Emergency Relief Coordinator Warns that Halting Cross-Border Deliveries in North-West Will Sever ‘Lifeline to Millions’
A flare up of violence in Syria could trigger a rapid deterioration of the situation amid efforts to overcome a stalemate in constitutional talks ahead of general elections in May, the senior United Nations mediator warned the Security Council today during a videoconference meeting.
Geir O. Pedersen, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Syria, sounded a warning to all parties to prioritize the search for a settlement to the decade-long conflict. Providing an overview of the Secretary-General’s latest report (document S/2021/390), he raised concerns about a significant escalation in the north-west. From a recent air strike on Syria by Israel to fresh attacks by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Daesh), a steady rise in hostilities, kidnappings and troop movements bring the spectre of imminent escalation.
He said a nationwide ceasefire outlined in resolution 2254 (2015) is essential, as is a cooperative approach to eradicating listed terrorist groups. Recent developments include a meeting in Geneva of the Syrian Women’s Advisory Board, where members voiced fears over Syria’s permanent division, alongside hope for a renewal of the political process. Persistent challenges include the destitution facing the Syrian people after a decade of conflict, corruption and mismanagement, war economies, Lebanon’s financial collapse, the pandemic, sanctions and fuel shortages. He appealed for continued donor support to the response plan and shared calls by the United Nations Civil Society Support Room for humanitarian and livelihoods programmes, and the application of all humanitarian exceptions to sanctions regimes.
Stressing the importance of unblocking progress on detainees, abductees and missing persons, he said that as long as this file remains largely frozen, many Syrians will be unable to even begin to think about moving on, and the country’s social fabric cannot be restored. He called on the Government — and all other Syrian parties — to carry out unilateral releases of detainees and abductees and undertake meaningful actions on missing persons.
“If this highly internationalized conflict is to move towards resolution, we need a more constructive and comprehensive international diplomacy on Syria to try to unlock progress step for step,” he insisted. A new means of international discussion or a new format could bring stakeholders with something to add to the table. Exploratory consultations could help test the possibilities and bridge the mistrust hindering progress. “We must begin to lay the groundwork for such an effort,” he said.
Stressing that the United Nations is not involved in the 26 May presidential election, he said it was called under the auspices of the current Constitution and is not part of the political process established by resolution 2254 (2015), which mandates the Organization to facilitate a political process that culminates in the holding of free and fair elections, in accordance with a new constitution and the highest international standards of transparency and accountability.
He then drew attention to the Syrian-led and Syrian-owned Constitutional Committee, established by an agreement between the Government and the Syrian Negotiations Commission, and facilitated by the United Nations. Appealing to the Co-Chairs and members to respect the Terms of Reference and adhere to the Code of Conduct in public statements, he said a newly discussed proposal, if implemented, would help the Committee to gradually advance its work. “We cannot get there all in one go, but there are steps that could be taken to generate some movement, and it requires constructive international diplomacy to identify and implement them,” he said. “I am open to any suggestions or advice, but I see no other path than this to help the Syrian people to navigate out of their terrible crisis and towards a better future that meets their legitimate aspirations and restores Syria’s sovereignty, unity, independence and territorial integrity.”
Turning to the pandemic, Mark Lowcock, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said COVID-19 testing across Syria is so limited that it only shows “the very tip of the iceberg”, but all signs point to the virus accelerating rapidly. The number of new cases recorded by the Ministry of Health in March was double the figure for February, and hospitals in Damascus are full. While the United Nations is providing personal protection equipment and training for medical workers and supporting the rollout of vaccination campaigns, he noted that doses supplied through the COVID‑19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) Facility will cover 20 per cent of the population. Although not nearly enough, it is a vital first step in protecting medical workers and those most vulnerable.
On the economic crisis, he cited volatility in the exchange rate in April, though it strengthened to around 3,400 Syrian pounds to the United States dollar on the informal market, from its lowest point of 4,700 to the dollar in March. Food prices overall remain at historic levels, with subsidized bread prices doubled this month in Al Hassakeh. More than half of Syrian households are reporting insufficient or insufficiently nutritious food. “That’s an increase of over 70 per cent compared to last year,” he said, while fuel shortages forced the cancellation of several humanitarian field missions.
