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SC/14559
23 June 2021
8803rd Meeting (AM)

Briefing Security Council, Secretary-General Implores Members to Reach Consensus on Extending Cross-border Humanitarian Aid Deliveries into Syria

Ahead of the 10 July expiration of resolution 2533 (2020) authorizing humanitarian aid deliveries from Turkey into Syria, the Security Council today debated whether such operations should continue, including options for closing the only remaining crossing and for reopening previous border checkpoints.

“Now is not the time” to scale back such operations, said Sherine Ibrahim, Country Director of CARE International in Turkey, as she briefed on the non-governmental group’s work, recalling that earlier this week, CARE and 27 other humanitarian organizations addressed an open letter seeking the Council to scale up humanitarian access into Syria.

The level of the crisis demands the reauthorization of cross-border assistance via two crossings on the Turkish-Syrian border, namely Bab al Hawa and Bab al Salam, for a minimum of 12 months, she said.  It also requires reinstating the Al Yarubiyah crossing on the Syrian-Iraqi border in the north-east for a similar period.

The scale and scope of the United Nations cross-border operation cannot be replicated by non-governmental organizations, she continued, stating:  “Despite our presence and expertise, we cannot implement the scale of procurement, transportation, warehousing, coordination and funding required to keep this critical humanitarian operation afloat.”

Also briefing, Ramesh Rajasingham, Acting Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said that the Council’s authorization for cross-border operations expires in 17 days.  A failure to extend the authorization will have “stark consequences” for the 3.4 million people in need across the country’s north-west, he said, asserting:  “With 90 per cent of people in need requiring assistance for their survival, they would face a truly catastrophic situation.”

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said that cross-line convoys inside Syria could never replace cross-border operations, imploring the Council to reach consensus on extending cross-border operations for another year.

Rejecting these calls, Syria’s delegate said the highly politicized cross-border aid delivery mechanism was only meant to be temporary and exceptional in nature, and its implementation only proved that it facilitates violations of Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and serves the interests of the Turkish occupation and the terrorist groups loyal to it, including Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham.  Indeed, most humanitarian aid ends up in the hands of the terrorists that control the Bab al Hawa crossing, he warned.

Turkey’s delegate urged the Council to recall the conditions leading to the authorization of cross-border aid mechanisms in 2014; namely, that the Assad regime was killing Syrians and targeting critical civilian infrastructure.  The destructive war that regime has waged against its own people has only grown increasingly brutal, and the only hope for millions of people in the country’s north-west region is the cross-border delivery of United Nations aid, without which humanitarian operations in Syria will be less transparent, accountable and effective.

Council members also expressed divergent views on aid deliveries through border crossings.

The representative of the United States, recalling that there had been four aid crossings, whereas now there is just one, said the last closures constricted aid precisely when COVID-19 exacerbated needs.  Warning that anything less than a 12-month renewal would upend non-governmental operations, she called for strengthening and expanding this operation, and renewing the mandate with all modalities of assistance.  Cross-line aid can be part of the equation, but it is “completely insufficient” to meet the needs, she said, urging the Council to reauthorize Bab al Hawa, as well as Bab al Salam and Al Yarubiyah, through a technical 12-month rollover for these three crossings.

The representative of the Russian Federation described the idea that cross-line routes are inadequate as “laughable”.  To compensate for the closing of Al Yarubiyah, assistance to the north-east was increased, a point recognized by United Nations workers themselves.  Many are silent on the fact that United Nations channels are being used for dubious schemes by terrorists holed up in Idlib, he said, assuring that the cross-line system is the only legitimate way to deliver assistance.

Ireland’s delegate said that in the coming days, her country and Norway, as the co-leads for the Council’s work on Syria’s humanitarian file, will be circulating a draft resolution aimed at renewing and expanding the humanitarian aid delivery mechanism in response to the pressing humanitarian needs.

Also speaking were the representatives of Tunisia, Kenya, France, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, India, Viet Nam, Niger, China, United Kingdom, Mexico, Estonia and Iran.

