Security Council Unanimously Adopts Resolution 2139 (2013) to Ease Aid Delivery to Syrians, Provide Relief from ‘Chilling Darkness’

22 February 2014
SC/11292

Security Council Unanimously Adopts Resolution 2139 (2013) to Ease Aid Delivery to Syrians, Provide Relief from ‘Chilling Darkness’

22 February 2014
Security Council
SC/11292
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

7116th Meeting (AM)

Security Council Unanimously Adopts Resolution 2139 (2013) to Ease Aid

 

Delivery to Syrians, Provide Relief from ‘Chilling Darkness’

 

Secretary-General, Members Speak, with Some Calling Text

Powerful Sign of Renewed Commitment, Others, ‘Only a Modest Step Forward’

After a period of intense negotiations, the Security Council coalesced around the urgent need to increase humanitarian aid access in Syria today, calling on all parties to immediately cease attacks against civilians and lift the siege of populated areas, including in the embattled Old City of Homs.

Unanimously adopting resolution 2139 (2014), the Council demanded that all parties allow delivery of humanitarian assistance, cease depriving civilians of food and medicine indispensable to their survival, and enable the rapid, safe and unhindered evacuation of all civilians who wished to leave.  It demanded that all parties respect the principle of medical neutrality and facilitate free passage to all areas for medical personnel, equipment and transport.

Also by the text, the Council called on all parties, in particular the Syrian authorities, to promptly allow unhindered humanitarian access for United Nations agencies and its partners, including across conflict lines, and to ensure that aid reached people through the most direct routes.  It expressed its intent to take “further steps” in the case of non-compliance, requesting the Secretary-General to report every 30 days on implementation by all parties.

By further terms, the Council strongly condemned increased terrorist attacks carried out by organizations and individuals associated with Al-Qaida, its affiliates and other terrorist groups.  The humanitarian situation would continue to deteriorate in the absence of a political solution, the Council stated, demanding that all parties work towards the implementation of the 2012 Geneva Communiqué.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed adoption of the resolution but said it “should not have been necessary”, as humanitarian assistance “is not something to be negotiated; it is something to be allowed by virtue of international law”.  Half the country’s people urgently needed assistance, while host countries required support in caring for more than 2.5 million refugees, he said.

He went on to say that some 200,000 people were under siege in Government-controlled areas, and 45,000 in opposition-controlled areas.  He found it “profoundly shocking” that both sides were besieging civilians as a tactic of war.  While the political process continued, the United Nations would do all it could to provide relief and protection to people in need.

Council members commended the text’s adoption, including as a sign that the 15-member body was not indifferent to the staggering humanitarian crisis.  Some called today’s action a “long overdue and necessary step”, as Syrian civilians continued to bear the brunt of the conflict.  Many stressed that they were daily the victims of indiscriminate attacks, including through the “horrendous” use of barrel bombs and aerial bombings.  They also decried attacks against schools and hospitals, which continued unabated, as well as persistent sexual and gender-based violence.  Some called specifically on the Syrian regime to lift the blockade, stop using barrel bombs and allow aid delivery.

Offering the national perspective, Syria’s delegate said his Government had sought to improve the humanitarian situation since the start of the conflict.  It had covered 75 per cent of the total assistance distributed, whereas the United Nations and others had covered only 25 per cent, he said.

Further, Syria had fully abided by its international commitments, including the Council’s October 2013 presidential statement, having carried out several measures to allow international humanitarian groups to expand their operations.  The time had come for the Council to deal with the roots of the humanitarian situation in his country:  terrorist acts against Syrians carried out with the support of well-known Governments.

The representative of the Russian Federation said opposition activities to undermine humanitarian operations must be swiftly and firmly condemned, which he said today’s text had appropriately assessed by calling for an impartial approach to humanitarian access.  He trusted that the authorities and the opposition alike would free besieged areas.  While the Council could consider further steps, he underscored that there was no “automaticity” to carrying out sanctions.

The representative of Jordan said the Syrian crisis had created an international refugee problem, noting that his country had welcomed 1.3 million Syrians, the adverse effects of which would require an effective international approach.  He urged all sides, namely the Syrian authorities, to allow humanitarian access through borders and lines of fire.  They also must dismantle the blockade on certain towns and regions.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Luxembourg, Australia, France, United States, United Kingdom, Argentina, China, Nigeria, Chile, Republic of Korea, Rwanda, Chad and Lithuania.

