Humanitarian Chief Notes ‘Breath-Taking Levels of Savagery’ in Syria, Faulting Security Council, Countries with Influence for Lack of Agreement on Way Out

26 March 2015
7418th Meeting (PM)

Humanitarian Chief Notes ‘Breath-Taking Levels of Savagery’ in Syria, Faulting Security Council, Countries with Influence for Lack of Agreement on Way Out

A year after the adoption of resolution 2139 (2014), the situation in Syria had dramatically worsened, characterized by “breath-taking levels of savagery”, a top United Nations official told the Security Council today.

“Day after day, month after month, year after year, the death, destruction and violence in Syria grows,” said Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, in a briefing on recent developments.  “Time is running out.  More people will die.”

The inability of the Security Council and countries with influence over parties at war in Syria to agree on the elements for a political solution meant that the humanitarian consequences would continue to be dire for millions of Syrians, she continued, providing an overview of the Secretary-General’s latest report on the implementation of Security Council resolutions 2139 (2014), 2165 (2014) and 2191 (2014), which, among other things, established a monitoring mechanism for the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

Based on information from United Nations agencies on the ground and from the Syrian Government, the report covered the period from 1 December 2014 to 28 February 2015, with more recent data included, when available.  The report also contained details on the current political and military situation and on human rights, as well as humanitarian access to besieged areas.

As fighting continued across the country, she said thousands of people had been displaced, schools and the health system had been destroyed and basic services disrupted.  More than 4.8 million people were trapped in hard-to-reach areas and a total of 440,000 people remained in besieged areas.

Exacerbating the situation, she said, was the increasing and deliberate obstruction by the conflict parties of delivery of lifesaving aid.  Humanitarian offices were shuttered in areas under control of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Sham (ISIL/ISIS), halting aid distribution in parts of Aleppo, Hasakeh, Dei ez-Zor and Raqqa governates, she said.

In addition, she said, the Syrian Government continued to hamper aid delivery, insisting the United Nations share beneficiary lists.  In February, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs said it would handle all requests from the United Nations, she said, noting that appeals for access to 33 aid delivery locations had resulted in agreements on only three of them.  Urgently needed medical supplies had also been removed she said, asking the Council to make it clear to the Syrian Government that those convoys must proceed so supplies reached people in need.

“The United Nations and its humanitarian partners continue to do everything we can to save lives and we are still getting aid to millions of people each month,” she said, urging Governments to give generously at the pledging conference in Kuwait on 31 March.  She also urged the Council to continue its strong support to advocate for compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law, to consider steps to take regarding violations of demands for access in accordance with resolution 2139 (2014) and to address the repeated targeting of health facilities and personnel.

Syria’s representative Bashar Ja’afari said his Government fully understood the need for providing humanitarian assistance.  However, words should be associated with serious and responsible action and should be discussed in a holistic manner.

The first step was discussing the main reasons for the emergence of the humanitarian crisis, which was terrorism, he said, adding that attempts by some States to disassociate the situation from terrorism were doing so to avoid shouldering their responsibilities.  Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey had spent billions of dollars financing terrorism, which was “the epitome of hypocrisy”.  Further, the cost of international staff and their high salaries usually came at the expense of those benefitting from assistance, he said, calling for an investigation of that issue.

Turning to the Secretary-General’s latest report, he pointed out many errors and misrepresentations, including that sources of information were not disclosed and that the United Nations was denied access to 31 besieged areas.  That was political and misleading and failed to convey the situation in full.  In February, United Nations offices, including in Homs and Aleppo, had sent requests to local government officials without informing the Foreign Affairs Ministry, which went against standard procedures.

Further, the report said the Syrian Government was attacking ISIL in some towns, leading to civilian deaths and the destruction of infrastructure, without verifying the authenticity of that information.  The report also said the Syrian Government had declared three of its staff as persona non grata.  He asked why a United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) staff member failed to inform the Syrian Government before contacting terrorist-controlled areas, he said, adding that it was those terrorist groups that were preventing access for humanitarian workers.

The Syrian Government was seeking to achieve a political solution, including by participating in a January meeting and in a subsequent gathering in two weeks.  However, the terrorist groups, driven by some States, had refused to implement the proposal made by Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria Staffan de Mistura.

Syria was committed to finding a solution, he said, but cooperation was not a “one-way street”.  Organizations must cooperate and coordinate with the Government instead of levelling “useless” criticisms against it.  Concluding, he said a correction needed to be made to the figures cited in the report.  There were not only 440,000 Syrians living under siege, but, in fact, 23 million who were suffering under sanctions imposed by a number of States.

The meeting began at 3:10 p.m. and ended at 3:35 p.m.

For information media. Not an official record.