The meeting began at 3:03 p.m. and ended at 5:41 p.m.

Briefings

ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary-General of the United Nations, delivering brief introductory remarks, said despite the Organization’s massive response in Syria and across the region, more humanitarian access is required to reach those most in need.  “That is why I have been clearly expressing how important it is to maintain and expand access, including cross-border and cross-line operations,” he said.  Stressing that cross-line operations could never replace cross-border assistance at the present levels, he implored the Security Council to reach consensus to extend cross-border operations for another year.  It is essential to mobilize all capacities along all channels, he insisted, emphasizing that it is time to end the decade-long nightmare.

RAMESH RAJASINGHAM, Acting Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said COVID-19 transmission in Syria is high, with the actual spread likely exceeding official records.  In May, vaccines from the COVAX Facility were dispatched through all available modalities:  cross-line to the north-east, cross-border to the north-west and within Government-controlled territories.  As of 20 June, 97,000 people have received their first dose in Government areas and in the north-east, while 26,000 people have received at least one dose in the north-west.  Noting that the first COVAX delivery is only sufficient for 0.5 per cent of Syria’s people, he said the total delivery will cover only 20 per cent of the population, and that equal access to vaccines, tests, medicines and supplies, including oxygen, is needed to curb transmission.

Turning to the economic crisis, he said people across Syria face eroded employment prospects.  Prices are at record highs, while goods and services are becoming scarce.  The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has observed an increase in child and early marriage in the north-west, as desperate living conditions have led families to marry off their daughters at young ages.  “The vulnerabilities of children, especially girls, grow exponentially under such difficult conditions,” he stressed.  He went on to call the water deficit in the Euphrates basin “the worst in memory”, emphasizing that the Tishreen and Tabqa dams will stop functioning if levels drop further and that 5.5 million people face reduced access to drinking water.  A solution is needed that accounts for the needs of all people who depend on water from the Euphrates and its tributaries.

On the protection of civilians, he said the destructive effects of a decade of armed conflict are inescapable, noting that in April and May, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) verified that 150 civilians were killed and another 154 were injured in 186 incidents during hostilities.  “Women and children comprised a significant proportion of these victims,” he stressed, adding that hostilities in the north-west over the last month have displaced 11,000 civilians.  The attack that severely damaged the United Nations-supported Al Shifa’a Hospital in Afrin on 12 June was all the more shocking.  Before the attack, it provided 15,000 medical services each month, however it was rendered inoperable after a missile reportedly hit the emergency room, and another, the delivery room, where 350 babies were born each month.  The assault is just the latest in a long pattern that endangers patients and medical workers and jeopardizes health care

Recalling that the Security Council’s authorization for cross-border operations expires on 10 July — in just 17 days — he said the United Nations and its partners will continue to function as they have since 2014, when the Council first authorized such endeavours.  Noting that the United Nations cross-border operation is one of the most heavily scrutinized and monitored aid operations in the world, he said a failure to extend the authorization will have “stark consequences” for the 3.4 million people in need across the north-west.  “With 90 per cent of people in need requiring assistance for their survival, they would face a truly catastrophic situation,” he asserted.  “A cross-line operation would provide a vital addition to the cross-border lifeline, but it could by no means replace it.”

SHERINE IBRAHIM, Country Director of CARE Turkey, said her organization has been operating in Syria since 2013 and she leads its work in Turkey and across the border into north-west Syria, where “incredible Syrian non-governmental organizations deliver aid into the hands of Syrians in need”.  The humanitarian situation in Syria is dire.  She said imagine living in a country where about 90 per cent of citizens live below the poverty line, and where the price of basic food items increased 29 folds since the start of the crisis.  Over 1 million Syrians in that region will face an unthinkable reality in September if the United Nations is not authorized to continue the cross-border operation.  “Now is not the time” to scale back such operation, she said, recalling that earlier this week, CARE and 27 other humanitarian organizations addressed an open letter to the Council, seeking the organ to scale up humanitarian access into Syria.  The level of the crisis demands the reauthorization of cross-border assistance via Bab al Hawa and Bab al Salam crossings for a minimum of 12 months.  It also requires reinstating the Al Yarubiyah crossing in the north-east for a similar period.

