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SC/14612
24 August 2021
8841st Meeting (AM)

Escalating Conflict, Deepening Economic Crisis in Syria Pushing Humanitarian Needs to Highest Levels Since Start of Conflict, Senior Officials Tell Security Council

Permanent Representative Blames Catastrophic Impact of Sanctions on Food, Fuel Deliveries, while United States Delegate Says Measures Are Targeted

Against the backdrop of escalating conflict and deepening economic crisis in Syria, senior United Nations officials briefed the Security Council today on the urgent need for a nationwide ceasefire and increased humanitarian access.

Geir O. Pedersen, Special Envoy for Syria, stressed the importance of an immediate end to the violence, as he drew attention to the heavy shelling and ground clashes in the Daraa Governorate in the south-west.  Tensions are also high in the north-west, including Idlib, northern Latakia, Aleppo and western Hama, he said, expressing concern about violence involving non-State armed groups in north‑eastern areas of Raqqa and Hassakeh.

Calling on the parties to abide by international humanitarian law, he highlighted the importance of averting further displacement.  Outlining the many hardships in the daily lives of Syrians, he pointed to energy shortages and decreased food supply.  The issues facing Syrians are indeed far from solely in the hands of the Syrians.  “Constructive international diplomacy is plainly needed,” he stressed.  He urged key States — including the Russian Federation and the United States — to work with him in exploratory discussions on a package of concrete, reciprocal steps to help save Syrian lives.

Also briefing the Council today, Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, described a climate of fear and a drastic humanitarian situation exacerbated by the combination of hostilities, economic crisis, water shortages and COVID-19.  Humanitarian needs in Syria are at the highest levels since the start of the conflict, he said, but the 2021 Humanitarian Response Plan has received only about a quarter of all funding required.

Amid an increase in air strikes, he said, high commodity prices and widespread loss of livelihoods have forced more and more households to reduce meals and even resort to early marriages.  He also drew attention to the water crisis, due to critically low water levels in the Euphrates River flowing into Syria from Turkey.  In addition to affecting drinking water, irrigation and electricity, this is also impacting public health, he noted, at a time when COVID‑19 transmission rates remain high and available vaccines are insufficient.

The Council also heard from Khaled Erksoussi, Secretary General of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, who echoed the need to resolve the water crisis in the north-east, which has deprived 1.1 million people of drinking water due to lack of power to operate the Alouk water station.  These facilities are used as a bargaining chip between the conflict parties, he said, even as black-market food prices are surging.

“A food parcel provided by International Committee of the Red Cross or World Food Programme (WFP) and distributed by our volunteers is now worth a fortune,” he reported.  Describing the toll taken by sanctions, he stressed that their consequences on the common people, already ravaged by violence, exceed any political objectives.  Donors cannot continue to “offer water in a bottle or jerrican” when simple logic dictates they maintain the water lines so people can drink on their own, he said.

In the ensuing debate, the representative of Syria stressed the importance of lifting the unilateral economic measures against his country, citing their catastrophic impact on the humanitarian situation, especially on food and fuel deliveries.  Calling for greater focus on recovery and infrastructure projects, he described cross-border delivery as a “failing mechanism”, a waste of resources and politicization of humanitarian action.

The Government is exercising self-restraint in the south, he said, adding that the Daraa situation has been falsely described, with terrorists violating ceasefires brokered by the Russian Federation.  Calling for an end to the occupation by United States forces in the north-west and by Turkey’s forces in the north-west and north, he said the latter’s occupation forces and affiliate terrorist groups use water as a weapon of war.

Iran’s representative echoed the call for the immediate lifting of all unlawful sanctions against Syria, and improved cross-line humanitarian assistance.  There is a lack of transparency in cross-border humanitarian assistance, she said, adding that all uninvited foreign forces must leave the country without any precondition or delay.

