Fighting Continues Unabated Despite Efforts for Ceasefire in North-West Syria, Emergency Relief Coordinator Tells Security Council

SC/13858
25 June 2019
8561st Meeting (PM)

Fighting Continues Unabated Despite Efforts for Ceasefire in North-West Syria, Emergency Relief Coordinator Tells Security Council

Permanent Representative Accuses Syrian America Medical Society of Al-Nusra Links

Despite efforts to introduce a ceasefire in north-west Syria, fighting continues unabated, with air strikes reportedly affecting 55 communities in Idlib, Hama and Aleppo Governorates between 21 and 23 June, the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator told the Security Council today, amid questions about whether the system established to protect medical facilities is actually doing so.

The Emergency Relief Coordinator, who is also the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, said that fighting pitting forces of the Government of Syria and its allies against armed opposition forces and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham — a Security Council-listed terrorist organization — led to the deaths of 32 civilians during that period.  A further seven people, including a child, were reportedly killed by air strikes and artillery shelling in northern rural Hama Governorate.

Maarat al-Numan, meanwhile, is under regular attack, he continued, emphasizing that the de-confliction system established to identify and protect humanitarian staff is intended to help the belligerent parties fulfil their obligation to protect medical facilities by providing them with the coordinates of hospitals so that they can take precautions.  While the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs will continue to run the de-confliction system in Idlib for those wishing to report their coordinates, he said, “I want to make clear that this does not mean that it is our judgement that the de-confliction system in Idlib is, in practice, protecting medical facilities.”  He emphasized:  “I am sure it is not.”  The central question is what those receiving location information are doing with it, he added, urging the Council to ease the suffering.  “Save lives,” he stressed.

Also briefing, the Head of the Russian Reconciliation Centre said out‑of‑control members of armed terrorist groups in Idlib — including Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham — are stepping up their attacks against Syrian Government positions.  In April, the Centre recorded 169 violations of the cessation-of-hostilities regime alongside several civilian casualties, he added.  All Government response operations have been carried out far from civilian areas and in accordance with the 2018 Sochi Agreement, he said, adding that efforts are now under way to identify new measures to stabilize the situation, with additional ceasefire regimes established but violated by terrorist groups.

A third briefer, the Executive Director of the non-governmental organization Syrian American Medical Society, said the group was among those that de-conflicted various facilities in April 2018.  For years, non-governmental organizations were encouraged to share their coordinates, but it was only after the 2018 offensive in eastern Ghouta — which saw 13 health facilities targeted in 48 hours — that doctors finally agreed to share the data, he said.  Pointing out that more than 30 attacks have been carried out against health-care facilities in north-western Syria since April, he said nine de-conflicted facilities have been targeted during the current offensive in the north-west.  “Where is the accountability?”, he demanded, asking also whether the Security Council has lost its capacity for outrage.  Noting that not a single investigation has been completed since April 2018, he declared:  “Be assured that the civilian population feels completely abandoned.”

In the ensuing discussion, the Russian Federation’s representative said information circulated around the Security Council sometimes conflicts with the situation on the ground, revealing efforts to politicize the situation in Syria.  Thousands of people have been killed by coalition air strikes in Deir ez-Zor and elsewhere, while Raqqa was “literally razed to the ground”, he recalled.  Urging United Nations agencies to double-check the coordinates of stricken targets, he expressed concern about the methodology used to verify such data.

The representative of the United States urged the Russian Federation to secure Syria’s compliance with requests to grant access to Rukban camp, and to lift the Russian-Syrian blockade on that area.  He expressed alarm at the deliberate escalation by Syrian forces in the north-west.

France’s delegate similarly called for upholding the Idlib ceasefire, while the United Kingdom’s representative rejected the notion that members should not trust United Nations information.  Information from the Russian Federation — itself a party to the situation at hand — presents a conflict of interest, she pointed out.

Syria’s representative accused the Syrian American Medical Society of cooperating with Al-Nusra Front, which controls 99 per cent of Idlib.  He also questioned the Secretary‑General’s sixty-first report, saying it was authored by those who do not have the well-being of Syrians at heart, suggesting also that terrorists who left Al-Hol camp are now in Turkey plotting their return to Syria in order to target civilians.  He stressed that Syria’s Government will do its utmost to defend its citizens.