The scale and scope of the United Nations cross-border operation cannot be replicated by non-governmental organizations, she said, stating:  “Despite our presence and expertise, we cannot implement the scale of procurement, transportation, warehousing, coordination and funding required to keep this critical humanitarian operation afloat.”  Last week, the heads of seven United Nations agencies issued a joint statement with an unequivocal message:  regular cross-line convoys could not replicate the size and scope of the cross-border operation.  It is time for the Council to heed the Secretary-General’s advice to authorize the United Nations to use additional crossings.  Deploring that women struggle to find work and fair wages, she said that too often, they resort to desperate coping mechanisms to survive, including sending their children to work, taking them out of school, buying essential items on credit, skipping meals and marrying off their daughters to have one mouth less to feed.  Unsurprisingly, maternal malnutrition affects a third of Syrian mothers.  Women’s mental health is another serious casualty of this situation.  Adolescent girls are forced far too early into adulthood and motherhood.  Confronted by a range of protection issues, they are the real forgotten victims of this crisis.  The Council has the authority to take practical steps that will help Syrians begin to turn the tables.

Statements

GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland) said her country and Norway, as the co-leads for the Council’s work on Syria’s humanitarian file, have consulted broadly with Council members, civil society and listened carefully to the United Nations, including the Secretary-General, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and other agencies delivering the humanitarian response in Syria.  The message has been clear:  A failure to renew the cross-border resolution would halt the delivery of life-saving aid to millions of people in desperate need, increasing civilian suffering in north-west Syria to levels unprecedented in a decade of conflict.  Without a renewal, the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in the north-west would be severely disrupted.  A closure would have a detrimental effect on health, food security, water, sanitation, protection and other services provided by non-governmental organizations that rely on the United Nations support in logistics, financing and procurement.  Council members must ensure that all channels for delivering life-saving aid to people in need in Syria should be made and kept available.  In the coming days, Ireland and Norway will be circulating a draft resolution aimed at renewing and expanding the humanitarian aid delivery mechanism in response to the pressing humanitarian needs.

TAREK LADEB (Tunisia), calling for a political solution to Syria’s crisis, in line with resolution 2554 (2015), said it is critical to increase medical and humanitarian aid for Syrians who are exhausted from a decade of violence, terrorism and now facing a pandemic.  Expressing concern over worsening living conditions, marked by food and fuel shortages and dwindling water and electricity supplies, he called for upholding the ceasefire and pressed all parties to comply with international humanitarian law.  It is equally important to combat terrorist groups, which have been particularly active, and he called for greater humanitarian and medical relief.  He expressed hope for a consensus solution that will facilitate the delivery of cross-border aid, insisting on its provision also through a cross-line operation and prioritizing the humanitarian needs of those facing COVID-19.

MICHAEL KIBOINO (Kenya) said that as the expiry of Bab al Hawa — the only border crossing authorized by resolution 2533 (2020) — draws near, the urgent need for consensus to ensure that assistance continues to reach millions of Syrians cannot be overstated.  As the number of those in severe need has risen from 2.8 million to 3.4 million over the last year, the cross-border and cross-line mechanisms should complement each other with a view to ensuring aid delivery, in particular to the north-west and north-east.  He condemned the frequent use of improvised explosive devices, targeted killings and deadly air strikes as “senseless attacks” and reiterated the imperative for all parties to honour the nationwide ceasefire.  If left unchecked, reduced water levels in the Euphrates River and Alouk station could perpetuate food insecurity and electricity loss, he said, calling for the lifting of unilateral coercive measures and stressing that the Council’s decision on the issue of cross-border and cross-line mechanisms should be informed by the enormity of the needs.  “This matter is too sensitive to be politicized,” he asserted.

NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France), condemning the 12 June bombings in the city of Afrin that destroyed a hospital and killed civilians and medical staff, said that the international community is, once again, facing war crimes in Syria.  Hostilities are ongoing — evidenced by the Syrian regime’s regular attacks on the city of Idlib — and he called for a ceasefire and humanitarian pause to be established under the auspices of the United Nations.  Noting other humanitarian challenges, including more than half of the population facing food insecurity and a shortage of water in the north-east, he called on all parties — especially the Syrian regime — to guarantee full humanitarian access.  Cross-line aid from Damascus is far from meeting these needs, and cannot replace the necessary cross-border aid mechanisms in the country’s north-west and north-east regions, which should be renewed for at least 12 months.  The regime continues to politicize aid and hold hostage the Syrian people, he said, calling on the Council to show unity, responsibility and make decisions based solely on humanitarian considerations.

INGA RHONDA KING (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) said unilateral coercive measures have had an adverse impact on life-saving humanitarian operations in Syria — a primary concern — and she called for their lifting.  Needs are steadily rising across the country, and women and children are disproportionately affected.  Addressing these complex challenges requires constructive engagement with the Government and the scaling up of both the cross-border mechanism and the cross-line modality.  Failure to reauthorize the mechanism will cut a critical aid lifeline for millions and disrupt the distribution of much needed COVID-19 vaccines.  She called for resolving the alarmingly low water levels, adding that water and water systems should never be weaponized.  A nationwide ceasefire is immediately needed, she added, calling security conditions in camps, particularly in Al Hol, “disturbing”.

LINDA THOMAS GREENFIELD (United States) recalled that three weeks ago, she visited Bab Al Halwa crossing and met with non-governmental organization workers and refugees, noting that “I went because I wanted the Syrian people to know that they are not forgotten”, and to see how the cross-border mechanism works.  Citing a humanitarian worker who said that, for Syrian refugees, COVID-19 is just “another reason to die”, she called Bab al Hawa “a literal lifeline”, with 1,000 trucks carrying food, water and medical supplies every month to those in desperate need.  Recalling that there had been four aid crossings, whereas now there is just one, she said the last closures constricted aid precisely at the moment when COVID-19 exacerbated needs.

When Al Yarubiyah closed, it took months for medical supplies to be rerouted, she continued, and by the time they reached their destination — almost a year later — vaccines had expired and medical kits had been ransacked.  Warning that anything less than a 12-month renewal would upend non-governmental operations, she confirmed that the professionalism at Bab al Hawa is the same gold standard she has seen throughout her four decades of evaluating humanitarian missions.  She called for strengthening and expanding this operation, and renewing the mandate with all modalities of assistance, adding that Syria’s economic woes are a product of the Assad regime’s gross mismanagement of the economy.  Cross-line aid can be part of the equation, but it is “completely insufficient” to meet the needs.  Without cross-border deliveries, more Syrians will die.  “Everybody knows that”, which is why the Council must reauthorize Bab al Hawa, as well as Bab Al Salam and Al Yarubiyah, through a technical 12-month rollover for three crossings.  “We should do it now.”  Recalling that the Council’s mandate is to maintain peace and security, she said “we will undermine that mandate and the credibility of this body if we are responsible for cutting off millions of people from the food, water and medical assistance they need to survive.”

PRAKASH GUPTA (India) stressed the need for concrete steps to address hurdles that are obstructing the functioning of both cross-border and cross-line operations, as the deadline for renewing the humanitarian aid mechanism resolution is barely two weeks away.  While the Council’s attention is focused on the mandate renewal, terrorist groups such as Hayat Tahri al-Sham and Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) are attacking civilians, in rural Idlib and Hama and in the north-east of Syria.  The infighting among armed groups in the region has continued to endanger civilians.  The fighting along the frontlines in the north-west is threatening the lives of civilians and hospitals, he said, condemning the attacks on 12 June on Al Shifaa Hospital in Afrin city in northern Syria.

