You Have Done Your Part, We Will Now Do Ours, Emergency Relief Coordinator Says, Stressing Importance of Critical Shipments
Ahead of a briefing later in December on assistance to civilians in Syria, the Security Council today renewed its authorization of the delivery of humanitarian supplies to the devastated country across borders and lines of conflict for a further 12 months, until 10 January 2020.
Adopting resolution 2449 (2018) by a vote of 13 in favour to none against, with 2 abstentions (China, Russian Federation), the Council extended the authorization first established by resolution 2165 (2014) for United Nations humanitarian agencies and their implementing partners to use four border crossings with notification to Syrian authorities.
By the text, the Council further demanded that all parties allow safe, unimpeded and sustained access for the humanitarian convoys of the United Nations and its partners, including medical and surgical supplies, to all requested areas and populations in all parts of Syria in need according to the Organization’s assessments.
The representative of Kuwait, explaining his delegation’s position, said constructive consultations on the draft enabled his country and Sweden to present a purely humanitarian text. Emphasizing that 13 million people in Syria depended on the aid it concerned, he said the adoption will enable the Council to continue to contribute to the alleviation of their suffering.
As he began his briefing after the adoption, Mark Lowcock, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said that cross-border aid is a critical lifeline for millions of Syrians who cannot be supported through other means. “You have done your part,” he stated. “We will now do ours to sustain aid in a way that is as effective and accountable as possible.”
Reporting on the overall humanitarian situation in Syria, he said the situation in the north-west remains very challenging, with fighting in and around the demilitarized zone continuing to take a civilian toll. Idlib remains on the edge of a humanitarian disaster, he warned, while thousands are trapped in areas under the control of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) suffer as a result of both ground fighting and air strikes.
Turning to other areas that have been hard to access, he underlined a need to build on the first delivery to Rukban with a second convoy later in December. Scaling up the humanitarian response is also critical in other parts of the country, including in areas under the control of the Government, where an estimated 8.7 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. A key priority has been addressing the needs of some 1.6 million people living in areas that have changed control since the beginning of 2018.
Noting the continued implementation of the agreement between the Russian Federation and Turkey in the north-west, he said it should be sustained, with respect for civilians and infrastructure. Also emphasizing the importance of financing for the current humanitarian response plan, he pointed out that while donors have provided more than $2.1 billion, the initiative remains only two-thirds funded.
Following the briefing, most Council members welcomed the extension of the authorization for cross-border humanitarian deliveries, saying the most direct routes should be utilized to get Syrians the live-saving supplies they need until a political solution stemmed the suffering.
Sweden’s representative called on all parties to the conflict to comply with their obligations under international law by protecting civilians, hospitals and medical facilities. Noting that the humanitarian appeal remains significantly underfunded, he called on all countries to do their share to ensure the humanitarian agencies can continue to carry out their critical work.
The Russian Federation’s representative said his country decided not to block the resolution due to humanitarian considerations and appeals from other countries. However, the text is divorced from reality. The new reality in Syria requires the withdrawal of the cross-border mechanism. Warning against the politicization of humanitarian action, he said one cannot blame the Syrian Government while turning a blind eye to the action of other countries. Parameters should be agreed upon to foster transparency and avoid the participation of armed groups in humanitarian activities.
China’s representative said some legitimate concerns where not considered during the drafting process and called on Security Council members to continue engaging on this issue to foster consensus. Cross-border humanitarian assistance must fully respect the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Syria. He called on the international community to increase its support to allow returning Syrians to live happily and peacefully.
Syria’s representative said that all those who welcomed the border crossings ignored the fact that only 5 per cent of humanitarian assistance came through them, while the authorization for them degrades the country’s sovereignty. Such activities also provide opportunities to smuggle weapons. Those who really want to relieve suffering in Syria should end the occupation of his country by terrorists and those who are protecting them in the coalition led by the United States. The Syrian Government, along with the Syrian Red Crescent, is committed to providing assistance to its people, as is its national responsibility, he stressed. “There is a State called Syria that deserves respect from all,” he said. “That is the main issue.”
