Security Council, Meeting on Situation in Syria, Shifts Focus to Plight of Externally, Internally Displaced Persons
Security Council, Meeting on Situation in Syria, Shifts Focus to Plight of Externally, Internally Displaced Persons
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6826th Meeting (PM)
Security Council, Meeting on Situation in Syria, Shifts Focus
to Plight of Externally, Internally Displaced Persons
Deputy Secretary-General, High Commissioner for Refugees Deliver Briefings
Seeking to ease the humanitarian crisis affecting more than 2.5 million Syrians, including more than 200,000 refugees who had fled the violence to neighbouring countries, Security Council members insisted today that the body’s inability to have a decisive impact in ending the bloodshed in the beleaguered nation did not mean that progress could not be made on the humanitarian track.
As violence between the Syrian army and armed rebels whipped through the country, most recently in the eastern suburbs of Damascus, the high-level meeting convened by Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius of France, which holds the Council presidency for August, shifted focus from the political and security aspects of the conflict to the plight of Syrians inside and outside the country.
Providing the Council with the latest figures, Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson reported that more than 2.5 million people inside Syria were in grave need of assistance and protection. Yet as of yesterday, the $180 million Humanitarian Response Plan for that country had only been half funded and some critical sectors had received almost no funds at all, he said, pressing donors to “urgently rise to this humanitarian imperative”, as hundreds of thousands of lives were at stake.
There were also dangerous repercussions for Syria’s neighbours, with more than 220,000 Syrian refugees in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, he warned. That weighed heavily on host-country authorities and risked serious destabilization. He also viewed with alarm the political, social and economic consequences of those large refugee movements, emphasizing that the affected Governments urgently needed support, and that the spillover of conflict and violence across borders must be prevented.
Antonio Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said the “refugee exodus” was having a significant impact on the host countries, already affected by the national security implications of the crisis. But the most tragic consequences were felt inside Syria, he said, calling for unrestricted humanitarian access and support for the victims and host countries. He stressed, however, that there was no humanitarian solution to the crisis, saying that only a political solution leading to peace could end the humanitarian emergency.
Speaking in his national capacity, Minister Fabius said the situation in Syria was increasingly intolerable, especially since President Bashar al-Assad wanted to retain power through barbaric repression and savage fighting. He was indiscriminately using heavy weapons, helicopter gunships and fighter jets against his own people, and even threatening to use his stockpiles of biological and chemical weapons.
The Minister said he could not understand why the Syrian regime had been allowed to murder its people, or why the Council had so far been unable to ensure either their security or unity. In the interim was a humanitarian situation, and the divisions in the Council should not prevent its relief, he said, urging support for the host countries and humanitarian workers, while also calling attention to the situations in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq.
Ahmet Davutoğlu, Foreign Minister of Turkey, said his country was opening its doors daily to every Syrian who “runs for safety”. However, with their number now topping 80,000 and another 10,000 waiting on Turkey’s border, the scale of the tragedy was “growing so out of proportion that Turkey finds it increasingly difficult to cope with ensuing challenges all by itself”.
He said he understood that today’s meeting would not result in a presidential or press statement, let alone a robust resolution, but asked: “How long are we going to sit and watch while an entire generation is being wiped out by random bombardment and deliberate mass targeting?” He warned the Council: “If we do not act against such a crime against humanity happening in front of our eyes, we become accomplice to the crime.”
Susan Rice ( United States), emphasizing that no amount of humanitarian assistance would end the bloodshed and suffering, said the question was not whether the Assad regime would fall, but when. “We will not rest until the Syrian people are free to realize their aspirations to govern themselves and live without fear,” she declared, reiterating the United States Government’s demand that Syria refrain from using or transferring any chemical or biological weapons, and ensure the safety and security of all such weapons and stockpiles. One day soon, she said, “Assad will lose his bloody grip on the Syrian people”, and then the Council would have to step up to help them heal the wounds of war and rebuild their battered country. When that day came, the Syrian people and the world would remember who had been on the wrong side of history and who had been on the Syrian people’s side.
Li Baodong ( China) said it was especially important to guard against interference in the internal affairs of a country or proceed with military action “under the pretext of humanitarianism”. Efforts to ease the humanitarian situation must be guided by the principles of neutrality, impartiality and respect for Syria’s sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity. Humanitarian relief efforts should never be militarized, and any “connivance” in that direction would lead to more bloodshed and casualties and greater humanitarian catastrophe, he said, calling for a Syrian-led transition process.
Bashar Ja’afari ( Syria) suggested that today’s meeting to discuss humanitarian concerns was a pretext for discussing the political situation in his country. Citing claims by certain Arab parties and others outside the region that there was no alternative to arming the opposition, creating safe corridors and buffer zones, and having the Syrian President step down, he said it was high time to learn the lesson of disasters brought about by foreign interference in the internal affairs of other countries.
Also speaking today were Jordan’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Lebanon’s Minister for Social Affairs, Iraq’s Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, Morocco’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, the United Kingdom’s Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Colombia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Togo’s Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Representatives of Azerbaijan, Russian Federation, South Africa, Germany, India, Guatemala, Pakistan and Portugal also spoke.
Speaking in response to the Syrian representative were his counterparts from France and Turkey, as well as the Ministers from Lebanon and Morocco.
The meeting began at 3:07 p.m. and ended at 7:03 p.m.