Addressing violence across the country, he condemned the killing of two more aid workers — volunteers for national non-Governmental organization Al Bir and Al Ehsan Ras Al Ain, who died in a 17 April attack near Deir ez-Zor. “Humanitarian workers in Syria deliver life-saving aid under the most challenging circumstances and at great personal risk,” he stressed. “They must be protected.” The organization is also monitoring tensions in and around Qamishli and Al Hassakeh cities, where clashes killed three civilians and displaced 15,000 people. Along with insecurity at al Hol camp, “we are seeing a collective failure to protect women and children” he said, with tens of thousands of children growing up in desperate conditions there and elsewhere. He urged relevant Member States to rapidly and safely allow for the voluntary repatriation of their nationals in line with international law and standards.
He went on to stress that the Alouk water station has again been interrupted for the past two weeks, impacting nearly half a million people in Al Hassakeh. Across the north-west, millions of people live along the border in an active war zone, dependent on aid delivered from Turkey. As the operation reaches 2.4 million people every month, “a failure to extend the cross-border authorization would sever this lifeline,” he assured. In the north-east, 25 trucks containing food rations have been stuck outside Qamishli since 23 April due to violence. And while the United Nations has scaled up cross-line deliveries, “needs continue to outstrip our ability to respond”, particularly since the removal of Al Yarubiyah as an authorized border crossing in January 2020. Conditions at Rukban refugee camp meanwhile remain dire, with no cross-line assistance delivered to its 12,000 people since September 2019.
Although the United States and European Union have assured that their sanctions do not ban the flow of humanitarian supplies to Syria, he pointed out that more than half of the international Damascus-based non-governmental organizations have reported serious banking issues in 2021. And despite the $4.4 billion pledged at the fifth Brussels Conference in March, much more is needed in order for humanitarian organizations to meet the needs of 12.3 million Syrians this year.
In the ensuing debate, some delegates welcomed the forthcoming presidential election, while others objected to its planned conduct in May under the current Constitution, arguing that the decision defies the political process by preventing millions of Syrians displaced or living as refugees from voting or running as candidates. Speakers roundly welcomed the COVAX vaccine deliveries and called for all steps to be taken to advance a political solution to end the conflict.
The representative of Ireland, speaking also for Norway, said that 9 in 10 Syrians now live in poverty, with 60 per cent of the population at risk of going hungry this year, representing the worst numbers in the history of the conflict at a time when COVID-19 is exacerbating the situation. Condemning reports of grave violations against children and recent violence against humanitarian workers, she expressed strong support for all efforts to ensure aid reaches the growing numbers of those in need in north-west Syria, where 3.4 million people — 21 per cent more than in 2020 — require assistance.
Expressing support for all efforts to put in place a cross-line support mission to north-west Syria, she called on all parties to engage constructively and in a spirit of compromise to ensure this important mission can proceed. The United Nations-mandated cross-border operation in the north-west reaches almost 85 per cent of people in need every month. Without this sustained and predictable access, civilian suffering would rise to levels not seen in a decade of conflict, further driving instability in Syria and the region. The immense humanitarian needs clearly demonstrate that Security Council resolution 2533 (2020) must be renewed.
Speaking in her national capacity, she noted with regret Syria’s lack of substantive engagement in the work of the Constitutional Committee, which frustrates the possibilities for real progress and falls far short of the legitimate expectations of the people. Highlighting other concerns, she called on all parties to take measures to prevent and end child casualties in the conduct of hostilities, end their recruitment and unconditionally release them from the ranks of all armed groups. Attacks on schools and their use for military purposes are reprehensible and must end, and all parties must remove the obstacles to education in areas under their control. It is past time for the Council to shoulder its responsibility and call on Syrian authorities to engage meaningfully within the Constitutional Committee and a wider political process, she said, as outlined in resolution 2254 (2015). The Council should also demand that authorities comply with their obligations under international law and end their brutal policies, so that the people of Syria can live in freedom and without fear.
The representative of the Russian Federation said the Council’s virtual format is unjustifiable, especially when United Nations Headquarters is safe. His delegation held 10 in-person meetings under its 2020 presidency and the General Assembly regularly convenes live sessions. Nothing is stopping the Council from doing the same, he said, urging the current Vietnamese and upcoming Chinese presidencies to hold live meetings. Turning to the situation in Syria, he said worsening humanitarian conditions are linked to sanctions imposed by the collective West, and chronic instability remains tied to occupying and foreign forces, including Israel’s air strikes. The Russian Federation continues to work towards advancing the political process, which must be Syrian-owned without any outside interference, he said, urging actors to refrain from pushing negative narratives ahead of general elections.