Also speaking today were the Foreign Minister of the Netherlands and representatives of France, United States, United Kingdom, Poland, Ethiopia, Bolivia, Equatorial Guinea, Kazakhstan, Peru and Côte d’Ivoire.
The meeting began at 4:02 p.m. and ended at 6:01 p.m.
The full text of resolution 2449 (2018) reads as follows:
“The Security Council,
“Recalling its resolutions 2042 (2012), 2043 (2012), 2118 (2013), 2139 (2014), 2165 (2014), 2175 (2014), 2191 (2014), 2209 (2015), 2235 (2015), 2254 (2015), 2258 (2015), 2268 (2016), 2286 (2016), 2332 (2016), 2336 (2016), 2393 (2017) and 2401 (2018) and its Presidential Statements of 3 August 2011 (S/PRST/2011/16), 21 March 2012 (S/PRST/2012/6), 5 April 2012 (S/PRST/2012/10), 2 October 2013 (S/PRST/2013/15), 24 April 2015 (S/PRST/2015/10) and 17 August 2015 (S/PRST/2015/15),
“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,
“Expressing outrage at the unacceptable level of violence and the killing of hundreds of thousands of people, including tens of thousands of child casualties, as a result of the Syrian conflict,
“Reiterating its grave distress at the continued devastating humanitarian situation in Syria and at the fact that urgent humanitarian assistance, including medical assistance, is required by more than 13 million people in Syria, of whom 6.2 million are internally displaced, including Palestine refugees, and more than 1 million people are still living in hard-to-reach areas,
“Gravely concerned at the insufficient implementation of its resolutions 2139 (2014), 2165 (2014), 2191 (2014), 2258 (2015) , 2332 (2016), 2393 (2017) and 2401 (2018) and recalling in this regard the legal obligations of all parties under international humanitarian law and international human rights law, as well as all the relevant decisions of the Security Council, including by ceasing all attacks against civilians and civilian objects, including those involving attacks on schools and medical facilities, the indiscriminate use of weapons, including artillery, barrel bombs and air strikes, indiscriminate shelling by mortars, car bombs, suicide attacks and tunnel bombs, as well as the widespread use of torture, ill-treatment, arbitrary executions, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, sexual and gender-based violence, as well as all grave violations and abuses committed against children,
“Noting the progress made in taking back areas of Syria from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as Daesh) and Al-Nusrah Front (ANF) but expressing its grave concern that areas remain under their control and about the negative impact of their presence, violent extremist ideology and actions on stability in Syria and the region, including the devastating humanitarian impact on the civilian populations which has led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people and the unlawful destruction of cultural heritage, reaffirming its resolve to address all aspects of the threat posed by ISIL (also known as Daesh), ANF and all other individuals, groups, undertakings and entities associated with Al-Qaida and other terrorist groups, as determined by the United Nations Security Council and as may further be agreed by the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) and endorsed by the UN Security Council and calling for the full implementation of Security Council resolutions 2170 (2014), 2178 (2014), 2199 (2015), 2249 (2015), 2253 (2015), 2347 (2017), 2354 (2017), 2368 (2017) and 2370 (2017),
“Expressing grave concern also at the movement of foreign terrorist fighters and other terrorists and terrorist groups into and out of Syria and reiterating its call on all States to take steps, consistent with international law, to prevent and suppress the flow of foreign terrorist fighters to ISIL, ANF and all other individuals, groups, undertakings and entities associated with ISIL or Al-Qaida and other terrorist groups, as determined by the United Nations Security Council, and as may further be agreed by the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) and endorsed by the UN Security Council,
“Reaffirming that Member States must ensure that any measures taken to combat terrorism comply with all their obligations under international law, in particular international human rights law, international refugee law and international humanitarian law,
“Reaffirming the primary responsibility of the Syrian authorities to protect the population in Syria and reiterating that parties to armed conflict must take all feasible steps to protect civilians and recalling in this regard its demand that all parties to armed conflict comply fully with the obligations applicable to them under international law related to the protection of civilians in armed conflict, including journalists, media professionals and associated personnel,
“Reiterating its strong condemnation of all forms of violence and intimidation to which those participating in humanitarian operations are continue to be exposed, as well as attacks on humanitarian convoys and acts of destruction and looting of their assets and its urging of all parties involved in an armed conflict to promote the safety, security and freedom of movement of humanitarian personnel, including medical personnel and humanitarian personnel exclusively engaged in medical duties and United Nations and its associated personnel and their assets, expressing its ongoing admiration at the dedication and commitment of the Syrian Red Crescent volunteers and other humanitarian workers operating in deeply challenging conditions and urging all parties to take all appropriate steps to ensure the safety and security of United Nations and associated personnel, those of its specialised agencies and all other personnel engaged in humanitarian relief activities,