The Security Council met this afternoon to consider the humanitarian situation in Syria.
JAN ELIASSON, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, said more than 2.5 million people — including refugees from Palestine and Iraq — were in grave need of assistance and protection inside Syria. That was more than double the number in March, he noted, adding that their most pressing needs included water and sanitation, food and shelter, blankets and health care. Less than half the country’s primary health-care facilities and hospitals were now fully functional, and the destruction of pharmaceutical plants and storage facilities was making drugs and equipment scarce.
At the same time, he continued, the number of people in need of medical care was increasing, he said, adding that access to health facilities had become difficult or impossible in some areas due to violence, checkpoints and fuel shortages. Food prices had tripled in some areas, and many internally displaced Syrians were being supported by family or friends. More than 1.2 million others had sought refuge in public buildings such as schools and mosques, which lacked adequate water and sanitation.
In response, United Nations agencies, the Red Cross, the Red Crescent Movement and their non-governmental organization (NGO) partners had managed to reach more people in more places every month, he said. In July, World Food Programme (WFP) distribution through the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and local partners had reached 820,000 people throughout the country, compared to 250,000 in April. The Organization was reaching ever more people with non-food items, health kits and water and sanitation services, but as the conflict intensified, the number of people in need clearly exceeded the capacity to assist, he said. “We are now revising the humanitarian response plan to be able to assist up to 2.5 million people.”
With no immediate prospect of an end to the fighting and a resolution of the conflict, he said, arms flows from outside appeared to be reaching both sides. Military operations had intensified, encompassing all major cities, and indiscriminate shelling with heavy weapons, tanks and air assets had increased. Civilians and non-combatants, including women and children, faced systematic slaughter, and there were almost daily reports of atrocities. “These recent accounts of possible war crimes are deeply troubling, and should give us all further impetus to work to end this nightmare,” he said. “Those responsible in Government and the military forces, as well as armed opposition groups, must be held accountable for gross human rights violations, war crimes and crimes against humanity.”
As conditions deteriorated, there were dangerous repercussions for Syria’s neighbours, he warned, saying he viewed with great concern and alarm the political, social and economic consequences of the movements of large numbers of refugees from Syria into neighbouring countries. The affected Governments needed urgent support, he stressed, noting that there were now more than 220,000 Syrian refugees in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, weighing heavily on local authorities and communities, and risking serious destabilizing effects. “The spillover of conflict and violence into neighbouring countries must be prevented,” he said, urging all parties in Syria and neighbouring countries to refrain from cross-border actions that would escalate tensions.
Calling for the release of all who had been kidnapped or who were being held hostage, either in Syria or elsewhere, he urged the international community, particularly the Security Council, to unite behind the new Joint Special Representative. Separate diplomatic tracks would only prolong the violence, the human rights abuses and the humanitarian crisis. To meet the rising pressures, greater humanitarian access was urgently needed for more international non-governmental organizations to operate in the country. United Nations agencies would also need to expand their presence, and security must be improved, he stressed. “I urge Member States to emphasize to the Government and opposition groups the urgency of guaranteeing the security of aid agencies operating in areas under their control to allow for safe access to civilians and for evacuation.”
As of yesterday, he said, the $180 million Humanitarian Response Plan was only half-funded, with some critical sectors having received almost no funding at all. “Donors should urgently rise to this humanitarian imperative,” he emphasized. “Hundreds of thousands of lives are at stake.” As the conflict continued, Syria risked undermining its State institutions and losing its cultural and historical heritage, he warned, adding that the cohesion of its diverse society was in danger. That would have profound implications for Syria and the world. The massive destruction, human tragedies and abuses were the direct consequence of increased and irresponsible militarization of the conflict, he said.
“Syrians need less weapons, not more,” he continued, stressing that “those who supply the Government or the armed opposition with weapons, equipment or money — directly or indirectly — are creating a vicious circle of violence and are paving the way for more suffering and chaos.” Member States with influence on the Syrian Government or opposition forces had an obligation to end the killing and promote a peaceful resolution of the conflict. Noting recent calls for the establishment of humanitarian corridors or buffer zones inside Syria where civilians could find relief from the violence, he said such proposals raised serious questions and required “careful and critical consideration”. While the Syrian people needed humanitarian assistance, ultimately, the crisis could only be resolved by a credible political process. It must be supported by a united international community, facilitating a cessation of violence and promoting the implementation of a political transition led by the Syrians themselves, he emphasized.
ANTONIO GUTERRES, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said the escalating armed conflict had led to a dramatic and deepening humanitarian crisis. Given Syria’s long and generous history of providing refuge to people in need of sanctuary, it was now particularly heartbreaking to see so many of its citizens losing their lives, uprooted from their homes and trapped in war zones. As of yesterday, 229,000 people had left the country and sought registration as refugees in neighbouring States, and their number was growing rapidly. Household assets were being depleted quickly, social support networks were fragmenting and, “for many, becoming a refugee is the only way to survive”.