HAI ANH PHAM (Viet Nam) said that with no end in sight to the humanitarian crisis, safe, unimpeded and sustained humanitarian access should be maintained to enhance relief response.  All efforts and all appropriate channels need to be employed to meet the needs of the people.  The situation in the north-west remains dire and many people are depending on life-saving aid delivery.  The continuation of humanitarian assistance for people in this area through appropriate consultations with relevant parties is critical.  For that reason, the Council must reach consensus in finding a solution to this issue.

ABDOU ABARRY (Niger) expressed support for the continuation of the aid delivery mechanism through border crossings and between contact points.  His delegation is ready to support any formula or modality to accelerate the delivery of such aid.  Niger believes that reaching the populations in need is not a political choice but a humanitarian imperative.  The Council must not abandon these vulnerable populations, some of whom have been displaced on several occasions due to the continuing violence in the country, he said, urging the 15-member organ to regain its unity during the process of renewing the mandate of this mechanism in the coming days.

ZHANG JUN (China) said that declining economic conditions, increased food insecurity, rapid transmission of COVID-19 and growing oil shortages have negatively impacted agricultural production and humanitarian relief operations in Syria.  A joint global effort is required for this situation to improve, in which the Government must play a leading role by increasing cross-line humanitarian aid.  Citing the large amount of medical care provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) in April while it operated from within Syria, he said this delivery demonstrates the effectiveness of cross-line humanitarian assistance.  The Council should advance specific requirements for increasing this type of aid, while also immediately lifting unilateral sanctions to help Syria restore economic order.  These illegal measures inhibit the functioning of Syrian civilian infrastructure by withholding necessary equipment like power generators, and the “so-called humanitarian exemption”, he said, “is nothing but a placebo for the conscience”.  The humanitarian situation in Syria will not fundamentally improve, he added, unless sanctions are lifted.

BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom) said that the Council should focus on humanitarian needs as it deliberates the cross-border mechanism, as 13.4 million people — more than the entire population of London or Moscow — require aid.  If this mechanism is not renewed, the United Nations vaccination programme would cease, along with food assistance provided to 1.4 million people every month and critical medical items that supported 10 million treatments in 2020.  While the United Kingdom supports cross-line operations, health needs have increased by 38 per cent since the closure of the Al Yarubiyah crossing in the country’s north-east in January 2020.  The loss of the Bab al Salam border crossing in the north-west has similarly had a huge impact, and aid deliveries to that region now either arrive damaged or are subject to persistent delays.  She called, therefore, for renewing the mandate of the Bab al Hawa crossing and reauthorizing those at Bab al Salam and Al Yarubiyah.

JUAN RAMÓN DE LA FUENTE RAMIREZ (Mexico), spotlighting that civilian infrastructure continues to be targeted despite appeals from the Council, joined others in condemning the 12 June attack on a hospital in the city of Afrin.  Turning to the issue of cross-border humanitarian assistance, he stressed that it is not only necessary to maintain current humanitarian access for the 3.4 million people in the north-east who require such aid, but also to further streamline aid operations to reduce shortages and suffering.  In this, the Bab al Hawa border crossing is essential for the delivery of food, medical attention and education to the people living in this region, and any interruption will worsen existing chronic malnutrition amongst children and disrupt the recently launched COVID-19 vaccination programme.  He also noted that it has not been possible to replace the assistance received through the Al Yarubiyah crossing since its January 2020 closure, expressing hope that the Council can explore without bias all options to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid to the Syrian people.

VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said a black and white picture is being painted in the verbal stand off on the future of the cross-border mechanism, with the “forces for good” played by Western countries, which endlessly express concern for the people of Idlib, while the “evil incarnate” is played by Syria and the Russian Federation.  “Let’s speak frankly,” he proposed, recalling that Russian Federation agreed to resolution 2165 (2014) — which opened four crossing points, despite that this violated Syria’s sovereignty — for one reason:  Syria was being “riven into parts” by terrorists.  Damascus went on to liberate 90 per cent of its territory, rendering the mechanism anachronistic.  Yet, for Western countries, “time has stood still”.  Recalling that the Council agreed to preserve the mechanism until 10 July 2021, he said the convoy agreed to by Damascus in 2020 “never got off the ground”, and in response, “none of you lifted a finger”.

