian-owned political settlement. He encouraged all parties to show flexibility for the resumption of the UN-facilitated process. Underscoring the need to address the refugee situation in cooperation with the Syrian Government, he noted that refugee-hosting countries bear a significant burden. Thus, the international community should facilitate the voluntary and safe return of those refugees. Further, support for initiatives throughout Syria that alleviate the human suffering should not be politicized. Citing the latest report of the UN Monitoring Team regarding the threat posed by Da’esh and Al-Qaida and their affiliated groups, he noted that Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham remains the group exerting effective control in the north-west of Syria, and that Da’esh views the north-west as a potential gateway for expanding its presence beyond the country.
AMEIRAH OBAID MOHAMED OBAID ALHEFEITI (United Arab Emirates) said that 12 years since the outbreak of the war, the situation in Syria remains exceedingly complex, necessitating a comprehensive political solution that ends the suffering of the Syrian people and preserves the independence and territorial integrity of the country. The inaugural meeting of the Arab Liaison Committee is a positive indicator of strengthened cooperation and understanding among Arab States, she said, adding that it serves as a follow up to the implementation of the Amman Declaration and further supports efforts to find a settlement to the Syrian crisis. Turning to security, she underlined the need for de-escalation across all Syrian regions, noting that such efforts are crucial for enhancing regional security and creating conditions conducive for improving the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the country. Additionally, the severe security threat posed by the terrorist organization Da’esh persists and must be addressed. This group continues to seek to reorganize its ranks, mobilize weapons and recruit additional fighters, particularly in the camps located in north-eastern Syria, she warned.
HERNÁN PÉREZ LOOSE (Ecuador), recalling the Syrian Government’s decision to allow access to humanitarian assistance through the cross-border points of Bab al-Hawa, Bab al-Salam and al-Ra’ee, observed that it is possible to achieve tangible results when there is political will to do so. This development — along with the League of Arab States’ decision to reintegrate Syria as a full member — represents progress, which should be harnessed to facilitate the implementation of diplomatic and political strategies focused on resolving the conflict. He urged the Special Envoy “not to waver” in his efforts to recover trust between the parties, ensure the activation of the Constitutional Committee in Geneva and resume the “step-for-step” negotiation plan. Increasing political stability, creating strong State institutions that can guarantee accountability and ensuring respect for human rights will allow the Syrian people’s situation to improve, he pointed out, spotlighting the significant deterioration of the same following 12 years of war.
ISHIKANE KIMIHIRO (Japan) expressed regret that the intra-Syrian political track remains stalled, including the Constitutional Committee. Despite this political deadlock, he acknowledged that regional engagement has been intensifying, including the Arab Contact Group, which is seeking to find a path for a comprehensive resolution of the Syrian crisis. “It is high time for all Committee participants to put their broader political disagreements aside” and seriously consider a more substantive approach, he stated. Voicing alarm over the security situation, he called on the Council to “ask ourselves how we could possibly guarantee the safe, dignified and voluntary return of refugees and internally displaced persons to their native land if Syria remains an active war zone”. In this regard, a nationwide ceasefire and reconciliation remain essential components of a political process. Until then, civilians will continue to bear the brunt of this war and require urgent protection, he said.
NATHALIE BROADHURST ESTIVAL (France) recounted that, since the peaceful uprising of Syrian protesters in March 2011, the regime's record is grim: 500,000 dead, 130,000 forcibly disappeared and 12 million displaced or turned into refugees. In addition, Syria is now the heart of global drug trafficking, a major source of instability for the entire region and one of the main sources of income for the Assad regime. The UN has extensively documented the systematic use of torture and sexual violence by the regime in the prisons under its control. Accordingly, the sanctions adopted by the European States aim to prevent these crimes and to reduce the financial capacities and the freedom of movement of their perpetrators. On the ground, the situation remains volatile, as evidenced by the absence of a nationwide ceasefire. In turn, the chaos in the country provided fertile ground for the spread of terrorism. She also underscored that the Assad's regime is not a reliable partner in the fight against terrorism as it feeds off the instability that reigns in Syria.
ALBANA DAUTLLARI (Albania) said that the key to ending the conflict — and the suffering of the Syrian people — is a Syrian-led, United Nations-facilitated political process. “Unfortunately, the Syrian regime continues to hold this process hostage,” she observed, adding that a military solution can never bring peace and that humanitarian aid cannot be a lasting option. Supporting the call for the Constitutional Committee to reconvene and achieve substantial progress in 2023, she stressed that irrational arguments related to the impartiality of the venue must no longer be used. She also called on Damascus to immediately release those arbitrarily detained, end indiscriminate airstrikes on and shelling of civilians and respect international humanitarian law. These are urgent first steps that would lead to a safe, calm environment, which would allow for pragmatic engagement towards the safe, voluntary and dignified return of refugees and internally displaced persons.
LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States), Council President for August, speaking in her national capacity, underscored that the Syrian conflict radiates instability across the region, with millions unable to return and the regime facilitating drug trafficking. While resolution 2254 (2015) remains the road map, progress continues to be elusive due to “steadfast opposition by the Assad regime and its backers, including Russia”, she pointed out. She marked the tenth anniversary of “one of the most horrific events in recent history” — when the Bashar al-Assad regime launched rockets carrying the deadly nerve agent, sarin, into Damascus, killing 1,400 people — with Ms. Alkanawati being a survivor. While discriminatory laws still exacerbate women’s challenges, they must have a seat at the head of the table towards a political solution. She also noted that Syrians will not return home while they are at risk of being drafted into the Syrian army, tortured or forcibly disappeared. Recalling that it has been more than a year since the Constitutional Committee last met, she stressed: “And we all know who is holding up progress — Russia.” She further affirmed that United States sanctions will remain in place until there is measurable progress towards a political solution.
BASSAM SABBAGH (Syria) reported that the Israeli occupation forces are continuing their attacks on his country’s sovereignty and persisting in their criminal practices against Syrians in the occupied Syrian Golan, including a new air attack on Monday with missiles. The United States forces also continue their illegal presence on Syrian territory, violating his country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and supporting terrorist organizations and separatist militias. He further voiced concern over the continued illegal presence of the Turkish military forces on Syrian territory, which hinders the stabilization process due to its continued support for terrorists. Some Western countries continue to illegally infiltrate Syrian territory and hold meetings with representatives of the separatist militias or the so-called “Autonomous Administration”, he noted, citing this practice as a clear example of Western colonial mentality. Additionally, the illegal unilateral coercive measures imposed on the Syrian people by the European Union and the United States and the looting of national wealth by their forces negatively affect the economic situation and stability in Syria.
Drawing attention to the 15 August meeting of the Arab Liaison Committee, he said its final statement affirmed the respect for Syria’s sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity, the termination of terrorist groups and the exit of all foreign forces illegally present there. The statement welcomed the agreement reached between the Syrian Government and the United Nations on 7 August regarding the delivery of humanitarian aid through the Bab al-Hawa border crossing for a period of six months, as well as its decision to extend the opening of Bab al-Salam and al-Ra’ee crossings for a period of three months. The statement also stressed the need to address the refugee crisis and to enhance conditions suitable for the voluntary and safe return of refugees as a humanitarian priority, he said, highlighting his Government’s keenness to engage constructively with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
AMIR SAEID IRAVANI (Iran) said that Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are persistently violated through the occupation of certain areas by illegal foreign forces and aggression by the Israeli regime and terrorist groups. Such violations have inflicted sustained suffering on the Syrian people — further exacerbated by the imposition of unlawful, inhumane sanctions. He voiced his support for the Government’s demands that all illegal foreign military forces completely withdraw from Syrian territory. Further, the Council must compel the Israeli regime to cease its aggression and end the occupation of the Syrian Golan. “On the political track, there is no alternative to pursuing a Syrian-led and Syrian-owned settlement with UN assistance,” he stressed, underlining the importance of resuming the Constitutional Committee’s meetings. However, the Committee’s work must be free from external interference, pressure and artificial deadlines. Welcoming Syria’s growing regional presence and positive developments in its diplomatic relations, he said that Damascus’ resumed relations with Arab countries — exemplified by the 15 August meeting in Cairo — is a significant step towards bolstering its security, stability and prosperity. He also underscored his country’s support for the ongoing dialogue between Syria and Türkiye.
SEDAT ÖNAL (Türkiye), noting that the Constitutional Committee has not been able to convene for over a year, underscored that its work should be resumed and advanced. Responding to a comment made by another Member State, he recalled that his country has generously sheltered millions of Syrians for over a decade; the facilitation of voluntary, safe and dignified return of the Syrian refugees should be an integral part of overall efforts to settle the crisis. As discussed in the Council two days ago, the unimpeded delivery of cross-border UN humanitarian assistance remains vital for millions of people in north-west Syria. The Council’s sustained engagement is essential for this mission, with the modus operandi of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs unchanged. Expressing concern over recent ceasefire violations in Idlib, he affirmed that counterterrorism must be a priority for all parties. Elimination of threats to neighbouring countries is also critical, he emphasized, adding that Türkiye remains resolute in fighting terrorism and disrupting the destabilizing and separatist agendas of Da’esh and PKK/YPG [Kurdistan Workers’ Party].