He went on to say that the number of Syrians arriving in Turkey each day was increasing dramatically, but thanks to that country’s Government more than 80,000 were hosted in camps and public buildings in the south-east. As fighting intensified, however, pressure was increasing at border checkpoints, with thousands of people waiting as new sites were readied. They would bring Turkey’s total camp capacity to more than 130,000, he said. Refugee numbers were rising in Jordan as well, he said, recalling that more than 5,000 people had arrived earlier this week, in the space of just 30 hours. Some 72,000 refugees had now been recorded, and the Jordanian Government estimated that there were now 150,000 more Syrians in the country than at the outset of the crisis. According to authorities, they were being accommodated at a camp in a “barren and windswept site regularly affected by sandstorms”.
As for Lebanon, the number of Syrian refugees registered or awaiting registration there now exceeded 57,000, he continued. They had largely been absorbed into local communities, with many thousands more who had not yet sought assistance. Hosting families were stretched, and schools in which many hundreds had been sheltered were due to reopen shortly. In Iraq, striving to make its own transition from conflict to stability, the number of refugees now exceeded 18,000. Smaller numbers had also sought protection beyond the region, in North Africa and Europe, he said, adding that he was deeply saddened by the drowning of several Syrians, including children, in the Mediterranean Sea earlier this week.
The most tragic consequences of the crisis were being felt inside Syria itself, he said. Despite abundant efforts, including by the Syrian Red Crescent Society and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Syrian refugees were nonetheless exposed to increasing insecurity, which also limited their access to the on-site UNHCR and restricted staff movement. Palestinian refugees in the country fell under the mandate of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which needed funding to expand its assistance, he noted.
Overall, the “refugee exodus” was significantly impacting society, the economy and the security of host countries. Beyond that, refugee flows were taking place in countries also affected by the national security implications of the crisis. By keeping their borders open to refugees in such a complex and challenging environment, Syria’s neighbours were providing very positive examples, but their capacities were being severely tested. While international solidarity in support of their generosity must be urgently reinforced, the right of all human beings to seek and enjoy asylum in another State “must not be jeopardized, for instance, through the establishment of so-called safe havens or other similar arrangements”, he cautioned. “Bitter experience has shown that it is rarely possible to provide effective protection and security in such areas.”
As the conflict intensified, the international system’s ability to respond was being tested in many ways, he said. All parties to the conflict must grant unrestricted humanitarian access inside Syria and provide protection to Iraqi, Palestinian and other refugees inside the country. Direct support to the victims was not enough; international solidarity must translate into effective burden-sharing and meaningful support to Governments and communities in refugee-hosting countries, he said, requesting States in the region and beyond to extend protection to fleeing Syrians. “We must recognize that there is no humanitarian solution to the Syrian crisis. Only through a political solution leading to peace can the humanitarian emergency be brought to a conclusion,” he said. “It is in nobody’s interest for a political conflict and the plight of its resultant refugee population to be left unresolved.”
NASSER JUDEH, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Jordan, said it was painful and deplorable for all to see the situation in Syria continue to deteriorate to the point where violence increased daily, forcing hundreds of thousands of Syrians to leave. The situation was breaking Syria’s social fabric, social cohesion and unity. “This serious threat calls upon us to act firmly and immediately so that Syria does not fall into a civil sectarian war that will have repercussions way beyond the borders of Syria and jeopardize the stability of the entire region,” he said.
Emphasizing that his country’s position was clear, he said a political solution was needed, but circumstances were making that more difficult to achieve. A transition framework must be implemented immediately. That was the only way to guarantee Syria’s political independence and unity. Such a political solution must go hand-in-hand with a decrease in violence, he stressed, appealing for an immediate end to the bloodshed. He also condemned approaches that had led more than 180,000 Syrian citizens to cross the border and seek refuge in Jordan.
Citing his country’s “deep and organic” relationship with its neighbour, he said Jordan was offering humanitarian aid and would open free health and education services for Syrian refugees. Noting that their numbers could hit 186,000 by the end of the meeting, he said his country had not taken any steps to prevent the arrival of their increasing numbers, but it was at risk of hosting double the number it could handle, with serious implications for public order and security. Appealing to the international community to help Jordan respond to the health and educational needs of Syrian refugees, he said: “Countries hosting Syrian refugees are in desperate need of help.”
AHMET DAVUTOĞLU, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Turkey, said he understood that the Council would, yet again, be unable to put forward a unified position to stop the humanitarian tragedy. Today’s meeting would not result in a presidential or press statement, let alone a robust resolution. Not even all foreign ministers had attended, but it was to be hoped that their non-participation was not an indication of their level of interest.
The situation in Syria was unfolding “in front of our eyes”, with the regime deploying fighter jets against the people, in addition to heavy artillery and tanks, he said. “How long are we going to sit and watch while an entire generation is being wiped out by random bombardment and deliberate mass targeting?” he asked. “If we do not act against such a crime against humanity happening in front of our eyes, we become accomplice to the crime,” he warned. “We can’t put the United Nations again in such an uncomfortable situation to apologize for the inaction or negligence about the tragic situation in Syria.”
Turkey was opening its doors daily to every Syrian who “runs for safety”, regardless of his or her religion, sect or ethnicity, he continued, pointing out, however, that that number now topped 80,000, with another 10,000 waiting on Turkey’s borders. The country was constantly building new camps, but took about a month to build a single one, which usually filled up in just two days, he said, estimating the average number of daily entries at around 4,000. Within the camps, Turkey met all the refugees’ needs, including education, health, job training as well as social and psychological support. To date, the country had provided funding for accommodation, upkeep and other services to the tune of more than $300 million, and that figure was growing.