The meeting began at 11:05 a.m. and ended at 12:35 p.m.

Resolution

The full text of resolution 2139 (2014) reads as follows:

The Security Council,

Recalling its resolutions 2042 (2012), 2043 (2012) and 2118 (2013), and its presidential statements of 3 August 2011, 21 March 2012, 5 April 2012 and 2 October 2013,

Reaffirming its strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Syria, and to the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations,

Being appalled at the unacceptable and escalating level of violence and the death of well over 100,000 people in Syria, including over 10,000 children, as reported by the UN Secretary-General and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict,

Expressing grave alarm at the significant and rapid deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Syria, in particular the dire situation of hundreds of thousands of civilians trapped in besieged areas, most of whom are besieged by the Syrian armed forces and some by opposition groups, as well as the dire situation of over 3 million people in hard-to-reach areas, and deploring the difficulties in providing, and the failure to provide, access for the humanitarian assistance to all civilians in need inside Syria,

Emphasizing the need to respect the UN guiding principles of humanitarian emergency assistance and stressing the importance of such assistance being delivered on the basis of need, devoid of any political prejudices and aims, commending the efforts of the United Nations and all humanitarian and medical personnel in Syria and in neighbouring countries, and condemning all acts or threats of violence against United Nations staff and humanitarian actors, which have resulted in the death, injury and detention of many humanitarian personnel,

Expressing grave concern at the increasing number of refugees and internally displaced persons caused by the conflict in Syria, which has a destabilising impact on the entire region, and underscoring its appreciation for the significant and admirable efforts that have been made by the countries of the region, notably Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt, to accommodate the more than 2.4 million refugees who have fled Syria as a result of the on-going violence, while acknowledging the enormous political, socioeconomic and financial impact of the presence of large-scale populations in these countries, and underscoring the need for all parties to respect and maintain the security and civilian character of camps for refugees and internally displaced persons,

Welcoming the pledges totalling $2.5 billion at the Second International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria, hosted by Kuwait on 15 January 2014, and expressing its appreciation to Member States and regional and subregional organizations that have pledged to provide humanitarian assistance to people in need in all parts of Syria, including internally displaced persons, as well as to refugees in neighbouring host countries, and calling on all Member States to ensure the timely disbursement of pledges and continued support in line with growing humanitarian needs,

Calling on all parties to immediately end all violence which has led to human suffering in Syria, save Syria’s rich societal mosaic and cultural heritage, and take appropriate steps to ensure the protection of Syria’s World Heritage Sites,

Strongly condemning the increased terrorist attacks resulting in numerous casualties and destruction carried out by organizations and individuals associated with Al-Qaida, its affiliates and other terrorist groups, and reiterating its call on all parties to commit to putting an end to terrorist acts perpetrated by such organizations and individuals, while reaffirming that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security, and that any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation, wherever, whenever and by whomsoever committed,

Expressing its regret that its presidential statement of 2 October 2013 (S/PRST/2013/15) has not delivered as expected and has not yet translated into meaningful progress on the ground, and that humanitarian aid delivery continues to be impeded throughout Syria, while condemning all cases of denial of humanitarian access and recalling that arbitrary denial of humanitarian access and depriving civilians of objects indispensable to their survival, including wilfully impeding relief supply and access, can constitute a violation of international humanitarian law,

Emphasizing that the humanitarian situation will continue to deteriorate in the absence of a political solution to the crisis, reiterating its endorsement of the Geneva Communiqué of 30 June 2012 (Annex II of Resolution 2118 (2113)) and demanding that all parties work towards the immediate and comprehensive implementation of the Geneva Communiqué aimed at bringing an immediate end to all violence, violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international law, and facilitating the Syrian-led political process launched in Montreux on 22 January 2014, leading to a transition that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people and enables them independently and democratically to determine their own future,

“1.   Strongly condemns the widespread violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by the Syrian authorities, as well as the human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law by armed groups, including all forms of sexual and gender-based violence, as well as all grave violations and abuses committed against children in contravention of applicable international law, such as recruitment and use, killing and maiming, rape, attacks on schools and hospitals as well as arbitrary arrest, detention, torture, ill treatment and use as human shields, as described in the United Nations Secretary-General’s report on children and armed conflict in Syria (S/2014/31);