He wondered how to interpret remarks by the Secretary-General and others that cross-line convoys can never replace cross-border deliveries, describing the idea that cross-line routes are inadequate as “laughable”.  He wondered if anyone had asked Syria how it views the mechanism.  To compensate for the closing of Al Yarubiyah, assistance to the north-east was increased, a point recognized by United Nations workers themselves.  Many who warned about the monitoring mechanism — the absence of which would flood enclaves with uncontrolled deliveries — are silent on the fact that United Nations channels are being used for dubious schemes by terrorists holed up in Idlib.  All resolutions on the cross-border mechanism contain a request for the Secretary-General to provide information on the operation and its beneficiaries, however over seven years, “none of this has been done” to improve transparency.  There is no United Nations presence in Idlib and the Organization does not know how to reliably distribute these goods.

He said the Council instead has been asked to believe unnamed non-governmental organizations, many of which do not hide their affiliations with Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham.  He broadly denounced “standard manipulation of facts”, stressing that Idlib has long been a terrorist safe haven, and rejecting claims that Tahir al-Sham is a moderate political force.  This status quo suits his Council colleagues, he said, assuring that the cross-line system is the only legitimate way to deliver assistance and pointing to conditions in Al Hol camp as an example of ongoing attempts at “violent demographic engineering”.  He asked the acting Under-Secretary-General about cross-line deliveries in Idlib and about the problems faced there.  To Ms. Ibrahim, he inquired about her organization’s guarantee that aid reaches its end users and about the so-called declaration of commitment of compliance with international humanitarian law, signed by armed groups.

SVEN JÜRGENSON (Estonia), Council president for June, spoke in his national capacity, pointing first to the 186 security incidents in April and May, in which 150 people were killed, among them 36 children.  He called for reauthorizing Bab al Hawa crossing for one year, and for reopening the crossings Bab al Salam in Idlib and Al Yarubiyah in the north-east for the same period, stressing that a sustainable humanitarian response must be predicated on enabling access to all parts of Syria.  “We need to ensure the availability of COVID-19 vaccines to everyone,” he insisted, and while acknowledging the importance of cross-line aid, he said these deliveries remain sporadic and limited.  Moreover, as violence persists in the north-west, no reliable agreement has been reached between humanitarian organizations and parties on the ground.  He added that the European Union’s restrictive measures do not impede the provision of humanitarian aid, but rather, target those who have committed crimes against the Syrian people.

Mr. RAJASINGHAM, retaking the floor to answer a question regarding why people in north-west Syria remain in dire need of aid despite ongoing cross-border operations, underscored that there is no systematic diversion of aid in north-west Syria.  Cross-border operations there are among the most closely monitored in the world and, while the United Nations and its partners deliver a large amount of aid, the need is so great that more is required.  On the impact of the closure of the Al Yarubiyah crossing, he said that 1.8 million people in north-east Syria require assistance in areas outside of Government control.  While cross-line assistance has provided a certain amount of medical supplies, many facilities lack staff, supplies and equipment.  Regarding income at the Bab al Hawa crossing, he said that, while he cannot speak to money laundering, he does know where the aid is going, as it is rigorously tracked at every step.  People are suffering, he added, because there is not enough aid to meet their needs, not because aid is stolen or diverted.

Ms. IBRAHIM, on how her organization verifies that beneficiaries receive the aid they need, said that it triangulates information, conducts third-party monitoring and supports the capacity of local partners.  As an international development organization, CARE Turkey conducts vetting, monitoring and investigative processes to ensure that aid is appropriately delivered to those who need it.

The representative of the Russian Federation then took the floor to clarify a question for Mr. Rajasingham, asking what is needed to unblock cross-line aid to Idlib and why the United Nations could not establish a monitoring mission in Government territory.