He said that while he was not present to complain about the influx of Syrians, there was an increasing sense in his country that its sacrifice was “leading the international community to complacency and inaction”. The focus now must be on the 2 million Syrians displaced within their own borders. Millions who could not escape were in acute need of help, and the threat of famine was looming as winter approached. The wounded could not get treatment with hospitals being bombed or lacking equipment. To be clear, only the regime was responsible for the tragedy, he said, adding that the Syrian people were the victims of that “killing machine”. The situation had long threatened international peace and security, and Turkey appealed to Council members to take responsibility for ending the atrocities, enabling a democratic transition in accordance with the Syrian people’s demands, and restoring security and stability to that part of the world.
The United Nations, he said, was facing a serious test — whether it could translate humanity into practice or not. So far, the track record had not been promising, but the Organization could not fail the test, as the regional implications could be disastrous. He urged a Council visit to the camps in neighbouring countries; a unified Council approach to stopping the indiscriminate aerial bombardment of residential areas; a resolution of the question of displaced persons inside Syria; absorption of Syrians fleeing the violence across international borders, if necessary; and the establishment of a joint committee comprising neighbouring countries and UNHCR to deal with the refugee issue. “We are not only facing a serious crisis, but also a test for humanity,” he stressed. “If we shy away from our responsibilities today, we will be accountable to coming generations and face a harsh verdict before history.”
WAEL ABOU FAOUR, Minister for Social Affairs of Lebanon, noted his country’s deep geographic and cultural ties to Syria and said the Government was working to avoid “importing” the Syrian crisis. Lebanon was fully committed to separate political considerations from humanitarian necessities, and that clear, official commitment was based on international law and the historical relations between the Lebanese and Syrian peoples. Recalling that the Syrians had accommodated thousands of Lebanese following Israel’s 2006 aggression against their country, he said Lebanon had succeeded, with some exceptions, in reducing the threat of the Syrian crisis “migrating” to Lebanon.
The main political indicators showed that the political consensus was in favour of avoiding such a spillover as much as possible. The Government was committed to protecting Syrians of all religious and political affiliations who sought help, while cooperating with UNRWA to help Palestinians affected by the crisis. Noting that his country was facing a financial crisis, he said donor aid was very important in helping Lebanon accommodate tens of thousands of refugees. It urgently required an emergency plan, he said, adding that UNHCR, WFP and several non-governmental organizations were working with the Government to provide housing, medical and food aid to Syrians fleeing the violence. But the influx of refugees had heavily burdened Lebanon, he said, calling for a comprehensive plan to provide for emergency needs.
MOHAMMED JAWAD KADHUM NASSIR AL-DOREKY, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iraq, said that, as the country that had suffered the evils of terrorism and violence more than any other in the region, Iraq understood more than anyone else “the dangers of the events in the neighbourhood”. It had worked tirelessly to find a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis, including through an Iraqi initiative focused on promoting internal Syrian dialogue, and an Arab-Syrian dialogue under the auspices of the League of Arab States. Iraq had also taken part in the Action Group for Syria, working to reach the “Geneva Document”, a road map based, in part, on the six-point plan of former Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan.
“We still strongly believe that the six-point plan and the Geneva Document could lead to solving the crisis if the necessary support is provided to Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi,” he continued. Nonetheless, continuing outside interference — regardless of its origin and which side it favoured — would not lead to resolving the crisis, he stressed, warning that it would exacerbate it and worsen the humanitarian situation. Indeed, through outside interference, the Syrian people could become “fuel for a relentless proxy war”. The cessation of interference, opening the way for the efforts of the Joint Special Representative, was therefore a minimum requirement for advancing a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis, he said, adding that the Iraqi Government was now dealing with two major related issues: resolving the situation of Iraqis returning from Syria; and dealing with the estimated 15,000 Syrian refugees currently in Iraq.
LAURENT FABIUS, Council President and Minister for Foreign Affairs of France, speaking in his national capacity, said the situation was increasingly intolerable, especially since President Bashar al-Assad wanted to retain power through barbaric repression and savage fighting. He was using indiscriminate heavy weapons, helicopter gunships and fighter jets against his own people, and even threatening to use biological and chemical weapons.
France was operating on the diplomatic and political fronts to break the stalemate that had prevented international action under a Security Council mandate, he said. Given the raging violence, taking action was a moral obligation, a duty to civilians and host countries, and a security requirement, in light of the potential for destabilization across the entire region. Today, France wished to place that responsibility before each country represented in the chamber.
Reminding the Syrian authorities of their obligations under international law and international humanitarian law, he said the use of heavy weapons against one’s own people was a crime that should be brought before the International Criminal Court. He also reminded Damascus that humanitarian access to the population must be guaranteed. Having met earlier this week with an international organization of Syrian doctors who had treated victims of violence, he said the group had lost 100 colleagues, and more than 700 had been arrested because the authorities said they had blood on their hands. Yet, that was the blood of the wounded they had been trying to save.
The international community must support host countries and humanitarian workers in their difficult tasks, he urged, calling attention to the situations in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq. He emphasized that more financial resources were needed, saying his country was increasing its humanitarian assistance by €5 million. The European Union would contribute €100 million. Turkey talked about establishing buffer zones, and that should be studied, he said. The need for liberated zones was considerable, and the international community was duty-bound to reach a decision.