“2.   Demands that all parties immediately put an end to all forms of violence, irrespective of where it comes from, cease and desist from all violations of international humanitarian law and violations and abuses of human rights, and reaffirm their obligations under international humanitarian law and international human rights law, and stresses that some of these violations may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity;

“3.   Demands that all parties immediately cease all attacks against civilians, as well as the indiscriminate employment of weapons in populated areas, including shelling and aerial bombardment, such as the use of barrel bombs, and methods of warfare which are of a nature to cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering, and recalls in this regard the obligation to respect and ensure respect for international humanitarian law in all circumstances, and further recalls, in particular, the obligation to distinguish between civilian populations and combatants, and the prohibition against indiscriminate attacks, and attacks against civilians and civilian objects as such;

“4.   Demands that all parties, in particular the Syrian authorities, fully implement the provisions of the 2 October 2013 statement by the President of the Security Council (S/PRST/2013/15) including through facilitating the expansion of humanitarian relief operations, in accordance with applicable provisions of international humanitarian law and the UN guiding principles of humanitarian emergency assistance;

“5.   Calls upon all parties to immediately lift the sieges of populated areas, including in the Old City of Homs (Homs), Nubl and Zahra (Aleppo), Madamiyet Elsham (Rural Damascus), Yarmouk (Damascus), Eastern Ghouta (Rural Damascus), Darayya (Rural Damascus) and other locations, and demands that all parties allow the delivery of humanitarian assistance, including medical assistance, cease depriving civilians of food and medicine indispensable to their survival, and enable the rapid, safe and unhindered evacuation of all civilians who wish to leave, and underscores the need for the parties to agree on humanitarian pauses, days of tranquillity, localised cease-fires and truces to allow humanitarian agencies safe and unhindered access to all affected areas in Syria, recalling that starvation of civilians as a method of combat is prohibited by international humanitarian law;

“6.   Demands that all parties, in particular the Syrian authorities, promptly allow rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access for UN humanitarian agencies and their implementing partners, including across conflict lines and across borders, in order to ensure that humanitarian assistance reaches people in need through the most direct routes;

“7.   Urges all parties, in particular the Syrian authorities, to take all appropriate steps to facilitate the efforts of the United Nations, its specialized agencies, and all humanitarian actors engaged in humanitarian relief activities, to provide immediate humanitarian assistance to the affected people in Syria, including by promptly facilitating safe and unhindered humanitarian access to populations in need of assistance in all areas under their control, and encourages further cooperation between the United Nations, its specialized agencies and all parties concerned, including Syrian civil society organisations, to facilitate access and the delivery of assistance in the entirety of the Syrian territory;

“8.   Demands that all parties respect the principle of medical neutrality and facilitate free passage to all areas for medical personnel, equipment, transport and supplies, including surgical items, and recalls that under international humanitarian law, the wounded and sick must receive, to the fullest extent practicable, and with the least possible delay, medical care and attention required by their condition and that medical and humanitarian personnel, facilities and transport must be respected and protected, and expresses grave concern in this regard at the removal of medical supplies from humanitarian shipments;

“9.   Also demands that all parties take all appropriate steps to protect civilians, including members of ethnic, religious and confessional communities, and stresses that, in this regard, the primary responsibility to protect its population lies with the Syrian authorities;

“10.  Further demands that all parties demilitarize medical facilities, schools and other civilian facilities and avoid establishing military positions in populated areas and desist from attacks directed against civilian objects;

“11.  Strongly condemns the arbitrary detention and torture of civilians in Syria, notably in prisons and detention facilities, as well as the kidnappings, abductions and forced disappearances, and demands the immediate end of these practices and the release of all arbitrarily detained persons starting with women and children, as well as sick, wounded and elderly people and including UN personnel and journalists;

“12.  Urges all parties to take all appropriate steps to ensure the safety and security of United Nations personnel, those of its specialized agencies, and all other personnel engaged in humanitarian relief activities, without prejudice to their freedom of movement and access, stresses that the primary responsibility in this regard lies with the Syrian authorities and further stresses the need not to impede these efforts;

“13.  Stresses the need to end impunity for violations of international humanitarian law and violations and abuses of human rights, and reaffirms that those who have committed or are otherwise responsible for such violations and abuses in Syria must be brought to justice;