Also speaking today were representatives of Germany, Peru, Côte d’Ivoire, China, Indonesia, South Africa, Dominican Republic, Poland and Equatorial Guinea.

The meeting began at 3 p.m. and ended at 5:14 p.m.

Opening Remarks

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) said his delegation has not objected to the Russian Reconciliation Centre’s participation in today’s meeting, noting that monthly humanitarian briefings allow objective information based on the collection of information by impartial actors, just as the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs does each month.  He went on to point out that, although the Centre has been invited under rule 39, it is neither a humanitarian actor nor a United Nations agency, but rather, reports to the Russian Federation’s defence agency.  Its presentation should, therefore, be viewed in that light, he said.

CHRISTOPH HEUSGEN (Germany), speaking also for Kuwait and Belgium, said his delegation favours a balanced approach regarding choice of briefers, and as such, expects the Centre’s representative to respect the objective humanitarian agenda.  Since the de-confliction mechanism is part of that agenda, and Germany wishes to understand why it has “utterly failed” and led to the death of civilians, the briefer can perhaps shed light on that situation, he suggested.

VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) recalled that, during the San Francisco Conference that prepared the Charter of the United Nations, a key topic of disagreement centred on the scope of veto rights — whether they should be unconditional or whether conditions should be applied.  The former [Union of Soviet Socialist Republics] favoured unconditional veto rights, applying to all matters discussed by the Council.  At the time, however, the United States, United Kingdom and France objected to that approach and their logic ultimately prevailed, he said, pointing out that, today, the Council votes even on procedural matters.  He expressed surprise that France’s representative has taken the position of the former Soviet Union at the time of the Charter’s drafting by shedding doubt on the briefer invited today.  Emphasizing that no one is doing more than the Russian Reconciliation Centre to address conditions in Syria, pointed out that his delegation has never questioned the briefers invited by those raising objections today.

Briefings

MARK LOWCOCK, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said that despite efforts to introduce a ceasefire in north-west Syria, hostilities continue unabated.  Fighting pitting Government of Syria forces and their allies against armed opposition forces and the Security Council-listed terrorist organization Hayat Tahrir al-Sham continues to impact civilians daily, he said, recalling that between 21 and 23 June, his Office received reports of air strikes affecting more than 55 communities in Idlib, Hama and Aleppo Governorates, as well as artillery shelling affecting some 21 communities in those areas.

At least 32 civilians reportedly died, he continued, adding that a further seven people, including a child, were reportedly killed by air strikes and artillery shelling in northern rural Hama Governorate.  Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced, he said.  Maarat al-Numan, in southern Idlib, is under regular attack, with humanitarian partners registering their concern about Maarat National Hospital, which has reportedly been hit in previous years and operates in an area under control of a terrorist organization listed by the Security Council.  Stressing that all parties are obliged to protect medical facilities, he said the de-confliction system is intended to help them fulfil such obligations, providing the parties — including the Russian Federation, and through it the Government of Syria, as well as Turkey, United States and other members of the international coalition — with the coordinates of medical facilities to they can take precautions.  At the request of humanitarian organizations running medical facilities in Idlib, he said, his Office will continue to run the de-confliction system there for those wishing to report their coordinates.  “I want to make clear that this does not mean that it is our judgement that the de-confliction system in Idlib is, in practice, protecting medical facilities,” he said.  “I am sure it is not.”  While more can be done to bolster the system, the central question is what those receiving information on the location of such facilities are doing with it, he stressed.

Beyond the north-west, 27,000 people in Rukban, along the Syria-Jordan border, are in need of humanitarian assistance, yet the last request for access, sent to the Government on 9 May, was not approved, he continued, adding that another request is being prepared.  The United Nations is also providing assistance to 14,800 civilians who left the Rukban camp and are now at transit centres or places of destination.  Meanwhile, at Al Hol camp in the north-east, humanitarian agencies continue to respond to the needs of its 73,000 inhabitants, he said, expressing concern over restricted access to the annex in which 11,000 foreign nationals are living.  He called upon Member States to ensure their nationals are repatriated for rehabilitation and reintegration, or prosecution, as appropriate, in accordance with international law.