A political transition must be swift and lead to a transparent, broadly representative Government that would guarantee the rights of all communities, he said, adding that France would recognize such a Government, once formed. The Assad regime would fall, but as long as an end to the violence was delayed, the conflict would become regional and even international, he warned. Anyone supporting the criminal Syrian regime would be deemed “accomplices to a long crime”, so they should do everything they could to help undertake a political transition. Although the Council was divided, there was nonetheless no way other than compliance with international legality on the Syrian authorities’ part, he said.
SAAD-EDDINE EL OTHMANI, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Morocco, said that, as the Arab Group representative in the Council, his country had spared no effort in pushing for an end to the violence and a political solution. Morocco continued to work towards bolstering efforts to halt violations of human rights. He noted with great regret the shortage of food, sanitation, potable water and housing. Despite support from the United Nations and aid agencies, the shortage of supplies was acute, he said, emphasizing that it was incumbent on all partners to comply with the requirements of humanitarian law.
Noting the presence of more than 200,000 refugees registered in four States neighbouring Syria, he said their numbers were rising daily and thanked Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq for standing by the Syrian peoples and receiving them despite grappling with their own delicate financial and political situations. It was vital to secure access to suffering civilians and to provide them with food and medical support. Morocco and Jordan had established a multi-specialization hospital to assist refugees, and it had treated thousands of refugees so far. Morocco had also provided urgent medical aid to Syrian refugees in Jordan, in cooperation with that country’s Government and through UNHCR. Morocco was in constant contact with the refugee agency and would increase its contribution, he said.
WILLIAM HAGUE, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs of the United Kingdom, recalled that the Council had failed on three occasions to pass a resolution that would have thrown its full weight behind ending the violence. It had not turned a desire for peace into a binding obligation to bring it about, and it was now seeing the consequences of that failure. The Council had been warned that Syria was not committed to a peaceful end, and now it had seen whole cities laid waste and, along with the bloodshed and suffering, refugees on a vast scale. The Council had warned of threats to international peace and security, and of the risk of extremism, and indeed, there was now a danger of instability spreading to Lebanon and elsewhere.
He condemned the use of Lebanon as a base for terrorist attacks, saying that country had paid a greater price in blood than any other at the hands of the Assad family. Having recently seen first-hand the plight of Syrian refugees, he had met innocent people in Jordan who had played no part in the conflict, but whose families and livelihoods had been torn apart; people who had witnessed atrocities and walked for weeks to escape them. He had seen bewilderment and fear in the children, and a Government striving to provide safe shelter, care, education and medication to a large-scale refugee influx.
The Council must act now, he emphasized, adding that its responsibility was greater than before. It should call today on all countries to contribute funds to United Nations relief efforts. The United Kingdom had committed a total of $46 million for life-saving medical aid and $1 million for clinical care and counselling for Syrian refugees in Jordan, particularly women who had suffered the horrors of sexual violence. Condemning “disturbing” reports that aid centres were being deliberately targeted, he called for a renewal of the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry reporting on human rights violations by the Syrian authorities and some armed groups, and expressed support for Switzerland’s proposal to send the matter to the International Criminal Court.
The time to start planning for a future Government in Syria was now, he said, warning that such a process could not be left to chance. The Syrian people had lived in the shadow of chemical and biological weapons, and all Council members should insist that the Syrian Government secure and account for those stocks. The best way forward remained a Syrian-led transition, he said, adding that the Council should now require implementation of a transition plan. Failure to do so would set the scene for months of greater bloodshed and suffering, as well as greater threats to international peace and security, he warned.
MARÍA ÁNGELA HOLGUÍN CUÉLLAR, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Colombia, said that although the Syrian authorities bore the primary responsibility of protecting civilians, all the parties involved must abide by international humanitarian law and its clear rules for the protection of civilians. She deplored the continued rejection by both sides of options for a peaceful solution, a ceasefire and a path to political dialogue. Recognizing the mediation efforts of former Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan, she expressed hope that Mr. Brahimi, recently appointed as Joint Special Representative, would be able to bring the parties together to take the path of dialogue.
“We must bear in mind that for his mandate to be successful, genuine commitment of the parties is required,” she continued, before going on to welcome the Secretary-General’s decision to maintain an efficient and flexible United Nations presence in Syria aimed at supporting potential advances towards a negotiated political arrangement. While the urgent task in the short term was to ease the humanitarian crisis, there was a need rigorously to enforce international humanitarian law and respect for the human rights of the Syrian people, she stressed. Colombia reaffirmed its commitment to promoting a political solution, believing that the six-point plan represented the international consensus on how to address the situation in Syria, she said.
ELLIOT OHIN, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Togo, said Syria’s neighbours could not carry that heavy burden of hosting refugees alone, and called on the entire international community to increase supplies and aid. Strategies to reorganize and support humanitarian action must include national and regional steps to help Syrians displaced externally and internally. All sides must be held to account, in line with international humanitarian and human rights law, for proven violations of the responsibility to protect civilians, he stressed, adding that the Council must send a strong, unequivocal message.