“14.  Strongly condemns the increased terrorist attacks resulting in numerous casualties and destruction carried out by organisations and individuals associated with Al-Qaida, its affiliates and other terrorist groups, urges the opposition groups to maintain their rejection of these organizations and individuals which are responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law in opposition-held areas, calls upon the Syrian authorities and opposition groups to commit to combating and defeating organizations and individuals associated with Al-Qaida, its affiliates and other terrorist groups, demands that all foreign fighters immediately withdraw from Syria, and reaffirms that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security, and that any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation, wherever, whenever and by whomsoever committed;

“15.  Emphasizes that the humanitarian situation will continue to deteriorate in the absence of a political solution, welcomes in this regard the Geneva Conference on Syria launched in Montreux on 22 January 2014, and demands that all parties work towards the comprehensive implementation of the Geneva Communiqué of 30 June 2012 leading to a genuine political transition that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people and enables them independently and democratically to determine their own future, and further stresses that rapid progress on a political solution should include full participation by all groups and segments of Syrian society, including women, and represents the only sustainable opportunity to resolve the situation in Syria peacefully, and that the implementation of this resolution is key to meeting the humanitarian needs of the Syrian people;

“16.  Urges all Member States to contribute or increase their support to the United Nations’ humanitarian appeals to meet the spiralling needs of people affected by the crisis, and to provide this support in coordination with the relevant United Nations agencies, and to ensure that all pledges are honoured in full, and further urges all Member States, based on burden sharing principles, to support the neighbouring host countries to enable them to respond to the growing humanitarian needs, including by providing direct support;

“17.  Requests the Secretary-General to report to the Council on the implementation of this resolution by all parties in Syria, in particular paragraphs 2 through 12, in 30 days of its adoption and every 30 days thereafter, and upon receipt of the Secretary-General’s report, expresses its intent to take further steps in the case of non-compliance with this resolution;

“18.  Decides to remain actively seized of the matter.”

Background

The Security Council met today to consider the situation in the Middle East.

Statements

Speaking after adoption of the draft resolution, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said everyone was aware of the profound desperation of the Syrian people, but if the resolution was implemented quickly and in good faith, at least some of the suffering could be eased.  The resolution would ensure the much-needed delivery of relief, particularly as the humanitarian situation in Syria had continued to deteriorate.  Host countries needed support in caring for 2.5 million refugees, while civilians continued to bear the brunt of the conflict; they were the daily victims of brutal violence and indiscriminate attacks, including through the use of heavy weapons, aerial bombings, mortars and car bombs in populated areas.  

He said that reports persisted of country-wide massacres and sexual-based attacks against women and girls.  Syrian Government and allied militias had been responsible for countless killings, disappearances, the horrendous use of barrel bombs and torture on a massive scale.  Opposition groups had carried out summary executions, the recruitment of children for combat and the use of terror tactics in civilian areas.  Attacks against civilian infrastructure, including schools and hospitals, continued unabated.  Those heinous attacks must stop immediately, and all combating parties must abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law. 

Mr. Ban commended United Nations humanitarian personnel who operated under dangerous circumstances, who, despite the dangerous circumstances, were reaching millions of people.  “But too many millions are beyond our reach, and funding continues to fall short.” 

Today’s resolution should not have been necessary, he said, as humanitarian assistance was not something to be negotiated.  Profoundly shocking to him, he said, was that both sides continued to besiege civilians as a tactic of war — some 200,000 people were under siege in Government-controlled areas, and 45,000 in opposition-controlled areas.  More broadly, the resolution highlighted the urgent need to end the conflict.  While the political process continued, the international community must do all it could to provide relief and protection to people in need on the ground.

Speaking after the vote, SYLVIE LUCAS (Luxembourg) said the aim of the resolution was simple:  to protect civilians affected by conflict and demand the rapid and safe humanitarian assistance, with unhindered access along the most direct routes to those who needed it.  Recalling that hunger as a tool of war was banned under international humanitarian law, she said today’s text reaffirmed that those who committed such violations must be brought to justice.  It also stressed the need for a political solution to the conflict.  The Council was sending a clear and unified message to all parties in Syria to guarantee humanitarian access and alleviate the situation in besieged towns.  Some 10 million Syrians, half of whom were children, required humanitarian assistance — 3 million in areas difficult to access, and more than 2.4 million refugees in neighbouring countries, especially Lebanon and Jordan.  With today’s unanimous vote, the Council was shouldering its responsibilities; it was now up to the parties to implement today’s text.  Syrian authorities must endorse the 2012 Geneva Communiqué, while both sides must work towards genuine conflict resolution.  The Council had expressed its intent to take further steps in the event of non-compliance to support vital humanitarian action.