Expressing concern over conditions in the south, where tensions between Government forces and local groups have reportedly been rising since May, he said access in Ar-Raqqa city and in Deir ez-Zor east of the Euphrates River is limited, mostly due to widespread contamination by explosive hazards.  “Again and again, we have come back here to tell you about the latest horror facing civilians, and the failure of the parties to implement their basic obligations,” he said.  Reiterating the call today, he underlined:  “Ease the suffering.  Save Lives.  End the fighting.  Obey the law.”

ALEXEY BAKIN, Head of the Russian Reconciliation Centre, said the entity focuses on non-military settlement of conflict, including helping displaced people return home and rebuild their lives.  Noting that more than 220,000 Syrian civilians have returned home since the beginning of 2019, he said those numbers “speak for themselves”.  Nevertheless, a difficult situation is taking shape in Idlib Governorate, with out-of-control members of armed terrorist groups — including Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham — stepping up their attacks against Government positions, he said.  In April, 169 violations of the cessation-of-hostilities regime were recorded alongside several civilian casualties, he recalled, adding that, on 5 May, five children and one woman were killed following terrorist shelling in Al-Suqaylabiyah.

He went on to report that a group of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham fighters began to concentrate near Hama and Aleppo and attacked Government positions with tanks and remote-controlled car bombs, adding that more than 300 provocations by armed groups were recorded in June.  Government forces have been forced to respond to such attacks, he said, emphasizing that all response operations have been conducted far from civilian-populated areas and fully in accordance with the 2018 Sochi Agreement.  Efforts are now under way to identify new measures to stabilize the situation, with additional ceasefire regimes established but immediately violated by terrorist groups.  He also cited continued attempts to stage provocations — including fake attacks intended to implicate Syrian Government forces in the use of chemical weapons — he refuted all allegations of indiscriminate Government strikes.

Indeed, anti-Government groups are spreading false allegations and misleading the international community, thereby protecting Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham and other terrorist organizations, he said.  Further underlining the one-sided coverage of developments on the ground, he said the acute humanitarian situation in camps for displaced persons has led the Russian Federation, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and other partners to step up their support for people seeking to leave de-escalation zones.  Some 15,000 people have already left the Rukban camp voluntarily, he noted.  Meanwhile, cooperation among the guarantor countries is helping to curtail the activities of terrorist groups in north-west Syria while keeping the situation there under control.  Emphasizing that all such actions are undertaken in the interest of implementing resolution 2254 (2015), he warned that the only way to rebuild Syria is to eliminate terrorism from the country “once and for all”.

DAVID LILLIE, Executive Director, Syrian American Medical Society, said his organization operates 35 medical facilities in Idlib, Hama and Aleppo Governorates — ranging from large hospitals to mobile clinics — and employs 2,000 field staff.  Over the years, it has helped people of different faiths and political affiliations, seeking to maintain humanitarian principles and help all those in need, he said.  Noting that the situation in north-western Syria continues to deteriorate, with more than 30 attacks against health-care facilities since April, he said three ambulance workers were killed just days ago, when their vehicle was directly targeted in an air strike.  “These attacks have greatly reduced the capacity of the health system,” which is already is overwhelmed, he said, noting that Syrian American Medical Society facilities have received some 2,200 injured civilians.

The suspension of vaccinations has greatly increased the risk of measles and meningitis breaking out, he continued.  “If there is one word that captures the current experience of civilians in Idlib, it is ‘suffering’.”  The Syrian American Medical Society was among those that de-conflicted many facilities in April 2018, working closely with the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and others to build a consensus that non-governmental organizations would supply all necessary information.  For years, he recalled, non-governmental organizations were encouraged to share their coordinates, but field staff resisted, arguing that they would be held responsible in the event that a facility was targeted.  It was only after the 2018 offensive in eastern Ghouta — which saw 13 health facilities targeted in 48 hours — that doctors finally agreed to share the data.  Days later, a hospital in Arbin was targeted by a bunker‑buster bomb that landed directly on a patient, he said.  Noting that nine de-conflicted facilities have been targeted in the current offensive in the north-west, he demanded:  “Where is the accountability?”