He said such violations had worsened as attacks had increased, and women and children were among those indiscriminately victimized, before going on to call for the opening of humanitarian corridors to reach people in need, and for the protection of humanitarian workers carrying out such dangerous work. The Syrian crisis must be subjected to the conventional rules of settling conflict, he said, emphasizing that dialogue and reconciliation could not be put off much longer. In order to start a dialogue, which should include all parties to the conflict, the fighting must stop. The United Nations must remain engaged in bringing about a political settlement to the crisis.
SUSAN RICE ( United States) expressed outrage over the number of summary executions and shellings that had killed hundreds late last week, and over attacks on hospitals and bakeries in Aleppo. The international community had long pledged never again to allow such crimes, yet for one-and-a-half years, the Syrian regime had waged a vicious campaign against its own people. Assad and those who stood by him were responsible for the deaths of more than 20,000 citizens and the wounding of tens of thousands more, she said, adding that hundreds of thousands had been forced to flee the country. The United States was working with others to counter such cruelty, while the United Nations, Syrian humanitarian organizations and others were rushing vital aid to hundreds of thousands of civilians in urgent need.
She emphasized that full, safe, and unfettered access must be granted to aid workers, expressing full support for the immediate implementation of the humanitarian response plan agreed by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the Syrian Government. Only half of the last appeal for Syria had been funded, and a revised plan was also underfunded, she noted. The United States had provided nearly $82 million to the United Nations and other relief agencies for the Syrian humanitarian crisis this year, and appreciated the generosity of Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and others for opening their borders to those fleeing the violence. The United States would continue to provide support as needed.
The spillover of violence into neighbouring countries, especially Lebanon, which was seeking to manage any violent outbreaks, was deeply troubling, she said, adding that the cruelty and callousness of the Assad regime lay at the root of the conflict. No amount of humanitarian assistance would end the bloodshed and suffering; Assad’s departure and a peaceful transition to democracy should be the goal of all countries. “We will not rest until the Syrian people are free to realize their aspirations to govern themselves and live without fear,” she declared, strongly condemning unlawfulness by any side. “We cannot and will not turn from atrocities of systematic violations of international law,” she warned, welcoming the pledges by three Syrian army leaders to forbid the killing of civilians and promising to watch for its implementation. She also reiterated her country’s demand that the Syrian Government refrain from using or transferring chemical or biological weapons, stressing that it must ensure the safety and security of all stockpiles.
The question was not whether the Assad regime would fall but when, she said, pointing out that the primary responsibility for ending the carnage rested with him and the clique around him. The Syrian people understood fully which countries had rallied to their legitimate cause and which had protected a “doomed and desperate regime”. The United States would pursue a wiser course in order to limit harm to regional security and produce a responsible Syrian Government. One day soon, “Assad will lose his bloody grip on the Syrian people”, and then the Council would have to step up to help them heal the wounds of war and rebuild their battered country, she said. When that day came, the Syrian people and the world would remember who had been on the wrong side of history and who had been on their side.
TOFIG MUSAYEV (Azerbaijan) said that as Syrians fled to neighbouring countries, the threat of destabilization of the entire region was particularly alarming, commending Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey for providing relief. All appropriate practical measures must be taken to ensure that the Syrian crisis was not used as a pretext for organizing, instigating, facilitating and encouraging terrorist and separatist activity against other States, particularly Syria’s neighbours. Calling for more humanitarian access, he said a larger, more rapid response to the humanitarian appeal for Syria was critical. He called on the international community to support Mr. Brahimi in order to achieve the long-awaited breakthrough. National stakeholders should demonstrate the political will to solve the crisis through political rather than military means, he stressed. The Council must speak with one voice to ensure that the parties complied with their commitments responsibly and in good faith.
VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) called on the leaders of Syria’s Government and opposition to prevent further deterioration of the humanitarian situation. It was important to agree on a humanitarian response plan as the population in Syria clearly needed more help. Stressing the urgent need to earmark more resources to help all affected Syrians, including internally displaced persons, he said his country had given aid bilaterally and through international relief organizations. Millions of dollars had been provided to UNHCR, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and others. Aid agencies must have access to sites in neighbouring countries from which they could properly assess needs.
While expressing support for the United Nations response plan to assist refugees, he said he fundamentally opposed unilateral economic sanctions against Syria, which merely complicated the lives of citizens and denied them the ability fully to enjoy their basic rights. That was also the conclusion of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry, he said, calling on nations that had imposed economic sanctions on Syria immediately to lift them. It was also unacceptable to give logistic, military and other support to armed groups, he said, adding that doing so was a violation of the principle of impartiality.
The ongoing hostilities were the main reason for the Syrian people’s plight, he said, stressing that there must be an end to confrontation by all sides. He expressed regret that due to the stance of some Council members, it had not been able to extend the mandate of the United Nations Supervision Mission in the Syrian Arab Republic (UNSMIS). The new Liaison Office in Syria must quickly start work on the ground. The international community could not remain aloof to attempts by extremist elements to further destabilize the situation. Today’s meeting should make it possible to strengthen the common denominator of encouraging the parties to end the bloodshed immediately. Through the terms set in the six-point plan and the final communiqué of the Action Group for Syria, the Russian Federation was pursuing its position with the Syrian Government, he said.