GARY QUINLAN (Australia) said that Syria had disintegrated and neighbouring countries were threatened by the effects.  Almost half of Syria’s population needed assistance, with a third of housing destroyed and more than 60 per cent of the hospitals destroyed or damaged.  At least a quarter of a million people struggled to survive in besieged cities and towns, with no food or medical relief for more than a year.

By any measure, the Syrian people long ago descended into hell, he said, adding that it should not have taken the Council so long to take today’s action.  The Council demanded that the resolution be fully implemented, as it would make a difference in the lives of millions of Syrians.  Its core demand was that the parties to the conflict — above all, the Syrian authorities — reverse course now and put the interests of Syria’s citizens first.  The Syrian military must cease their systematic and indiscriminate attacks on civilians, including aerial bombings and the use of barrel bombs.  Aid must be allowed to reach all those in need, particularly those living under siege, via the most direct means possible, and people living in those areas must be free to leave, if they chose.

Armed opposition groups must also comply with the resolution to end abuses of human rights, abide by international humanitarian law and facilitate the provision of humanitarian assistance in areas they controlled.  The only sustainable solution to the Syrian conflict was a political transition.  Australia reiterated its call for the Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.  The resolution could only benefit the Syrian people if it was implemented in full, with the primary responsibility falling to the Syrian authorities.  The text made it very clear that the Council’s expectations must be met and that there will be consequences for non-compliance.

ZEID RA’AD ZEID AL-HUSSEIN (Jordan) said the resolution sought to address the different dimensions of the humanitarian tragedy in Syria, which was intolerable.  Civilians were not only the targets of attacks with all types of banned weapons, but they were also subjected to assault resulting from the stifling blockade imposed throughout the country, which was starving the population.  Some of the crimes could be considered crimes against humanity.  Further, 6.5 million people were internally displaced, 250,000 Syrians were trapped in besieged zones, and 2 million required humanitarian assistance in difficult-to-reach regions.

He said that the consequences had reached neighbouring countries, creating an international humanitarian problem, which affected all aspects of life.  Jordan had welcomed 1.3 million Syrian refugees, but it understood that the adverse effects of the refugee crisis would be long-term and require an effective approach by the international community.  Additionally, the crisis endangered security and stability in the Middle East. 

It was important for the parties to end to the conflict and immediately and fully implement the resolution, he said, adding that all sides, namely the Syrian authorities, must allow humanitarian access through borders and lines of fire.  The parties must dismantle the blockade on certain cities and towns and put an end to attacks on all civilians, namely in residential areas, including aerial bombardments and the use of barrel bombs.  The Council would closely monitor the resolution’s implementation.

GÉRARD ARAUD (France) said today’s text asked the Syrian Government to respect international humanitarian law, and to stop bombing civilians and imprisoning them.  It was up to the Government to allow assistance to cross the line of fighting.  The resolution must bring an end to Syria’s deafness to the Council’s entreaties.  “We must all admit that our [October 2013] presidential statement did not bear tangible results,” he said, adding that far from reaching all people in need, access had been difficult in besieged areas.  Many evacuees had been arrested and were still missing.  The Government was stepping up its communication work on ceasefires amid the violence imposed on scared, exhausted, hungry people subjected to increasingly deadly bombs.  After the use of ballistic missiles and chemical weapons, barrel bombs were now being used, without military justification; they only sought to indiscriminately kill people.  It was up to the Council to ensure that the warring parties, especially the regime, listened to the Council’s strong message and translated its requests.  The Council would adopt further measures in case of non-compliance, and it would review progress in 30 days.  The Government bore responsibility for failure by refusing negotiations suggested by the United Nations and Arab League Special Envoy to Syria.

SAMANTHA POWER (United States) said that for a body that had been divided, today’s resolution was long overdue and a necessary step towards reality.  Whatever had or had not transpired in the Security Council since the start of the conflict, the Syrian people had the grave misfortune of living in the real world.  For example, more than 173,000 people were believed to be trapped in Ghouta, including those who had barely any food and had been given permission by religious authorities to eat cats and dogs.