“Noting that the United Nations and their implementing partners reached on average 5.4 million people with humanitarian aid each month in 2018 and that life-saving assistance delivered across borders represented a vital part of this, including the delivery of food assistance for on average 1 million people every month in 2018; and since the start of operations in 2014, non-food items for 6 million people; health assistance through 25 million treatments and water and sanitation supplies for over 5 million people,
“Reiterating its grave concern at all instances of hindrances to the effective delivery of humanitarian assistance, noting that ISIL (also known as Daesh), ANF and all other individuals, groups, undertakings and entities associated with Al-Qaida, are hindering the effective delivery of humanitarian assistance and are responsible for preventing aid delivery through deliberate interference and obstruction,
“Reiterating further its grave concern at the continuing impediments to the delivery of sustained, needs-based humanitarian assistance across the country through the most direct routes, including to hard-to-reach areas and across conflict lines,
“Expressing grave concern that access to medical care continues to be severely restricted and reiterating the need to respect the principle of medical neutrality, facilitate free passage to all areas for medical personnel, equipment, transport and supplies, including surgical items,
“Reaffirming the need to support the United Nations and their implementing partners in their efforts to expand the delivery of humanitarian assistance to reach all people in need in Syria and further reaffirming its decision in resolution 2165 (2014) that all Syrian parties to the conflict shall enable the immediate and unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance directly to people throughout Syria, by the United Nations and their implementing partners, on the basis of United Nations assessments of need and devoid of any political prejudices and aims, including by immediately removing all impediments to the provision of humanitarian assistance,
“Taking note of the report of the Secretary-General of 19 June 2018 (S/2018/617) on the Review of the United Nations Cross-Border Operations and further taking note of ongoing efforts to implement the recommendations contained therein, and stressing the need to ensure that the delivery of humanitarian aid and services, including at the stage of distribution, is impartial, non-discriminatory and needs-based and that those most in need are beneficiaries of such aid and services, without misappropriation,
“Expressing its appreciation for the work of the United Nations monitoring mechanism in monitoring shipments and confirming their humanitarian nature, in accordance with resolutions 2165 (2014), 2191 (2014), 2258 (2015), 2332 (2016) and 2393 (2017) and commending the mechanism’s efforts in facilitating cross-border delivery of humanitarian aid by the United Nations and their implementing partners, emphasising the importance to further robust monitoring of the humanitarian nature of UN relief consignments and their delivery inside Syria and encouraging the United Nations and their implementing partners to continue to take steps to scale up humanitarian deliveries throughout the country, notably into hard-to-reach areas,
“Reiterating the need for all parties to respect and uphold the relevant provisions of international humanitarian law and the United Nations guiding principles of humanitarian emergency assistance, emphasising the importance of upholding the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence, in the provision of humanitarian assistance and recalling also the importance of humanitarian deliveries reaching their intended beneficiaries,
“Noting the role that ceasefire agreements which are consistent with humanitarian principles and international humanitarian law can play in facilitating the delivery of humanitarian assistance in order to help save civilian lives, reiterating its call upon all parties to respect and fulfil their commitments to existing ceasefire agreements, as well as the full implementation of resolution 2268 (2016) and 2401 (2018), as a step towards a comprehensive nation-wide ceasefire and emphasising that humanitarian access must be part of these efforts in accordance with international humanitarian law,
“Expressing grave concern at the more than 5.6 million refugees, including more than 4.2 million women and children, who have fled Syria as a result of ongoing violence,
“Reiterating its deep 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 Syrian refugees and mindful of the immense costs and social challenges incurred by these countries as a consequence of the crisis,
“Recalling the need to create conditions throughout the country and facilitate the safe, voluntary and dignified return of refugees and internally displaced persons to their home areas in Syria, in accordance with international law, including applicable provisions of the Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, taking into account the interests of those countries hosting refugees,