BASO SANGQU ( South Africa) said a sustainable political solution must be found, and the Council’s approach must be balanced. It must exert pressure on all sides to end the violence, create a ceasefire and comply with their respective obligations under the six-point plan and the Geneva Action Group communiqué. The situation could not be resolved by military means or by helping one side militarily to defeat the other. Asking whether the arming of the Syrian opposition was not indirect military intervention, he said such an approach may be convenient in the short term, but it would expose the country’s fault lines and result in unending civil strife, as had been the case elsewhere when internal political dynamics had been disregarded.
“We hope that the humanitarian or protection of civilians pretext will not be used to institute regime change in Syria, as we have seen in other cases,” he said. He applauded the United Nations and relief agencies for coming to the Syrian people’s aid, and he said it was the duty and obligation of the warring parties to ensure the safety and security of aid workers, as stipulated in the relevant international and humanitarian law agreements. The situation of Syrian refugees was of great concern, he said, commending the neighbouring countries for providing shelter and other aid to desperate people. As the humanitarian crisis escalated and funds became scarce, the global community must respond to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ humanitarian appeal and to the Regional Refugee Response Plan, he said. It was more crucial than ever that the Council set aside differences based on narrow national interests in order to save Syria and the region from total collapse.
PETER WITTIG (Germany) said today’s meeting came only a few days after reports of yet another massacre committed by the Assad regime and its militias against civilians, including women and children. The Independent international Commission of Inquiry had provided important findings, and compiled a list of those deemed most responsible. That provided a solid base for possible follow-on action, including by the International Criminal Court, he said, calling on the opposition to respect international humanitarian law and protect civilians. Humanitarian law applied to all sides, he added. Germany would continue to work towards a political solution to the crisis. “Our position is clear: there can be no future for President Assad in a new Syria,” he said, calling on President Assad to step aside to avoid further bloodshed. He also urged Syria to abide strictly by its obligations, under international law, not to use chemical weapons under any circumstances.
VINAY KUMAR (India) strongly condemned all violence and violations of human rights in Syria, regardless of the perpetrators. He also condemned, in the strongest possible terms, the terrorist acts being committed in the country, and called upon all parties — Syrian as well as foreign — to disassociate themselves from terrorist groups and ensure that no space or justification was provided for terrorist acts. “There is an urgent need for the international community to close its ranks and send a united message to the Syrian parties to walk back from their military approach,” he said, emphasizing that the only way to bring about a sustained end to the violence was through an inclusive, Syrian-led political process.
He said any militarization of the humanitarian situation would worsen the security situation as well as humanitarian conditions for millions of Syrians and must, therefore, be avoided. Calling on all parties, both inside and outside Syria, to abide fully by their obligations under Security Council resolutions 2042 and 2043 (2012), he said it was critical that the United Nations remain strongly engaged in seeking a way forward, as any unilateral action would exacerbate the crisis and cause greater instability and violence, even beyond Syria’s borders. The leadership of Syria was for Syrians to decide through a democratic process, he stressed, adding that the task of the international community, anchored in the United Nations, was therefore to assist the Syrian parties in that process.
GERT ROSENTHAL ( Guatemala) said it was difficult to separate the humanitarian and political situations in Syria because the conflict had led to a humanitarian crisis and the latter tended to provide renewed reasons for the conflict to escalate. The battles fought in cities — with little respect for the civilian population, and using heavy weapons, tanks, helicopters and airplanes — must end, he stressed, adding that “it is easy to enunciate, but all of us know how difficult it has been to persuade the warring parties to lay down their weapons”. Noting that discussions were under way concerning the creation of buffer zones inside Syrian territory, he said that while that idea had some “obvious appeal”, it raised a number of legal and practical questions that had not yet been discussed in the Council. Meanwhile, humanitarian workers continued to work in very difficult and dangerous conditions — often against the will of the authorities — and now in the face of a fund shortage, combined with an increase in the number of victims of violence, most of them women and children.
RAZA BASHIR TARAR (Pakistan) said the initial joint needs assessment carried out by the United Nations, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Syrian Government had kindled optimism, but subsequent developments had dashed all such hopes. The humanitarian crisis in Syria could not be addressed in isolation, but rather must be considered in a holistic manner. Indeed, the Syrian people needed political space to regain the equilibrium that was essential for peacebuilding, he said. Strongly condemning the use of force by all sides, he said the Government bore the primary responsibility for ensuring the safety and security of the Syrian people. Pakistan therefore called on the Government to ensure that the rights of all of its citizens were protected, in conformity with its national and international obligations. The Syrian opposition should also abjure the use of force, he added. It was essential that the Syrian Government and other forces create the conditions necessary for national dialogue and reconciliation. As for the international community, there was a need for “creative thinking and a departure from stated positions”, he said, adding that the six-point plan offered the best possible solution to the fratricidal conflict in Syria. “An international community, working with unity and clarity of purpose, is the only hope for the people of Syria.”
JOSÉ FILIPE MORAES CABRAL (Portugal) said that there was a clear need to scale up humanitarian assistance in Syria and to increase support for the countries hosting Syrian refugees. Recalling the humanitarian commitments undertaken by the Syrian Government under the six-point plan, he urged the Syrian authorities to ensure greater humanitarian access to those in need. Portugal vehemently condemned all human rights violations and abuses taking place in Syria, for which there could be absolutely no tolerance, regardless of the perpetrators, he stressed, expressing regret that the Government had shunned every opportunity to seek a political settlement. It had opted instead for a “criminal choice of action”, launching the country into a destructive spiral of violence, pushing it into a full-fledged civil war and threatening its integrity while destabilizing its neighbours and menacing regional peace and security. Another “very worrisome” aspect was the risk openly posed by stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons inside Syria, he said. Not only was their use prohibited under international law, but the Syrian authorities were responsible for ensuring their safe storage.