Kidnapping, sexual violence, electric shocks and imprisonment without cause had all been inflicted on children, she said, noting that the medical health system had collapsed and the school system barely functioned.  A quarter of a million people were trying to survive in besieged cities, countless hungry children had lost limbs and mothers were being denied the basic nourishment they required to provide for the infants they held in their arms.  Such tragedies were the result of actions wilfully taken by specific individuals.  What they had the power to do, they now had the power and responsibly to stop.  Here, she said she was referring to the Syrian regime and Bashar al-Assad. 

Today’s resolution, she continued, was not about politics and ideology, but about doing what was necessary to help those who were in desperate need of assistance to live and breathe.  It was remarkable to the world that it had taken three years for action, and it was a gross understatement that it should not have taken this long.  The resolution had specific demands for concrete actions and there would be further action if those steps were not taken.  The United States hoped the Council would ensure that its unanimous demands resulted in specific actions to stop the suffering, particularly in besieged communities.  It remained to be seen if those steps were taken.  The United States called upon Council members and the entire international community to hold responsible Damascus and any actor that failed to comply with the demands of the resolution.  Today, the Council had achieved consensus.  Now, it must insist upon action.

VITALY I. CHURKIN (Russian Federation) said the Council had taken up the situation in Syria only after efforts to carry out regime change had proven untenable.  Many of his Government’s considerations had been borne in mind and today’s resolution had taken on a “balanced nature”.  Its aim was to improve the situation in Syria and facilitate humanitarian assistance.  All parties must cooperate with international humanitarian agencies, which were carrying out difficult work in harsh conditions.  That work was bearing positive results, he said, citing the gradual de-blocking of population centres, notably the suburbs of Damascus; ceasefires; the return of thousands of civilians; and the fact that schools and medical centres would soon be working again. 

Other gains, he said, included the opening of humanitarian terminals and a successful polio vaccine campaign, which had covered 3.4 million children.  Recalling that cities such as Aleppo and Homs had received 51 humanitarian convoys, he said armed rebels continued to plunder those convoys, kill humanitarian workers and use civilians as human shields.  There was no possibility of providing aid to cities such as Nabl.  Opposition activities to undermine humanitarian operations must be swiftly and firmly condemned.  Today’s text had appropriately assessed those conditions, focusing on the need to provide humanitarian access that was based on an impartial approach.  He trusted that implementation would take place by authorities and the opposition alike, notably by freeing besieged areas.

The Council could consider further steps, he said, underscoring that there was no “automaticity” to undertaking sanctions.  Improvement in the humanitarian situation was only possible through a comprehensive political settlement, with sustainable inter-Syrian communications and based on the Geneva Communiqué.  In addition, there was strong provision in the text calling on all parties to break with terrorists.  It underscored the need for opposition groups to take on responsibilities, support the fight against terrorism, and pool efforts with the Government to solve that problem.  The Council, however, should consider a separate draft document to counter terrorist activity in Syria.

MARK LYALL GRANT (United Kingdom) said that the Council had finally shown that it was not indifferent to the staggering humanitarian crisis in Syria.  It had been nearly three years since the Syrian people had stood up to demand their rights.  Since then, Bashar Al-Assad had perpetuated one of the worst humanitarian situations the world had ever seen, including widespread violations of human rights.  Through its presidential statement, the Council had urged all parties to improve access and protect civilians, but the statement had been ignored by the regime and the situation had worsened.

Despite claims by the Russian delegation that the humanitarian situation had improved, the reality on the ground told a different story:  9.3 million people needed assistance, which was an increase of nearly one third since October 2013.  The number of internally displaced people had also increased, and 140,000 people had been killed since the crisis began.  The Council had been called upon to improve the reach of humanitarian organizations and, today, the Council had answered that call.  The United Kingdom hoped to see action on the ground to bring relief to Syrians in dire need.  The Syrian regime must lift the blockade, stop using barrel bombs and allow the United Nations and its partners to deliver aid, and it needed to comply immediately with those demands. 

The Council would review the situation every 30 days and it fully intended to take further steps if its demands were ignored.  Today’s resolution was “only a modest step forward”, as only progress on the political track would provide a lasting solution.  The international community must apply the same sense of unity in support of the Geneva 2 negotiations that it had shown today.  The message to the regime was clear:  “end the killing of your own people.”