He went on to ask whether the Council has lost its capacity for outrage, noting that not a single investigation has been completed since April 2018, when many organizations de-conflicted their facilities.  Instead, Council members have sought to delay, distract and discredit the de-confliction mechanism.  Doctors and humanitarians no longer trust it, having fulfilled their part of the agreement at great risk.  He pressed the Council to consider granting investigators from the Independent International Commission of Inquiry and the International Impartial and Independent Mechanism access to the data, or to authorize a fact-finding mission to investigate the attacks.  The response of donors to the recent offensive is significantly below what is needed, especially with 330,000 newly displaced, he said, stressing that he is placing the Council on alert.  “Be assured that the civilian population feels completely abandoned,” he said, underlining that doctors cannot help patients without essential anaesthesia and surgical kits.  He also described the kidnapping and torture of humanitarian workers by armed groups as an outrage.

Statements

Mr. HEUSGEN (Germany), also speaking on behalf of Belgium and Kuwait, called for the protection of 3 million civilians in north-west Syria, while condemning the loss of innocent civilian lives.  “The 350,000 internally displaced persons, who were left with no choice other than fleeing violence, face a particularly dire situation,” he said, noting that many have fled the fighting several times.  Meanwhile, recent attacks on civilian infrastructure, including schools and health‑care facilities, are deeply alarming — especially those health-care facilities whose coordinates were communicated under the de-confliction mechanism, he said.  While strongly condemning attacks by Council-designated terrorist groups — notably Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham — he reminded all parties that counter‑terrorism efforts cannot absolve them of their obligations under international humanitarian law, including the protection of civilians and the principles of proportionality and distinction.  He called for sustained implementation of the ceasefire arrangements under the September 2018 Russian Federation-Turkey Memorandum of Understanding, as well as the demand for a nationwide cessation of hostilities, in accordance with Council resolution 2401 (2018).

Calling also for a surge in diplomacy among key players to stabilize and de‑escalate the situation, he said that, although the United Nations has been requesting access for months, there is still no agreement on a third desperately needed convoy to the Rukban camp.  “This is unacceptable,” he said, adding that the camp inhabitants should be able to make an informed choice about whether or not to leave in a voluntary, safe and dignified manner.  He also expressed concern about the situation in Al-Hol camp, saying his delegation supports all efforts to provide protection to vulnerable groups there — including children suspected of being associated with armed groups, who should be treated as victims, first and foremost.  No lasting peace is possible without justice and accountability, he emphasized, reiterating his delegation’s support for anti-impunity efforts and for the work of the International Impartial and Independent Mechanism for Syria.  Additionally, all parties to the conflict must abide by resolution 2249 (2015), which calls upon them to ensure “principled, sustained and improved humanitarian assistance to Syria in 2019”, he said.

VLADIMIR K. SAFRONKOV (Russian Federation) said the information circulated from the “high rostrum” of the Security Council on Syria sometimes conflicts with the situation on the ground, further revealing efforts by some parties to politicize the matter.  Warning against double standards, he recalled that thousands of people have been killed by coalition air strikes in Deir ez-Zor and elsewhere, while Raqqa was “literally razed to the ground”.  By contrast, Council members repeatedly appeal for respect for ceasefire agreements, to which the Russian Federation and Government of Syria forces adhere fully.  Calling upon United Nations agencies to avoid rushing to publish information from unverified sources, he also urged them to double check the coordinates of targets that have been struck and expressed concern about the methodology used to verify such coordinates.  The Russian Federation will continue to make every effort to restore peace in Syria, including in its national capacity, as part of the Astana Troika and as a permanent member of the Security Council, he emphasized, urging all to work together to eliminate terrorism, help refugees return home and rebuild Syria.