The Russian Federation’s delegate called upon the Special Envoy to facilitate dialogue towards the Constitutional Committee process, rather than “bogging it down with artificial preconditions and deadlines”.  Syria’s Government has every right to monitor the upholding of law on its own sovereign territory.  He also pointed to the need for a rapid transition from the provision of emergency assistance to large-scale recovery and the reconstruction of infrastructure.

However, Turkey’s delegate cautioned against letting the regime and terrorist organizations abuse recovery projects for their narrow agendas.  “Last month, the Council made a choice between the urgent needs of the Syrian people and the political calculations of the Assad regime,” she said, adding that millions of people in the north-west continue to need the aid coming from her country through Bab al-Hawa crossing.  She also voiced regret that the sixth Constitutional Committee round has not been convened due to the regime’s obstruction.

The representative of the United States meanwhile stressed that her country’s sanctions are targeted against those robbing the Syrian people, and not civilians.  The Assad regime’s assault on Daraa has killed civilians, displaced tens of thousands and blocked access by humanitarian organizations, she said, calling on the regime to remove impediments that prevent supplies like baby formula from reaching north-east Syria.  She reiterated the call for an immediate ceasefire, adding that the Government can bolster the political process by addressing the plight of detained and missing persons.

Several speakers touched on the need to reinvigorate the political process, with the representative of Niger pointing out that this crisis will not be resolved by the force of weapons.  Noting the lack of progress despite the establishment of the Constitutional Committee and multiple rounds of negotiations, he said it is high time that “the parties present get their houses in order”.  Ireland’s representative praised Syrian women leaders for their courage and resilience and reiterated their right to be “in the room and at the table” of any political negotiation.

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

The meeting began at 10:02 a.m. and ended at 12:40 p.m.

Briefings

GEIR O. PEDERSEN, Special Envoy for Syria, urged all parties to work towards a nationwide ceasefire in light of the relative calm across front lines.  He noted, however, that many parts of the country have recently witnessed an escalation of conflict, he said Deraa Governorate in the south-west, in particular, has seen significant troop deployments, heavy shelling, ground clashes, civilian casualties as well as displacement and damage to civilian infrastructure.  Reiterating his call for an immediate end to the violence, and for the parties to abide by international humanitarian law, he called for averting further displacement and for allowing residents of Deraa to return to their homes in safety and dignity.

In north-western Syria including Idlib, northern Latakia, Aleppo and western Hama, tensions also remained high, he continued, noting that air strikes and shelling intensified in recent months.  That resulted in dozens of civilian casualties, including women and children, as well as the largest displacements recorded since March 2020, he reported.  Expressing concern about violence involving non-State armed groups in north-eastern areas of Raqqa and Hassakeh, he said repeated cuts in water supply affected hospitals, irrigation networks and water stations, among other vital infrastructure.

Recalling the deadly blast that targeted a military bus in Damascus on 4 August, and threats elsewhere posed by terrorist groups in the past month, he stressed that counter-terrorism efforts remain essential.  He also noted reports of significant air strikes attributed to Israel in recent weeks, including a notable incident in Damascus on 20 August.  “These developments remind us that the conflict in Syria is far from over, and that we a need a credible political process as well as more sustained international cooperation.”

He underlined the essential need for action on the crucial file of detainees, abductees and missing persons.  On the economic front, the crisis continues to present great hardships on the daily lives of Syrians, from serious energy shortages, to decreased food supply, he added.  Reiterating his concern about the various conflict-related challenges, as well as the crisis emanating from Lebanon, he emphasized the need to avoid any humanitarian effects of sanctions that could exacerbate the plight of ordinary Syrians.

He went on to pledge that the United Nations will make every effort to facilitate implementation of all aspects of resolution 2585 (2021), and expressed hope that key States — in particular the Russian Federation and the United States — could cooperate on Syria beyond the humanitarian track.  He urged them to work with him in exploratory discussions on a package of concrete, mutual and reciprocal steps to help save Syrian lives, ease suffering, promote regional stability and further implementation of resolution 2254 (2015).