MARÍA CRISTINA PERCEVAL (Argentina) said the October 2013 presidential statement and other initiatives to improve the humanitarian situation had not achieved expected results.  The vast number of victims called for the Council to be an instrument and not an obstacle to reversing that tragic reality.  Syrians did not deserve to be torn apart by suffering and death.  Nor did they deserve to be plunged into chilling darkness where suffering had no end.  While there had been several positive developments — notably, the localized ceasefire in Homs, the polio campaign, the visas issued for humanitarian workers and the establishment of humanitarian distribution centres — they were “clearly insufficient”.

In that context, she cited flagrant violations of international humanitarian and human rights law; attacks against humanitarian and medical personnel; indiscriminate attacks against civilians; and “horrendous” massacres on 9 February.  Argentina had voted in favour of the resolution, as the Council must explore all means to positively impact the ground situation and help countries in the region.  It was crucial to require unrestricted humanitarian access, fight terrorism and end the violence.  While stressing the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria, she said the fight against impunity was not an obstacle to peace, but rather, an indispensable means to achieving it.  Those responsible for serious crimes in Syria must be held accountable.  She called on all parties to commit to the Geneva negotiations, and on regional players to create conditions allowing all parties to overcome their differences.

LIU JIEYI (China) said that over time, the conflict had continued to escalate in Syria, resulting in the displacement of millions of civilians and widespread suffering.  China sympathised with the Syrian people and their profound suffering.  The current situation must not continue.  China supported efforts by the international community, especially the United Nations and its partners, to try to ease the humanitarian situation and applauded neighbouring countries that had taken in refugees.  China would continue to provide assistance to the Syrian people to the best of its ability, including to refugees outside Syria. 

He said that the Security Council bore an important responsibility, but its actions on the humanitarian situation in Syria should be objective, balanced and in-line with the requirements of international humanitarian law.  The independence, sovereignty and integrity of the State of Syria should be respected. While the international community should provide humanitarian assistance to the Syrians, that would only provide temporary relief.  Only through a political settlement could there be a fundamental improvement in the situation.  The Geneva conference was an important part of the process, although the Syria question was complex and sensitive and not easy to resolve.  China hoped that the international community would support a political settlement and allow the Syrian people themselves to decide on the future of their country.

U. JOY OGWU (Nigeria) said Syria’s centrality to the region’s stability underscored the Council’s need to act in concert to ensure unhindered humanitarian assistance across the country.  Nigeria would support any peaceful initiative that sought to alleviate the suffering of Syrians and lead to a peaceful settlement.  Today’s resolution was a “giant” step towards protecting civilians, including women and children, who bore the burden of conflict.  She regretted the lack of consensus on the inclusion of a paragraph calling on all States to refrain from transferring arms to all parties, given that those weapons could be used to commit violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.  Nonetheless, the text showed the Council’s renewed commitment to work in the higher interests of Syrians.

OCTAVIO ERRÁZURIZ (Chile) said that with today’s adoption, the Council had taken an important step towards tackling the critical humanitarian situation in Syria.  The October 2013 presidential statement had not been implemented, nor had it contributed to progress on the ground.  Chile had voted in favour of today’s text, which called on all parties to comply with international humanitarian law and human rights law, to protect civilians, and to allow swift, secure and unhindered humanitarian access throughout Syria.  Those who had committed serious crimes, such as war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide, should be referred to the International Criminal Court.  Only through a peaceful solution could an end to the humanitarian crisis be found, he said, underlining the need for a political solution.

OH JOON (Republic of Korea) said that for nearly three years the situation in Syria had deteriorated, while the Council had been unable to take appropriate action to provide relief to the Syrian people.  The resolution laid out important steps to help them, particularly those trapped in besieged areas.  All parties, especially the Syrian authorities, should provide humanitarian access to the United Nations and its partners, including across conflict lines and borders.  Although the resolution would not end the conflict, he hoped it would urge all parties to engage more seriously in negotiations.

EUGÈNE-RICHARD GASANA (Rwanda) said his country was appalled by the worsening humanitarian situation on the ground, as had been reported to the Council on numerous occasions.  Rwanda was particularly concerned by sieges on cities and populated areas, including the old city of Homs, where innocent civilians, including women and children, had been trapped for months without any access to basic humanitarian aid.  Rwanda believed that there could be no military solution to the conflict and reiterated its call on all parties to remain engaged in efforts to find a political settlement through the Geneva 2 conference.