“Calling upon the international community to increase their assistance to Syria by providing additional humanitarian aid, noting with concern that the international response to the Syrian and regional crisis continues to fall short of meeting the needs as assessed by host governments and the United Nations, therefore urging once again all Member States, based on burden-sharing principles, to support the United Nations and the countries of the region, including by adopting medium and long-term responses to alleviate the impact on communities, providing increased, flexible and predictable funding as well as increasing resettlement efforts and noting the second conference on supporting the future of Syria and the region held in Brussels in April 2018, co-chaired by the European Union and the United Nations,
“Calling for humanitarian mine action to be accelerated as a matter of urgency throughout Syria,
“Strongly condemning the arbitrary detention and torture of individuals in Syria, notably in prisons and detention facilities, as well as the kidnappings, abductions, hostage-taking and forced disappearances and demanding the immediate end of these practices and the release of all arbitrarily detained persons starting with women and children, as well as sick, wounded, persons with disabilities and elderly persons and United Nations and humanitarian personnel and journalists,
“Noting with grave concern that impunity in Syria contributes to widespread violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law, stressing the need to end impunity for these violations and abuses and re-emphasising in this regard that those who have committed or are otherwise responsible for such violations and abuses in Syria must be brought to justice,
“Emphasising that the humanitarian situation will continue to deteriorate further in the absence of a political solution to the Syrian conflict in line with resolution 2254 (2015) and calling upon all parties to make progress in this regard and to undertake confidence-building measures and recognising the efforts by the Office of the UN Special Envoy and the international community, including within the Astana framework, to advance the early release of any arbitrarily detained persons, particularly women and children, and handover of the bodies as well as the identification of missing persons,
“Determining that the devastating humanitarian situation in Syria continues to constitute a threat to peace and security in the region,
“Underscoring that Member States are obligated under Article 25 of the Charter of the United Nations to accept and carry out the Council’s decisions,
“1. Calls upon all parties to ensure principled, sustained and improved humanitarian assistance to Syria in 2019;
“2. Reiterates its demand that all parties, in particular the Syrian authorities, immediately comply with their obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law and international human rights law as applicable and further demands the full and immediate implementation of all provisions of all relevant Security Council resolutions, including resolutions 2139 (2014), 2165 (2014), 2191 (2014), 2258 (2015), 2332 (2016), 2393 (2017) and 2401 (2018) and recalls that some of the violations and abuses committed in Syria may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity;
“3. Decides to renew the decisions in paragraphs 2 and 3 of Security Council resolution 2165 (2014) for a further period of twelve months, that is, until 10 January 2020;
“4. Further demands that all parties allow safe, unimpeded and sustained access for United Nations’ and their implementing partners’ humanitarian convoys, including medical and surgical supplies, to all requested areas and populations according to United Nations’ assessment of need in all parts of Syria;
“5. Reiterates that the situation will continue to deteriorate further in the absence of a political solution to the Syrian conflict and recalls its demand for the full and immediate implementation of resolution 2254 (2015) to facilitate a Syrian-led and Syrian-owned political transition, in accordance with the Geneva Communiqué as set forth in the ISSG Statements, in order to end the conflict in Syria and stresses again that the Syrian people will decide the future of Syria;
“6. Requests the Secretary-General to brief the Council monthly and to provide a report on a regular basis, at least every 60 days, on the implementation of resolutions 2139 (2014), 2165 (2014), 2191 (2014), 2258 (2015), 2332 (2016), 2393 (2017), 2401 (2018) and this resolution and on compliance by all relevant parties in Syria and further requests the Secretary-General to continue to include in his reports overall trends in UN cross-line and cross-border humanitarian access and detailed information on the humanitarian assistance delivered through UN humanitarian cross-border operations as authorised by resolution 2165 (2014), including on the number of beneficiaries, locations of aid deliveries at district-level and the volume and nature of items delivered;
“7. Reaffirms that it will take further measures under the Charter of the United Nations in the event of non-compliance with this resolution or resolutions 2139 (2014), 2165 (2014) and 2191 (2014), 2258 (2015), 2332 (2016), 2393 (2017) and 2401 (2018);
“8. Decides to remain actively seized of the matter.”