MARTIN GRIFFITHS, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, noted that ongoing hostilities, economic crisis, water shortages and COVID-19 have driven humanitarian needs in Syria to the highest levels since the start of the conflict.  Civilians continue to endure great hardships, with women and children suffering significant physical and psychological trauma.  Describing a climate of fear, he noted an increase in air strikes and threats to humanitarian workers, even as health facilities are reportedly running out of supplies.  All parties to the conflict must respect civilian infrastructure and allow humanitarian access, he stressed.

Turning to the economic crisis, he noted that according to recent reports, 1 out of 5 households has reduced access to medical care and 1 out of 4 families reported loss of income.  High commodity prices and widespread loss of livelihoods has forced more and more households to reduce meals, with female-headed households particularly impacted.  Pointing out that child and early marriage are on the rise due to this crisis, he called for context-clear recovery and livelihood activities.  The United Nations plays a key role in delivering services to vulnerable civilians, in areas such as health education and in the creation of economic opportunities, he stressed.

Regarding the water crisis in Syria, he said that, in the north-east, water levels in the Euphrates River flowing into Syria from Turkey sank to a critically low point as precipitation decreased between 50 and 70 per cent compared to the long-term average.  Several drinking‑water stations along the banks of the Euphrates have been severely impacted by critically low water levels, affecting drinking‑water supplies and irrigation, and exacerbating public health concerns as well as electric supply issues.  Further, transmission rates of COVID-19 remain high, even though vaccinations are under way across Syria, prioritizing health‑care workers.  The available vaccines are sufficient to cover less than 1 per cent of Syria’s population, he added, stressing the need to speed up the scale and pace of vaccinations.

Welcoming the Council's unanimous decision on 9 July to extend the cross‑border mechanism in north-west Syria, he said the reauthorization will help ensure humanitarian assistance continues for more than 3.4 million people in need.  Priorities in the coming weeks include more food dispatches and the start of winterization activities.  Emphasizing the importance of establishing cross‑line access into the north-west, he added that the humanitarian operation in Syria is one of the largest worldwide.  As of 23 August, the United Nations and its partners have received about a quarter of all funding required under the 2021 Humanitarian Response Plan for Syria, he said, calling for more support.

KHALED ERKSOUSSI, Secretary General of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, said the water crisis in Syria’s north-east has deprived 1.1 million people of drinking water due to lack of power to operate the Alouk water station.  Despite requests for unhindered access to maintain and operate stations, these facilities are used as a bargaining chip between the conflict parties.  He also noted the Euphrates River level has descended 10 metres, with less water coming from Turkey and hot summer weather bringing suffering from severe drought.

He said teams in Daraa are responding to population movements due to the ongoing hostilities, manning the humanitarian corridor, securing the exit of 38,619 people, mostly women and children, and opening six shelters.  A humanitarian convoy to Daraa is being prepared with food and other essential materials for the people who remain in their houses.  This is an interagency convoy — deployed by his organization, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the United Nations and Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement partners — which has been green‑lighted by Syria’s Government.  The Syrian Arab Red Crescent is monitoring the situation in the Daraa al-Balad area, in the eye of the conflict, while other efforts are under way in the south, near Altanf, to resume humanitarian intervention to help people in Rukan camp to return to their homes, with 10,000 to 12,000 people remaining.

Describing the socioeconomic toll on the Syrian people, he said food prices have skyrocketed, with the price of the standard food basket up nearly 200 per cent in the past year.  “A food parcel provided by International Committee of the Red Cross or World Food Programme (WFP) and distributed by our volunteers is now worth a fortune,” he emphasized, with black‑market prices surging.  Life‑saving support in dialysis centres is now at risk, as staff cannot find the filters and consumables to maintain the service.