JONATHAN R. COHEN (United States) said the Bashar al-Assad regime has failed to approve multiple requests from the United Nations for access to Rukban since February.  Urging the regime to approve the request for a third humanitarian convoy, and to allow unfettered humanitarian access to the area, he also called upon the Russian Federation to secure Syria’s compliance and to lift the Russian‑Syrian blockade of access to the camp.  The United States stands ready to provide security assurances for humanitarian convoys to enter Rukban, he said, while rejecting claims that his country is responsible for blocking aid.  Also, the United States does not consider returns to be voluntary if the people involved are fleeing the camp because they are not receiving basic provisions, he emphasized.  The Council must continue to authorize cross-border aid deliveries, including from Jordan, in accordance with resolution 2449 (2018), he said.  There is no substitute for cross-border operations, especially for the 3 million civilians in Idlib who are completely reliant on them, he emphasized.  Expressing alarm at the deliberate escalation by Syrian forces in the north-west, he said it is clear who controls the air space, asking the Russian Federation to assure the Council that it will abide by the de-confliction arrangements.  He went on to express concern over growing signs that the Syrian regime plans to take full control of eastern Ghouta, citing the establishment of regime intelligence force checkpoints into Daraa.  Such issues throw into question the Russian Federation’s role as an honest broker.

Mr. DELATTRE (France) called for a focus on upholding the Idlib ceasefire, respecting international humanitarian law and finding a lasting political solution.  Categorically condemning recent strikes targeting Idlib, he pressed ceasefire signatories to guarantee an end to hostilities in the north‑west, and the Russian Federation in particular, to push Syria’s regime into returning to the Sochi Agreements.  Iran must also play its role, he said, expressing hope that upcoming deadlines will pave the way for progress.  Stressing that France will respond quickly to any new use of chemical weapons, he emphasized the need to guarantee immediate, safe and unhindered humanitarian access across Syria.  The architecture for responding to the needs of Syria’s most vulnerable must be preserved and a new aid convoy deployed to Rukban, he said, calling upon those in a position to do so to pressure the Syrian regime on that front.  It is unacceptable that the regime has authorized only 60 requests for access, he said.  He also called for the launch of a political process, under United Nations auspices, that would ensure that the outcome of elections is not a foregone conclusion and that refugees are able to vote.  Only a credible political process will open the door for refugees to return to Syria, but the requisite conditions do not exist today, he said.

GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) reiterated his country’s categorical condemnation of all terrorist activity, stressing that the response must uphold the principles of proportionality and distinction.  He urged Syria and others to prevent further deterioration, notably by preserving the Turkish-Russian de-escalation effort.  Noting that almost half the population in one area comprises displaced persons of Iraqi origin, he called upon Iraq to foster their return under accepted parameters, with United Nations assistance.  On Rukban, he urged all parties to facilitate the deployment of humanitarian assistance, stressing the need for continued international support for de-mining and clearance of explosive devices throughout Syria.  He also called for progress on a political solution based on the Geneva communiqué.

KAREN PIERCE (United Kingdom) agreed with other delegates that it is critical for the Council to hear from all sides of the conflict.  While the United Kingdom supports free speech, it prefers truthful speech, she emphasized.  Rejecting the notion that members should not trust United Nations information, she said that information from the Russian Federation — itself a party to the situation at hand — presents a conflict of interest.  Posing questions to Mr. Bakin, she asked why hospitals have been attacked, why an ambulance became a target and why he believes that attacks against terrorists eclipse the needs of civilians.  Stressing that such attacks do not appear proportionate, she said that, if he believes hospitals to be legitimate military targets, she would like to receive documentation as to why, as well as proof of the warnings required under the Geneva Convention.  She went on to ask why it is so difficult to reach a ceasefire, and what is happening to investigate and hold accountable those responsible for targeting hospitals.  She also sought the names and designations of Russian and Syrian troops involved in those attacks.

GBOLIÉ DÉSIRÉ WULFRAN IPO (Côte d’Ivoire) appealed to all parties to abide by the September 2018 Idlib de-escalation zone agreement, and to help create the conditions needed for the safe, voluntary and dignified return of refugees and internally displaced persons.  Warning that the military escalation in the north‑west is dangerously compromising the Special Envoy’s diplomatic efforts, he called upon all parties to support his work, in accordance with resolution 2254 (2015).  Peace is possible if all parties favour dialogue as a way to end the conflict and the suffering of Syrians, he stressed.