Raising other concerns, he said the United States claims that Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham — which the Council listed as a terrorist organization — should be supported because it is “the lesser of two evils”. Welcoming COVAX vaccine deliveries, he said Syria is working on this issue as well as granting permission for aid deliveries. Aid supplies currently stuck in warehouses due to fuel shortages can be linked to United States oil extraction activities in occupied Syrian territory. Turning to the fifth Brussels Conference and its call for contributions, he said Syria has not been involved with these matters and typically receives very few contributions. The Russian Federation has recently repatriated children and, given the worsening situation in camps, he called on Council colleagues to ensure decent conditions for their own citizens. Finally, the absence of launching even one humanitarian convoy from Damascus is “open sabotage”, he said, questioning how colleagues can discuss the territorial integrity of Syria in the Council if they do not want to open a corridor.
The representative of the United Kingdom welcomed the first delivery of more than 250,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine through the COVAX Facility last week, noting her Government has pledged $700 million in support. While more than 50,000 vaccines arrived through the north-west Bab al-Hawa border crossing last week, she expressed concern over the predicted disruption to future deliveries, should the Council fail to renew that mandate. Such a move would contradict the Council’s own ambition, she said, as the life-saving aid includes World Food Programme (WFP) deliveries serving millions of people and facilitates non-governmental organization operations providing protection, health, water and sanitation. Citing the Secretary-General’s warnings, she stressed that even if deployed regularly, cross-line convoys cannot replicate the size and scope of the cross-border operation. On the political track, she noted the core of conflict resolution requires a new Syrian constitution, followed by free and fair elections. However, holding presidential elections in May under the previous constitution runs counter to that process, with millions of Syrians displaced or living as refugees and prevented from voting or running for the office. Referring to “vanity elections”, she urged the regime to focus on actively and genuinely participating in the implementation of resolution 2254 (2015).
The representative of Estonia said the spread of COVID-19 in Syria endangers the most vulnerable groups and hampers the humanitarian response. Cross-line aid meanwhile is irregular and unreliable, he added, making cross-border aid deliveries in July “our utmost duty” to ensure the Syrian people will receive necessary food items, medicine and vaccines. The economic situation remains fragile across the country, with corruption, warlordism and intra-communal fighting preventing the safe return of refugees. Weakening neighbouring economies have caused substantial losses for Syria, he said, as Syrian businesses have historically been strongly interlinked with those in Lebanon and elsewhere. Politically, Constitutional Committee talks in Geneva have not produced genuine dialogue, with proposed elections in May further undermining the process. The legitimate claims of the Syrian opposition must be taken into account, with free and fair elections including members of the diaspora. “Anything else would be considered yet another farce,” he said, with the Constitutional Committee continually “under-delivering”. He reiterated calls for an international mechanism to locate missing people or their remains, as well as accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity. All arbitrarily detained people, especially women, children and the elderly, must be released, he stressed.
The representative of China said the United Nations should continue its work on a Syrian-owned process, calling on all parties in Syria to engage with the Special Envoy and advance progress in Constitutional Committee meetings. Urging the international community to respect the choice of the Syrian people in forthcoming general elections, he said Council members remain concerned about continued terrorist activities. The international community must enhance the provision of humanitarian relief and address such crises as oil shortages and COVID-19. Expressing support for the COVAX plan, he said China’s vaccine contributions have already arrived in Syria. Regarding sanctions and blockades, he urged States to immediately lift these restrictions, as they are deeply affecting the Syrian people. The United Nations must respect the role of the Government regarding humanitarian relief operations, he said, noting that the World Health Organization (WHO) has delivered much needed supplies. The United Nations convoy, however, has yet to make the trip, he said, wondering about the reason for the delay. China remains committed to advancing the political process and relieving the Syrian people’s suffering.
The representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, expressing concern over reports of escalating tensions, voiced support for the Special Envoy’s efforts. Confidence-building measures are vital to the success of the wider political process, and the issue of missing and detained persons should be urgently addressed to foster goodwill. Concerned about Syria’s moribund economy, which has exacerbated the dire humanitarian emergency, she appealed to States to lift all unilateral coercive measures. She expressed support for the cross-border mechanism, which remains a lifeline for millions of Syrians in need. In addition, the pandemic has complicated the humanitarian crisis at camps for internally displaced persons, she said, reminding authorities that activities aimed at maintaining security in such locations must never result in a suspension of humanitarian access or violations of the rights of residents. She urged parties to work together to achieve a sustainable solution to issues related to the Alouk water station, as interruptions cannot continue to deprive services to hundreds of thousands of people. The international community must demonstrate respect for Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, including through the withdrawal of unauthorized foreign forces and regard for the perspectives of the Government in all discussions.
The representative of France expressed concern over hostilities across the country and the potential resurgence of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh). As the month of Ramadan has begun, he reiterated the call for a nationwide cessation of hostilities under United Nations supervision. The humanitarian situation is worsening, he stressed, with 12 million Syrians experiencing food insecurity and COVID-19 spreading, with cases in the north-east increasing 57 per cent in one month. He emphasized that the regime’s systematic blockade of aid reveals that there is no alternative to the to cross-border mechanism, which must be renewed for 12 months. Calling for inclusive, free and transparent elections, with participation by the diaspora, he reiterated that France will not recognize the validity of regime elections planned for the end of May. There must also be progress on locating and freeing jailed and missing persons, as “there can be no peace without justice”, he said.
The representative of India, noting the involvement of major foreign powers in the conflict, welcomed independent parallel political initiatives, while underscoring the centrality of the political process led by the United Nations, and stressing that the former must feed into the latter. He also expressed concern over increased terrorist activity on Syria’s soil and the fact that mercenaries are finding their way into other conflict zones, including in Africa. Turning to the humanitarian situation, he cited United Nations statistics indicating an estimated half-million deaths, millions of internal and external displacements, collapsed health infrastructure and children deprived of basic education – conditions exacerbated by COVID-19 and a national economic crisis. He called for increased humanitarian assistance to all Syrians without discrimination, politicization or preconditions, and for the international community to address impediments to cross-border and cross-line operations — particularly delays in granting requisite approvals to humanitarian aid convoys.
The representative of Norway, pleased that the Women’s Syrian Advisory Board met this week, said that despite a dearth of Constitutional Committee meetings, much work has been done. She expressed support for the Special Envoy’s efforts and urged all parties to work in a constructive way to draft a constitution with a view to finding a political solution to the conflict. A different dynamic must move away from the current stalemate, she said, underlining the tenuous situation on the ground. The ceasefire called for in resolution 2254 (2015) must be heeded, she said, highlighting continued attacks by ISIL/Da’esh. Calling on Syria’s authorities to respect their international legal obligations, she said the inclusion of women in all processes is essential. Turning to forthcoming elections, she said all related elements of resolution 2254 (2015) must be respected. Progress on the situation in Syria is long overdue, she stressed.
The representative of Kenya said that foreign interests and geopolitical competition are complicating the situation in Syria, shifting the focus away from people’s suffering. He called on the international community to “speak in one voice in the interest of the Syrian people,” while emphasizing the critical nature of cross-border aid deliveries, which have allowed the United Nations to deploy vaccines derived from the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) initiative through the Bab al-Hawa crossing. Noting, however, that needs exceed the ongoing humanitarian response — particularly as related to water sources at the Alouk water station — he urged the international community to pay special attention to critical infrastructure to alleviate suffering and possible waterborne diseases. Turning to “radicalization within camps”, he emphasized the need to support terrorist disengagement programmes delivered at sufficient scale within such camps and for countries to repatriate their citizens therefrom.
The representative of Mexico said regular elections are fundamental to any democracy and should be carried out in Syria according to the highest international standards, under a new constitution and with broad participation, including the diaspora. To that end, the Government and the opposition must participate in constructive constitutional talks. He called for the release of detainees and investigations into the fate of disappeared persons, which could potentially require use of the mechanism cited by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). While the arrival of the first vaccines under the COVAX Facility is an encouraging development, the process requires safe, swift and unhindered humanitarian access. The Council must strengthen and broaden that process, and also renew the cross-border mechanism for another 12 months, or face the failure of vaccine deployment to the north-west and deliveries by WFP.