Sanctions and restrictive measures are adding to the suffering, making it more difficult for millions of people to get back on their feet with dignity, he said.  Since he last addressed the Council 9 months ago, it has become even more evident that the consequences of sanctions on the common people — and all humanitarian organizations in Syria — exceed any political objectives.  The international community must recognize the unintended consequences of punitive measures on a population already ravaged by a decade of violence.  Donors must be convinced to fund humanitarian rehabilitation.  They cannot continue to “offer water in a bottle or jerrican” when simple logic dictates they maintain the water lines so people can drink on their own or grow food, rather than eating from a box or even a can, and send children to school “instead of just reading how schools are good”, he said.  “Please stop prioritizing political gains over ending the suffering of fellow humans and let us work together towards fulfilling humanitarian pledges made.”

Statements

GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland), speaking also on behalf of Norway in their capacity as the co-penholders of the Syrian humanitarian file, welcomed the Council’s constructive approach in recognizing the need to ensure that humanitarian assistance reaches those in need in Syria.  Since the adoption of resolution 2585 (2021), efforts to reduce hunger, build resilience and ensure access to health care have continued to support the 3.4 million Syrians in need in the north-west.  However, she added, the situation remains dire, with the combination of ongoing hostilities, economic crisis, water shortages and COVID-19.  Drawing attention to the deadly violence in Daraa, she called on all parties to live up to their obligations under international humanitarian law.  Welcoming the scaling up of cross-line missions over the past year, she also voiced support for efforts to finalize a cross-line humanitarian mission to north-western Syria.

Speaking in her national capacity, she added that the levels of violence in the last few weeks are unacceptable.  Mourning the continued loss of lives, she echoed the call for calm and stressed that the ceasefire in the north-west must be upheld.  Commending the efforts of the Special Envoy, she emphasized the importance of a negotiated political settlement, including a new Constitution.  Lauding the women’s political movement and their willingness to lead change in local communities, she said that Ireland stands in solidarity with the women of Syria.  They have demonstrated their courage and resilience, she said, reiterating their right to be “in the room and at the table”.

LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States), noting that the Assad regime’s assault on Daraa has killed civilians, displaced tens of thousands and blocked access by humanitarian organizations, urged parties with influence upon the Government to help reach an immediate solution.  Reiterating the call for an immediate ceasefire, in line with resolution 2254 (2015), she noted that, although the Government can bolster the political process by addressing the plight of detained and missing persons, no meaningful efforts have been made.  While unanimous action by the Council has provided trucks and supplies to over 3 million Syrians in the north-west for another year, humanitarian needs are increasing.  Unopened crossings mean convoys must face armed opposition groups and closed shipping lanes, preventing supplies like baby formula from reaching north-east Syria — impediments the regime must remove.  With the COVID-19 pandemic straining already limited health infrastructure, she called on the Council to expand humanitarian commitments.  She affirmed that United States sanctions are targeted against those robbing the Syrian people, and not civilians, with her delegation working to ensure that they do not have unintended consequences.  She asked the Emergency Relief Coordinator how the United Nations can improve access on ground, and for an update on cross-line deliveries.

VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), recalling that it was not easy to come to an agreement on Security Council resolution 2585 (2021), said that achieving unity on that text is a hopeful sign for productive discussions in the future.  While the ceasefire is holding in larger parts of the Syrian territory, the situation remains worrying, he said, noting clashes between Kurds and local Arab tribes in the north of Syria, violence on the Syria-Iraq border and arbitrary attacks from Israel.  Socioeconomic problems are exacerbated by sanctions and the ongoing looting of Syrian oil, he said, urging all stakeholders to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria.  Calling upon the Special Envoy to facilitate dialogue towards the Constitutional Committee process, rather than “bogging it down with artificial preconditions and deadlines”, he said Syria’s Government has every right to monitor the upholding of the law on its own sovereign territory.  “We are undertaking every effort to improve the situation in Daraa, although the local armed groups are not complying with the ceasefire agreement,” he said.  Further, there must be a rapid transition from the provision of emergency assistance to large-scale recovery and the reconstruction of infrastructure in Syria, which in turn, will guarantee the return of refugees and help relaunch the economy.