Action on Draft Resolution
MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait), speaking in explanation of position before the vote, said the consultations on the draft were fruitful, enabling Sweden’s delegation and his own to present a purely humanitarian text. Emphasizing that 13 million people in Syria need the renewal, he said the text will enable the Council to continue contributing to the alleviation of their suffering.
The Council then adopted resolution 2249 (2018) by 13 votes in favour to none against, with 2 abstentions (China, Russian Federation).
MARK LOWCOCK, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator, said that cross-border aid is a critical lifeline for millions of Syrians who cannot be supported through other means. “You have done your part, we will now do ours to sustain aid in a way that is as effective and accountable as possible” he said. The situation in north-western Syria remains very challenging, he noted, adding that while the pause in air strikes had a meaningful impact, shelling and fighting in and around the demilitarized zone continues to result in civilian deaths and destruction of infrastructure. Idlib remains on the edge of a humanitarian disaster, he warned, adding that with any further escalation of violence, needs would quickly overwhelm the ability of humanitarian agencies to respond.
He went on to cite estimates by humanitarian organizations that up to 6,000 people remain trapped in areas under the control of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) east of the Euphrates in Deir ez-Zor Governorate. Civilians continue to suffer as a result of both ground fighting and air strikes. Also expressing concern over more than 40,000 people in Rukban, he noted that “the deployment of our convoy in November has shown that where there is political will, humanitarian organizations can mobilize quickly and provide aid to those in need”. It is crucial to build on this first delivery with a second convoy later this month to provide food, water hygiene and sanitation support, as well as medical and nutrition items, he stressed.
Sustaining and scaling up the response is also critical in other parts of the country, including areas under Government control, where an estimated 8.7 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, he noted. A key priority has been addressing the needs of the most vulnerable in locations that have seen shifts in control, he said, adding that some 1.6 million people live in areas that have changed hands since the beginning of 2018. Some areas have suffered for years under the siege, impacted by intense military activity before changes in control or have seen no resumption of basic services since the change in control, he reported. Reiterating his requests to the Council two months ago, he said that despite important progress, it is vital to see access continue without impediment. Noting the continued implementation of the agreement between the Russian Federation and Turkey in the north-west, he emphasized the need to sustain it and to respect civilians and infrastructure. Stressing the importance of financing the current humanitarian response plan, he pointed out that whereas donors have provided more than $2.1 billion, the response remains only two-thirds funded.
OLOF SKOOG (Sweden), speaking also on behalf of Kuwait, explained their delegations’ position that resolution 2165 (2018) will continue to save lives and alleviate suffering. With millions of people still depending on humanitarian assistance, the resolution is about ensuring access through the most direct routes. United Nations cross-border operations, based on the resolution, will be necessary as long as the needs remain and access is impeded. Its adoption is an achievement, given Council members’ different perspectives on the Syrian conflict, which have at times led to heated discussions.