LI BAODONG (China) said the Syrian situation had not only caused a huge number of casualties, but also seriously damaged the economy and infrastructure. There was a shortage of food, drinking water and medical facilities, while the number of internally displaced persons and refugees continued to grow. Greatly concerned, China hoped the Syrian Government would continue to cooperate with the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, he said, pointing out that his country had provided emergency humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people and was prepared to provide more emergency supplies to the countries hosting refugees. Above all, efforts to ease the humanitarian situation must be guided by the principles of neutrality, impartiality and respect for Syria’s sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity, he emphasized.
Emphasizing that humanitarian relief efforts should never be militarized, he said it was especially important to guard against interference in Syria’s internal affairs or to proceed with military action “under the pretext of humanitarianism”. The United Nations should play the lead coordinating role in relief efforts, and all countries should honour their pledges of assistance, he said. At the same time, it was important to address both the symptoms and the root causes of the humanitarian situation. The failure by all parties to deliver on their commitment to a ceasefire had caused the situation to decline, and the top priority now was to end all forms of terrorism and violence. Any connivance regarding military action would only lead to more bloodshed and casualties, and greater humanitarian catastrophe, he warned, calling for a Syrian-led transition process.
BASHAR JA'AFARI (Syria), citing claims by certain Arab parties and others outside the region that there was no alternative to arming the opposition, creating safe corridors and buffer zones, and having the Syrian President step down, said it was “high time” to learn the lesson of disasters brought about by foreign interference in the internal affairs of other States. To implement the six-point plan, Syria had cooperated fully with UNSMIS, and consented to Mr. Brahimi’s appointment, he said. Some of the countries that had rallied consensus in favour of the Geneva communiqué had done all they could to bury it alive shortly after its release, he said, adding that their leaders had a “hysterical obsession” to target the Syrian Government. Their failure to cooperate with the six-point plan had led to the resignation of Kofi Annan as Joint Special Envoy, he said.
It was quite clear that certain States saw humanitarian aid as part of a biased political agenda, he said, asking why some people insisted on promoting action outside the United Nations framework. How was it possible that certain States had done everything they could to freeze Syrian’s membership in the Arab League under the pretext of helping the Syrian people? On the contrary, their suffering had worsened under increasing attacks. He asked whether any State in the world would allow armed terrorists and mercenaries to control their towns. Syria felt great bitterness and sorrow when its people living in border camps were dissuaded from returning home, he said, adding that many of the camps had been turned into training grounds for terrorists.
France must take the appropriate measures, as Council President, to ensure meticulous respect for international law, he said, stressing that turning a blind eye to arms trafficking from Lebanon into Syria was a way to flout it. Recalling that the international media had spoken of Turkey’s role in spilling Syrian blood, he said the neighbouring country was allowing armed groups to establish training camps on its territory. The Turkish Government was becoming the executioner of Syria. He also criticized Lebanon for expressing regret over the presence of Syrian refugees on its territory, reminding that country that Syria had welcomed thousands of Lebanese after Israel’s aggression in 2006, and had not turned to the Council to call for intervention. He went on to call on the Moroccan Minister to turn his focus to the Moroccan people and his country’s “archaic” practices instead of criticizing Syria’s internal affairs. He asked Germany’s representative who had authorized him to speak on behalf of the Syrian people.
GÉRARD ARAUD (France), responding to Mr. Ja’afari’s remarks, recalled that in 1963, Mr. Assad’s father, then President of Syria, had asked France to stay and not grant independence to Syria. Quoting Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, he said that what was excessive was insignificant, and described Mr. Ja’afari’s proposals as excessive.
ERTUĞRUL APAKAN ( Turkey), also responding to Mr. Ja’afari, said an attempt had been made to misrepresent the facts about Turkey’s position on Syria. The crisis there threatened regional and global peace and security, he said. It did not need further description as it was taking place before everyone’s eyes. As a neighbouring country, Turkey had always been in favour of a secure and stable Syria, and wished to end the crisis without delay. Turkey would continue to stand by the Syrian people, who were the masters of their own future.
Mr. FAOUR (Lebanon), also responding to Mr. Ja’afari’s comment about the trafficking of weapons from Lebanon into Syria, said official Lebanese parties were doing everything possible to stop the trafficking in all its forms. Recalling Lebanon’s historic request for the demarcation of borders, he said it had not been upheld. He also refuted Mr. Ja’afari’s comment that his country regretted the presence of Syrian refugees in Lebanon. On the contrary, it was helping those in need.
MOHAMMED LOULICHKI ( Morocco) said Syria’s representative had decided to openly attack virtually all Council members and seemed to believe that attack was the best policy. The Moroccan Minister had spoken on behalf of the 32 million Moroccans, he said, adding that his country had never hesitated to take the side of Arab people. Morocco had stood apart in the Arab Spring. Amid the turmoil engulfing other places, it had had one of the most advanced constitutions in place, which had brought sweeping reforms. He assured the Syria representative the Morocco’s 32 million people were very proud of their King’s actions.
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