WU HAITAO (China) expressed support for the efforts of the Russian Federation and Turkey to implement the de-escalation zone agreement, and for their efforts to counter the activities of terrorist groups.  He urged the international community to enhance its dialogue on the situation in Rukban camp and help more Syrians return home.  Emphasizing that all such activities must be carried out in full respect for Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, he called for strengthening coordination and communications with the Syrian Government.  He also expressed support for the Government’s efforts to push forward demining, rebuild infrastructure, and to provide crucial services and development, while expressing concern over the impact of economic sanctions on its efforts.

DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia) called for prioritizing the safety and security of civilians, urging both sides to respect and implement the September 2018 Memorandum of Understanding agreed between the Russian Federation and Turkey.  “Saving people’s lives is not an option, it is the main goal,” he emphasized, urging the parties to allow safe, unimpeded and sustained humanitarian access across Syria.  Stressing the importance of ensuring the safe, voluntary and dignified return of refugees, in accordance with international law, he said the conflict in Syria — and the resulting humanitarian suffering — is undeniably due to the absence of political solutions.  “Humanitarian assistance is like a bandage over an open wound,” he said, stressing that it is crucial to heal the wound, “but a bandage alone is insufficient to do so”.  Council members cannot allow the escalation in north-western Syria to undermine the Special Envoy’s efforts, he warned, noting that a window of opportunity still exists in the political process.

JERRY MATTHEWS MATJILA (South Africa) warned that efforts for a sustainable political solution in Syria are undermined by continuing and escalating violence, noting that the humanitarian situation remains dire.  Attacks against civilian infrastructure, especially schools and hospitals, are unacceptable, and the situation in various camps throughout Syria is also a source of concern, with the upcoming summer season expected to bring additional challenges to an already strained humanitarian response.  Calling upon all parties to facilitate the required humanitarian access, he stressed that people in the Rukban camp, in particular, must be able to gain access to assistance, with the relevant parties granting the required permissions for an additional aid convoy.  Turning to the Syrian Golan, he reiterated South Africa’s view that the territory remains illegally occupied, while calling upon Israel to adhere to the Council’s various resolutions and withdraw from all occupied lands.

JOSÉ SINGER WEISINGER (Dominican Republic) said vulnerability levels in Syria are generally alarming.  Figures do not capture “a mere fragment” of the suffering of those who have left everything to save their lives and those of their loved ones.  The solution to the protracted conflict is political.  He urged the Council to support the new window of opportunity to advance the political process.  As the situation in Idlib impacts the stability of the political process, he advocated full implementation of the Turkey-Russian Federation Memorandum of Understanding, and compliance with international humanitarian law.  Demanding an immediate halt to attacks on hospitals, schools and civilian spaces, he urged all parties to grant access to the United Nations throughout Syria on a safe, unhindered basis and to uphold international humanitarian law, including by refraining from targeting civilians and related infrastructure.  The 72,000 people in Al-Hol camp continue to suffer and it is essential that humanitarian access to the area remains open.  In Rukban, he voiced concern over reports that an entry permit for a new convoy was denied, urging authorities to work with the United Nations in the quest for joint solutions.

JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland), underscoring the dramatic state of health facilities in Syria, said the international community — and especially the Council — should advocate vigorously for the health and protection of civilians, especially women, children and persons with disabilities, as stated in resolution 2475 (2019).  Describing the situation in north-eastern and north‑western Syria as extremely worrying, she called on all sides to respect international humanitarian law and human rights law.  She urged the Syrian authorities to swiftly authorize a third humanitarian convoy to Rukban and stressed the need for an effective and credible re-implementation of the Idlib de‑escalation zone to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe and to encourage much‑needed progress in the political process.