Speaking in his national capacity, he said the conflict has led to a humanitarian disaster whose consequences stretch far beyond its borders, with the primary responsibility resting with the Government of Syria. “We will never forget the horrors of Homs, Aleppo and Eastern Ghouta,” he said. Noting that a military offensive in Idlib most likely would result in a new humanitarian disaster, he urged the Astana guarantors — Iran, Russian Federation and Turkey — to ensure the ceasefire is upheld and civilians are protected. Despite the Council’s numerous calls to allow safe access, restrictions on deliveries persist. The integrity of the international legal order depends on the Council’s ability to ensure that those responsible for crimes in Syria are brought to justice and held accountable. He called on all parties to the conflict to comply with their obligations under international law by, among other things, protecting civilians, hospitals and medical facilities. Underlining shortages in the humanitarian funding appeal, he said all countries must do their share to ensure aid agencies can continue their crucial work.
Mr. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) said resolution 2165 (2018) is the result of weeks of consultations and negotiations. This large-scale initiative seeks to ensure the continued provision of humanitarian assistance to millions of Syrians and signals the international community’s call for swift, unimpeded aid deliveries. He expressed concerns about the recent situation in Aleppo and other areas, which demonstrates a fragility that might lead to a military escalation. All those who have committed serious rights violations must be held accountable. Recalling that 13 million Syrians depend on humanitarian aid, he called on those present to redouble efforts to resolve the conflict, which has now lasted longer than the Second World War.
STEF BLOK (Netherlands) said “the horror for the Syrians” continues even as air strikes in Eastern Ghouta have stopped. Moreover, humanitarian workers still have restricted access and refugees and internally displaced persons cannot return because safety conditions stipulated by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have not been met. After years of terror and starvation, those in former opposition-held territory remain without food, medical care and schooling, while fearing retribution by President Bashar Hafez al-Assad’s security forces. Noting that the Netherlands has been a Council member for a year, he asked how many more years Syria will remain on its agenda. Calling on all parties to refrain from hostilities in Idlib, he said the fate of all Syrians who have disappeared should be uncovered, with help from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and UNHCR. Expressing support for the Special Envoy’s convening of a Constitutional Committee before year’s end, he said the European Union will not begin reconstruction efforts until a comprehensive, genuine and inclusive political transition is under way. As “some of the darkest crimes of modern times have taken place during the Syrian conflict”, he called for perpetrators to be brought to justice and an end to impunity. Calling on Council members to refer the Syria situation to the International Criminal Court (ICC), he also urged all States to increase support for the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Persons Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes under International Law Committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011.
FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) welcomed the spirit of responsibility within the Council, saying it puts humanitarian considerations higher than political ones. Noting that ceasefire violations are increasing in Idlib particularly, he warned that the danger of a humanitarian catastrophe cannot be ruled out. He emphasized the need for a lasting ceasefire in the north-west as the only way to protect all civilians, including humanitarian workers. Stressing the vital importance of the 13 million people in need receiving humanitarian assistance, he said all those with influence over the regime must work to guarantee access, underlining the essential need for a new convoy to assist people trapped in the Rukban camps.
RODNEY M. HUNTER (United States) said millions of people have received life-sustaining assistance through the humanitarian-aid mechanism enabled by the resolution. Describing the mechanism as transparent, he said it is the most effective way to meet the astounding humanitarian needs in Syria. As the single largest donor, the United States is proud of its unwavering commitment and will maintain it, he said, emphasizing that “conditions in Syria are not changing for the better”. Even as the regime seizes more territory, humanitarian needs are getting worse, he said, adding that the Assad regime seeks to punish people rather than help them. The United States looks forward to the day when the present mandate is no longer needed, he said, emphasizing that the Syrian people are counting on the Council.
KAREN PIERCE (United Kingdom), welcoming the resolution’s adoption, underlined the continuing humanitarian needs of millions of Syrians. Every month, the Syrian Government refuses to grant requests from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, constituting a criminally negligent act. The resolution is emphatically not a call for refugees to return, but rather a call for Syrian parties to create conditions conducive to the safe and voluntary return of refugees. She urged the Government to stop using aid as a weapon of war and emphasized that reconstruction money will only be available from the United Kingdom and its partners when a lasting political process is in place.
JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland) expressed alarm about a resurgence of conflict in the northeast and northwest, with a renewed risk of a humanitarian catastrophe in Idlib. She urged all parties to ensure the full implementation of the Russian-Turkish agreement on an Idlib de-escalation zone, which is “a right move towards avoiding that catastrophe”. Citing reports from aid workers that one third of those requiring assistance are in inaccessible areas, she expressed support for the vote on a cross-border deliveries mechanism, as it allows supplies and aid to reach those in urgent need. Highlighting that there is no military solution to the conflict, she said a political agreement is the only way towards peace.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) explained that his delegation decided not to block the resolution due to humanitarian considerations and appeals from other delegations. However, the text is divorced from reality, he said, adding that the new reality in Syria requires that the mechanism be withdrawn. The way in which the Secretariat prepares its reports ignores such crucial issues as infrastructure and unilateral sanctions, he said. Warning against the politicization of humanitarian action, he said one cannot blame the Government of Syria while turning a blind eye to the actions of other countries and pretending that Raqqa does not exist. He went on to call for the urgent lifting of unilateral sanctions as well as an end to the illegal occupation of Syrian territory, which undermines its sovereignty and poses a threat to neighbouring States. Calling attention to the situation in Rukban, where 50,000 people are held hostage by illegal armed groups linked to ISIL/Da’esh, he said the humanitarian operation in that region produced unsatisfactory results, as United Nations personnel and the Syrian Red Crescent were granted very little access.
Parameters should be agreed to foster transparency and avoid the participation of armed groups in humanitarian activities, he said, adding that, despite persisting problems, positive steps were taken to improve the humanitarian situation, as illustrated by the situation in the territories controlled by Damascus. Regarding disinformation spread by the United States about a chemical attack near Aleppo, he pointed out that the experts are still collecting evidence. He went on to emphasize that the importance of a sustainable ceasefire does not mean that one should give up fighting terrorism. The Russian Federation and other guarantor countries will continue efforts to form a constitutional committee, in accordance with the decision taken in Sochi, he assured, adding that all the parameters must be approved by the Syrians themselves in order for the committee to be effective. There is no viable alternative to a comprehensive political process under the aegis of the United Nations and in accordance with relevant Security Council resolutions, he reiterated.
TAYE ATSKE SELASSIE AMDE (Ethiopia) said his country voted in favour of the resolution, expressing hope it will contribute towards ending suffering in Syria. Despite a relative decrease in the overall intensity of violence, civilians in some areas remain affected by direct and indirect consequences of hostilities, including deaths, injuries and the destruction of facilities. Expressing alarm at shelling and hostilities in Idlib, he said avoiding a military escalation there remains critical to avert a possible humanitarian catastrophe. He welcomed continued endeavours to scale up humanitarian aid delivered from inside Syria, strongly encouraging the United Nations and the Syrian Government to continue consultations for improved access to all areas, including hard-to—reach ones.
SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia), emphasizing that any initiatives in Syria must be in accordance with international law, said his delegation voted in favour of the resolution due to the urgent need for humanitarian assistance. However, significant progress has been made through dialogue, enabling a tangible change on the ground. Welcoming the agreement between the Russian Federation and Turkey on the demilitarized zone, he said urged more such agreements, recalling that, as a result of a recent agreement, 50,000 people in Rukban camp have been receiving assistance. He urged parties involved with operations there to continue medical evacuations and establishing safe corridors to allow people to exit Syria. Mine clearance, water and sanitation services, new schools and hospitals are also crucial, he added. No foreign military should be allowed to operate in Syria without the Government’s consent, he stressed. He went on to request that the Emergency Relief Coordinator include a reference to the effect of unilateral sanctions on the humanitarian situation in Syria, describing such measures as illegal under international law and calling for the depoliticization of all humanitarian aid.
ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea) observed that, in spite of substantial human and economic resources mobilized by the United Nations, the situation on the ground remains alarming due to the increase in hostilities. Reports of an alleged chemical attack in Aleppo require a swift and decisive response from the Security Council to protect civilians, he said, emphasizing the need for the parties concerned to fulfil their obligations under international law. Explaining that his delegation voted in favour of the resolution because it is crucial for cross-border humanitarian operations, he said they remain an indispensable lifeline. The Security Council must play a key role in determining Syria’s future, with full respect for its sovereignty and territorial integrity, he stressed, also calling for the roll out of the constitutional committee.