He expressed his country’s deep regret that an important amendment to the resolution regarding the responsibilities of States that were supplying weapons to the Syrian parties had not been included in the final version.  All States must refrain from transferring weapons to any party involved in the conflict.  Rwanda also supported the Secretary-General’s call to stop fuelling the conflict through the transfer of deadly weapons, and hoped both parties would fully engage in the Geneva 2 peace talks.  Failure to act in the conflict had compromised the integrity of the Security Council for the past three years.

BANTE MANGARAL (Chad) welcomed the adoption of today’s text, saying his country was sensitive to humanitarian issues in Syria and hoped the text’s implementation would open access for humanitarian assistance.  “We must end the violence against civilians and violations of international humanitarian law”, he stressed.  Welcoming the Council’s commitment to the Syrian people, he encouraged further efforts in that regard.  The Syrian parties were obliged to engage in dialogue to end abuses.  Speeding the destruction of chemical weapons and ending the use of barrel bombs could create the conditions for a return to civility.

Council President RAIMONDA MURMOKAITÉ (Lithuania), speaking in her national capacity, said today’s unanimous vote was of vital importance to Syrians, who were desperately awaiting humanitarian assistance.  For too many, “this moment of Council unity has come too late,” she said.  The ongoing atrocities had defied description.  Yet today, there was a “moment of hope” for those living under the constant threat of bombardments.  She hoped the vote would make a difference in addressing humanitarian needs and ensuring unhindered, swift access.  It was up to the parties to act “immediately and decisively” to implement the text and end all abuses of international humanitarian and human rights law. 

She said the commitment by the parties — especially the Government, which was responsible for protecting civilians — was paramount.  For its part, the Council must be ready to take next steps if they failed to heed the call.  “The Council’s credibility is at stake,” she said, stressing that war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious abuses had been committed.  Impunity only bred more violence.  With that, she urged the Council to use all tools, including referral to the International Criminal Court, to address that situation.

BASHAR JA’AFARI (Syria) said that since the beginning of the conflict, Syria had been keen to improve the humanitarian situation.  It continued its work to fulfil all humanitarian needs.  In parallel, it had worked to restore peace and stability to the country.  The Government was fully committed and had fully abided by international commitments, including to cooperate with the United Nations and its humanitarian organizations.  Regarding the October 2013 presidential statement, Syria had carried out several measures to allow international humanitarian organizations to expand their activities.  For example, he said, the Government had opened a third air bridge to carry humanitarian assistance from Erbil, Iraq, to Syria, which included 11 flights, more than the previous two air bridges.

In addition, Syria had offered to use its own air fleet as a good-will measure, he said, adding that the Government had covered 75 per cent of the total assistance distributed, whereas United Nations and others had covered only 25 per cent.  Some Governments had responded to that cooperation by maintaining “deceptive” campaigns of raising doubts and spreading “crude claims”, revealing that they had bad intentions against his country.  Some had exposed their deep frustration against positive humanitarian or political developments, he said, citing the holding of provocative meetings with armed terrorist groups.  Some Council members had reduced the complicated Syrian situation to a “politicized humanitarian dimension”, which only deepened the humanitarian crisis.

Others, he said, had objected eight times to having the Council denounce terrorist acts that had taken the lives of innocent civilians.  In fact, Syria had cooperated with the United Nations and abided by the Council’s October 2013 presidential statement.  Terrorists, including those associated with Al-Qaida, were main reason for Syrians’ suffering.  His Government was carrying out its constitutional duty to combat terrorism, based on international law and Council resolutions.  Further, the effects of coercive unilateral measures illegitimately imposed on Syria had negatively impacted Syrians, and the humanitarian response plan had attained only 7 per cent of its required funding.

Despite that, reconciliation processes had been carried out, which showed that no interference was needed, he said.  The time had come for the Council to carry out its duties to deal with the roots of the humanitarian situation, namely, terrorist acts against Syrians with support of well-known Governments.  Delivering humanitarian aid across borders must never violate Syrian sovereignty, he said, cautioning against contravening General Assembly resolution 46/182 of 1991.  Neighbouring States had brought terrorism to Syria.  He denied that Syria had rejected the suggestion by the United Nations and Arab League Special Envoy to Syria.  Rather, the other party had rejected the draft agenda.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.