NARCISO SIPACO RIBALA (Equatorial Guinea) said that, in recent months, “we have lost count of the numbers that have been slain,” describing conditions as a genuine humanitarian disaster with regional repercussions.  He asked whether it would morph into regional war or whether Syria’s Government would succeed in containing the jihadist threat and uprising of armed groups.  “Nobody wants to pay the cost of an open war,” he said, not even Syria’s neighbours.  Citing conditions in refugee and displaced person camps in Al-Hol and Rukban, he said the failure of a third humanitarian convoy to enter the latter has compelled thousands to abandon the camp due to its horrendous conditions.  Citing resolution 2449 (2018), he said cross-border aid must continue to be a key component of action, and actors must not allow it to be cut off.  There can be no military solution to the conflict, he said, stressing that peace requires all parties to fulfil their obligations to pursue a political process.

BASHAR JA’AFARI (Syria) said that, despite its attempts, the Syrian American Medical Society has never obtained consultative status at the United Nations.  It is under the umbrella of the United States Agency for International Development, and thus, its Executive Director works for the United States Government.  He is not Syrian and does not have the right to speak about a State that is not his own.  Further, the organization does not have an agreement to work in Syria, and thus, operates there illegally, raising an important question about the “illegal illiteracy” used to convey a seeming unfamiliarity with the law.  Such behaviour does not allow parties to ignore the Geneva Convention, which bars such a presence when there is no agreement with the State concerned.

Recalling that Al-Nusra Front controls 99 per cent of Idlib, where the Syrian American Medical Society is active, he questioned how it could work in an area controlled by a terrorist organization, stressing that there must be cooperation between the two.

Ms. PIERCE (United Kingdom) interjected that it is dangerous to humanitarian workers to allege such a connection when there is not one.  “This could put real lives at risk.”

Continuing, Mr. JA’AFARI (Syria) insisted that “these are facts, not accusations”.  While he would not delve into the details of the Secretary‑General’s sixty-first report, authored by those who do not have the well-being of Syrians as their focus, he described the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ involvement in its production, reliance on open information sources and use of vague language — all of which harkens back to an era in which the Office was exploited as a front for countries seeking to undermine Syria’s Government.  Those preparing such reports pretend to be neutral, but are not, as they remain silent on issues on which they should draw attention.

He asked about the destination of the thousands of terrorists who left Al‑Hol camp, suggesting they, perhaps, are in Turkey before being recycled to Syria to again target civilian areas in the north-west that are currently enjoying security.  He asked how they escaped the camps and who financed their departure.  Recalling that the first humanitarian conference on Syria focused on the need to address foreign economic meddling, he said Western Governments point the finger at Syria while some invest in training for foreign terrorist fighters.  He asked whether representatives here today would discuss their own Governments’ role in prolonging the crisis in Syria.

Indeed, he said these Governments seek to avoid any discussions that would shine a light on their egregious actions.  More could have been done on the humanitarian front if certain partners had respected the principles of non‑politicization, neutrality and impartiality, he said, insisting that Syria’s Government cannot remain silent while terrorists target civilians.  It must defend its citizens and respond to those who fire missiles and drop bombs.  It will work tirelessly to help its people rebuild what was destroyed by terrorists and outside aggression, he said, which requires full respect for Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, the lifting of illegal measures and ending the illegal presence on its territory by the United States, United Kingdom, France and Turkey

MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait), Council President, then clarified that it is entirely possible for a Council member to raise a point of order, as the representative of the United Kingdom did.  He then invited Mr. Bakin to respond to questions posed, to which the latter responded that he had no further statement to make other than the one already delivered.

Mr. LILLIE, responding to the interventions delivered by Council members, echoed their expressions of gratitude for the unselfish and heroic work of humanitarian personnel who remain in Syria despite grave challenges to heal the injured and bury the dead.  Noting that a health-care facility is one of the most dangerous places to be in the country, he said over 50 of his own colleagues have been killed in the conflict.  Of the 90 facilities attacked since April, most were struck from the air, he said, noting that the Syrian Government forces are the only ones flying over the area and recalling that the coordinates of the facilities were provided in advance.

Ms. PIERCE (United Kingdom) stated that she wished to put on record the fact that she did not receive any answers to the questions she posed to Mr. Bakin.  “We will need to come back to this,” she stressed.

Mr. SAFRONKOV (Russian Federation) said the responses to all the questions posed by the United Kingdom’s delegate were contained in Mr. Bakin’s original statement.

For information media. Not an official record.