MA ZHAOXU (China) urged the international community to abide by the principles that guide humanitarian work and avoid politicization. Cross-border humanitarian assistance must fully respect Syria’s sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity as well as relevant Security Council resolutions, he emphasized. While thanking the co-penholders for their efforts, he said that some legitimate concerns where not taken into consideration during the drafting of the resolution, calling upon Security Council members to continue engaging on this issue to foster consensus. Citing the large number of people requiring assistance, the lack of medical care and medicines, and the crumbling infrastructure, he said the humanitarian situation in Syria remains grim. And yet, the security situation is stable on the whole, as conflict has eased off in parts the country, he said, emphasizing that the Astana dialogue continues to play an important role in that regard. Noting that the number of refugees and internally displaced persons returning to their homes has increased, he said the Syrian parties should therefore work together to keep the country stable while preventing the escalation of conflict. The international community should increase financial and in-kind support further to allow returning Syrians to live happily and peacefully, he said.
KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan) welcomed the resumption of aid from Jordan on 9 December, involving 369 trucks carrying over 11,200 metric tonnes of supplies for 650,000 people, and scaled up cross-border operations from Turkey. However, he expressed concern over provocative actions by terrorist organizations threatening United Nations humanitarian missions. In addition, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that nearly 2.4 million people are struggling to stay warm during winter. He commended the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) for a vaccination campaign ending polio and virus outbreaks around Deir ez-Zor. While welcoming the participation of the UNHCR and ICRC in the recent round of the Astana Process, he noted a lack of control over the distribution of vital supplies in disaster zones, emphasizing that aid must not be politicized. Meanwhile, he underlined the great value of the United Nations initiative on demining and restoring infrastructure in territories liberated from terrorists, which will facilitate humanitarian operations and allow refugees to return home.
GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) said the demilitarized zone established in Idlib must be maintained. Citing the precarious conditions in Deir ez-Zor, he said the local population requires protection against Da’esh attacks. Welcoming United Nations deployments in Rukban, he said the Security Council must remain united as it calculates a response to the situation in Syria. Only by achieving a political solution will the humanitarian disaster end, he said, expressing support for the swift convening of the Constitutional Committee.
KACOU HOUADJA LÉON ADAM (Côte d’Ivoire) said his country remains concerned by the humanitarian situation in Syria, which has worsened after the escalation in the north-west region. This new military escalation hinders the peace process and endangers the well-being and lives of millions of civilians. Underscoring that all stakeholders have an obligation to comply with international humanitarian law and human rights obligations, he urged parties to the conflict to come together and agree to create a constitutional committee tasked with drafting a new constitution. This would be a crucial step towards bringing back lasting peace and stability to Syria.
BASHAR JA’AFARI (Syria) said speakers had ignored the fact that only 5 per cent of humanitarian assistance in Syria is through border crossings, while the authorization for it degrades the country’s sovereignty. It also provides opportunities to smuggle weapons. He asked if some were using the humanitarian situation to forward their own political agendas. Those who really want to relieve suffering in Syria should end the occupation of his country by terrorists and those who are protecting them in the coalition led by the United States. Those countries must be told to abide by the United Nations Charter and respect the principles of sovereignty and non-interference. Council members who have supported sanctions against Syria are also obstructing Syrians from getting their basic needs. These countries are attempting to stop Syria from rebuilding infrastructure and restoring conditions to allow voluntary returns of refugees. In addition, convoys that bypassed Syrian control have wound up in the hands of terrorists. Consultations with the Government on cross-border deliveries have not been substantial and monitoring of them to ensure that they reach only those in need has been ineffective. Some terrorists, in fact, are earning income by charging fees to allow the cross-border deliveries. The Syrian Government, along with the Syrian Red Crescent, is committed to providing assistance to its people in need, as is its national responsibility. “There is a State called Syria that deserves respect from all,” he said. “That is the main issue.”