Mr. RAJASINGHAM said that any such mission cannot proceed without the agreement of all relevant parties — noting that security is a key issue for the delivery and distribution of humanitarian aid — and that the Organization has been working diligently to secure such agreement for over a year.  He added, however, that even if cross-line aid does proceed regularly, it does not possess the scale and scope required to replace cross-border operations.

Ms. IBRAHIM, on the superiority of cross-border over cross-line operations, said that, because her organization does not operate out of Syria, it cannot offer a comparative analysis regarding which modality would be better.  She stressed, however, that current needs dictate that all access points remain open.

The representative of the Russian Federation then asked her how her organization aids those in Idlib and who its partners are.

Ms. IBRAHIM said that her organization maintains a diversity of partnerships, focusing on those that can provide many services across various sectors and regions; that enjoy community acceptance; and possess the infrastructure, staff and capacity to receive and distribute aid provided by CARE Turkey.

BASSAM SABBAGH (Syria) said some Western countries continue to use the Council as a platform for political hypocrisy, aimed at derailing discussions and perpetuating the humanitarian crisis in Syria.  Rejecting the crimes of foreign occupation, aggression and the imposition of unilateral coercive measures, he stressed that the highly politicized cross-border aid delivery mechanism was only meant to be temporary and exceptional in nature.  Moreover, its implementation only proved what Syria always feared, namely that it facilitates violations of his country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and serves the interests of the Turkish occupation and the terrorist groups loyal to it, including Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham.  Indeed, most humanitarian aid ends up in the hands of the terrorists that control the Bab al Hawa crossing.  Meanwhile, the Turkish regime continues to occupy territory in the north and north-west, where it deprives more than 1 million citizens of water by cutting off critical supply sources.

Calling on the Council to intervene immediately to end such crimes committed by the Turkish regime — including ensuring that the water station in Alouk is not used for political purposes — he went on to reject claims that the extension of the cross-border mechanism will help make COVID-19 vaccines more accessible.  In fact, only a small percentage of those vaccines distributed came through the crossing.  Advocates for it also fail to mention that secessionist militias in the north-east have obstructed a vaccination campaign launched by Government mobile teams and are spreading false rumours about vaccine efficacy.  Improving Syria’s humanitarian situation will not happen through “hollow statements and messages for show”, but instead requires efforts to tackle the threats posed by terrorist groups; ending the illegal presence of Turkey and the United States; immediately lifting unilateral cohesive measures; ending the politicization of humanitarian action; and support for the Government’s efforts to alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people.

ZAHRA ERSHADI (Iran) said the suffering of the Syrian people has worsened over recent years due in large part to the imposition of coercive unilateral measures.  As a country which itself suffers under such sanctions, Iran rejects their imposition and calls for their full lifting as well as for respect for Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.  According to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, a State has the primary responsibility for the delivery of humanitarian assistance.  She therefore echoed the view that the cross-border aid mechanism was designed to be temporary and exceptional and was designed based on circumstances that no longer exist.  Now, aid must be delivered from inside Syria in line with international law.  Calling for the depoliticization of Syria’s humanitarian file in the Security Council, she called on members to contribute to the country’s long-term stability and support the restoration of its territorial unity, adding her voice to those who have called for the immediate withdrawal of all foreign forces not invited in the country.

FERIDUN HADI SINIRLIOĞLU (Turkey) urged the Council to recall the conditions leading to the authorization of the cross-border aid mechanisms in 2014; namely, that the Assad regime was killing Syrians and targeting critical civilian infrastructure.  The destructive war that regime has waged against its own people has only grown increasingly brutal, and the only hope for millions of people in the country’s north-west region is the delivery of United Nations aid.  Regarding allegations of low water levels in the Euphrates, he said that Turkey — like other countries in the region — is facing the adverse effects of climate change on its water resources.  Despite this, it is fulfilling its contractual obligations, and the United Nations should support downstream countries with better water management and agricultural practices.  Adding that no country matches United Nations capacity to monitor the delivery of humanitarian aid, he stressed that, without the cross-border mechanism, humanitarian operations in Syria will be less transparent, accountable and effective.

For information media. Not an official record.