The representative of Tunisia expressed hope for progress on the political track through meetings of the Constitutional Committee, aiming to find points of convergence in accordance with resolution 2254 (2015). With tensions and violence prevalent throughout the country, maintaining a ceasefire is crucial in the short-and long-term. He therefore reiterated the appeal to all parties to de-escalate hostilities in order to improve the humanitarian situation and create a safer, stable and impartial environment. The proliferation of terrorist organizations including ISIL/Da’esh is cause for serious concern, he stressed, requiring coordinated efforts under international law. With the deteriorating internal situation impacting all aspects of life, he called for redoubled efforts “everywhere in the humanitarian sphere”, as well as measures to fight food insecurity and the spread of COVID-19. Cross-line and cross-border aid deliveries are crucial, he stated, calling on parties in the north-west to be flexible in allowing convoys through the contact line.
The representative of the United States said the Assad regime has blocked the drafting of a constitution ahead of elections that will be neither free nor fair to the Syrian people. “The election on 26 May will be a sham,” she said, underlining the need for a new constitution and United Nations action to advance the political process. Until such actions are taken, she said: “We will not be fooled”. Moreover, the United States will not support any reconstruction effort that benefits the regime, she clarified, emphasizing that the Syrian people are in distress while the Assad regime runs its “sham elections”. Highlighting the United States recent multi-million-dollar aid contributions, she said the Assad regime continues to hinder aid deliveries, including at two crossing points in north-west Syria. There is no alternative to the scope and scale of the United Nations cross-border mechanism, as one crossing is clearly not enough. Should the United Nations lose access to a cross-border mechanism, the impact of COVID-19 on Syria will go from bad to catastrophic. The Assad regime and the Russian Federation have obstructed United Nations deliveries, she said, voicing support for aid operations and the Syrian people.
The representative of Niger echoed the Special Envoy’s frustration over the stalemate, calling for all parties to engage constructively to find a long-term solution to the conflict. Supporting the Special Envoy’s call for additional meetings, he said the work of the Constitutional Committee must go hand-in-hand with other aspects of the crisis, including the end of external interference. Supporting the upcoming elections, he remained concerned about violence, targeted attacks against hospitals and worsening conditions in camps. Recognizing the right of the Government to combat terrorism on its territory, he expressed regret that attacks continue to target aid convoys. He called on all actors to ensure that aid supplies reach those in need. Welcoming the start of COVAX vaccine deliveries, he urged the donor community to assist the Syrian people, including by honouring their pledges made at the fifth Brussels Conference.
The representative of Viet Nam, Council President for April, spoke in his national capacity, noting that the security situation has been relatively calm since the ceasefire in north-west Syria, but sporadic incidents still cause serious concerns. He called on all parties to exercise maximum restraint and refrain from actions that could lead to further escalation, reminding them of their obligations under international law, international humanitarian law, and resolution 2573 (2021), unanimously adopted on 27 April. The humanitarian situation has shown no sign of recovery, as millions of Syrians still struggle to afford food, fuel and other basic goods amid a severe economic crisis and pandemic. With a worsening COVID-19 situation requiring urgent delivery of vaccines everywhere, he welcomed the recent shipment through the COVAX Facility to Damascus and the north-west, commending the heroic efforts of the United Nations, humanitarian and health care workers on the ground. Still, he stressed that a comprehensive political solution, led and owned by Syrians themselves, in line with resolution 2254 (2015), is the only way forward.
The representative of Syria questioned how nine donor conferences on the situation in Syria could have been held while data from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs indicates deteriorating living conditions, declining food security indicators, increasing numbers of people in need of humanitarian aid and persistent suffering among displaced and refugee populations. He attributed this inconsistency to the failure of donors to fulfil their pledges, allocation of the lion’s share of aid to neighbouring countries and regions outside Government control, spending most of the remaining funding on a United Nations office in Gaziantep that has “no function other than diverting attention from the crimes of terrorist organizations”, and the deliberate disregard for the effects of unilateral coercive measures on the Syrian people or the accompanying plunder of national wealth by United States forces occupying the north-east.
For its part, Syria continues its constructive engagement with United Nations agencies to “deliver aid to those who deserve it”, he said, but it rejects the cross-border assistance mechanism, which violates Syria’s sovereignty. Blaming “Turkish occupation forces and their affiliated terrorist organizations” for obstructing humanitarian access, he cited as an example their failure to allow the joint convoy to reach Atarib in the north-west. Worse is the Turkish regime’s use of drinking water as a weapon against civilians, deliberately cutting off supply from the Alouk water station to Al-Hasakah for a period of 20 days. He called on the Security Council to exert the necessary political pressure to find a durable solution to these issues. More broadly, the conduct of a presidential election is within the constitutional timeframe, he said, demonstrating Syria’s desire to ensure the regularity of its institutions and determination to thwart “external plots aimed at creating an institutional and constitutional vacuum” and imposing “creative chaos” as an alternative.
The representative of Iran expressed concern over reports that certain foreign forces are cooperating with terrorists in camps under their control, calling for increased efforts to uproot terrorists and for the withdrawal of all uninvited foreign forces from Syria. He also rejected any use of counter-terrorism efforts to support separatist tendencies, illegitimate self-rule initiatives or violations of Syria’s sovereignty, condemning United States occupation of and Israeli aggression towards Syria. The refugee crisis meanwhile cannot be overcome with the provision of humanitarian assistance alone. Rather, countries must take practical steps to expedite the return of refugees and internally displaced persons. Further, he called for the immediate removal of sanctions that weaponize food and medicine in flagrant violation of the Charter of the United Nations and for uninvited foreign forces to stop their “shameful practice” of systematically looting the Syrian people’s much-needed oil.
The representative of Turkey recounted his recent visit, along with the President of the General Assembly, to the border town of Hatay, where the United Nations channels cross-border humanitarian aid to millions of people in need. From the Turkish side of the border, he observed the dire humanitarian conditions in overcrowded camps in Syria, where people struggle to survive on aid arriving from Bab al-Hawa border crossing and await vaccination. Some 50,000 vaccines were transferred into the region last week, with 20 per cent of the population in Syria’s north-west region scheduled to receive them. It is simply not possible to replace the “unique and indispensable” United Nations monitoring mechanism. If it stops operating, “we will lose one of the best scrutinized and robust mechanisms in the world,” he insisted. The only way out for 2.7 million internally displaced people will be to escape Syria, creating new migration flows to neighbouring countries and Europe.
Despite the Constitutional Committee opening a window of opportunity for a political solution, Syria’s regime continues to block its work with unreasonable requests aimed at undermining the opposition, he said. In addition, elections announced for 26 May do not meet any of the criteria outlined in resolution 2254 (2015). Meanwhile, violence persists, with ceasefire violations and attacks against civilians in Idlib, and the PKK/PYD [Kurdish Workers’ Party/Democratic Union Party] targeting Syrian civilians — and Turkey — from Tel Rifat, Manbij and Ayn Isa. The group has carried out 400 attacks since October 2019, including car bombs. He said it “shamelessly announces these terrorist attacks through its social media accounts” and sets free — for political or financial gain — ISIL/Da’esh members, posing a grave danger to Syria’s neighbours.
He said the organization is also responsible for cutting electricity at the Alouk water station in Hasakah, leaving only 3 of its 12 water pumps operational. These unlawful actions place half a million innocent lives at risk and impede efforts to effectively combat the pandemic. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has verified that from 24 February to 23 March, at least 16 civilians were killed and 70 were injured by shelling and airstrikes in the north-west. Noting that the latest report of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Investigation and Identification Team established that Syria’s air force used chlorine in a 4 February 2018 attack against civilians in Saraqib, he said the regime is responsible for at least eight proven chemical weapons attacks.
The representative of Syria, taking the floor a second time, said it was regrettable that discussions in the Council continue amid such hostility and provocation. Some of the statements made today help no one, he stated, and certainly not the Syrian people. Responding to the “arrogant and false information” from Turkey’s representative, he said: “We know what is happening” in Iraq, Cyprus and other countries. “We know what happens in Turkish prisons.” Given the suffering of thousands of citizens in Turkey, that delegate is not entitled to lecture others on human rights or believe he has the authority to preach. “You should be ashamed of yourself, sir,” he stated, adding that Turkish authorities are committing crimes in Syria and “have blood on their hands”.