ALICIA GUADALUPE BUENROSTRO MASSIEU (Mexico) said ongoing violence is exacerbating the needs of the Syrian population, also affecting schools, hospitals and the mobility of humanitarian actors.  She repeated calls for unhindered access and a sustained national ceasefire.  While noting the renewal of the cross-border humanitarian assistance mechanism, she stressed that water scarcity and the effects of a worsening drought may affect 5 million people.  Untreated water plants require urgent access by technical teams, as water scarcity also affects harvests and food security, with women and girls making up 70 per cent of the agricultural workforce.  Calling for progress on political dialogue, she pointed out that the Constitutional Committee still has not achieved results, and must respond to proposals from the Special Envoy.  It is crucial to rebuild trust between delegations, as a ceasefire and the political process are priorities, with the international community shouldering that responsibility.  She asked Special Envoy about the Government’s reservations on an upcoming meeting, and the possible repercussions of recent developments in Afghanistan.

GENG SHUANG (China), recalling that 2021 marks 10 years since the crisis in Syria began, called upon the parties to expedite the process towards inclusive dialogue, in order to bridge differences and find political solutions.  The United Nations should continue to work as the main channel of mediation, he added.  Encouraging the international community to support the work of the Constitutional Committee, he emphasized that the body should be independent and free of foreign interference.  He further stressed the importance of stabilizing the security situation and combating terrorism amid escalating clashes in the north-west, north-east and south, particularly since foreign troops and Israeli missiles have heightened tensions.  Expressing concern over the humanitarian impacts of COVID-19, rising food prices, oil shortages and the water crisis affecting 460,000 residents in north-eastern Syria, he called for the lifting of unilateral sanctions against Syria and for increased humanitarian assistance without delay.

TAREK LADEB (Tunisia), voicing concern about recent developments in Syria, stressed that there is no military solution to the crisis in that country.  Emphasizing the importance of a Syrian-led political settlement facilitated by the United Nations, he called for de-escalation of hostilities and a return to calm.  Also highlighting the need for increased mediation and negotiation efforts in order to establish a lasting ceasefire, he expressed alarm about the growing incidence of terrorism in various regions of Syria.  Such activities threaten the security needed to arrive at a long-term political solution, as well as regional stability.  Calling for a resumption of the political process and the work of the Constitutional Committee, he commended efforts by the Special Envoy and voiced concern about the worsening humanitarian situation, exacerbated by COVID-19 and the economic crisis.

DANG DINH QUY (Viet Nam) said the Constitutional Committee must reach an agreement on working methods and re-establish trust and confidence, noting the “crucial bridging role” of the United Nations and Special Envoy.  Even without a major outbreak of violence over the past year-and-a-half, he expressed concern over an uptick of conflict in certain regions.  Innocent civilians still bear the brunt of violence, with incidents doubled over the past six months and women and children representing over half of the casualties.  Calling on all parties to exert maximum restraint, he said efforts to combat terrorist groups must be carried out to ensure security.  He added that the deteriorating humanitarian situation is pushing more people into misery, with the dire situation of the Euphrates River requiring safe, unimpeded access for technical teams.

DIANI JIMESHA ARIANNE PRINCE (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) stressed that a Syrian-owned and Syrian-led political process is the only solution to restore peace and prosperity.  She encouraged parties to engage constructively on critical matters, such as missing persons and detainees and the important work of the Constitutional Committee.  Expressing concern over the increased violence, which has led to injury and death of civilians, as well as destruction of health and educational facilities, she called for an immediate nationwide ceasefire to help create an environment conducive to advancing the political process.  She called for more protection and attention to the security of those residing and working in Al-Hol camp.  Acknowledging the recently re-authorized cross-border mechanism as a lifeline for millions, she nonetheless emphasized that it must be complemented by cross-line modality in order to reach all in need.  She also strongly urged the parties to work jointly in facilitating the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, and encouraged close monitoring of the water crisis, according priority to resolving issues around the Alouk water station.

NATHALIE BROADHURST ESTIVAL (France), calling for urgent steps towards a generalized ceasefire, condemned the bloody offensive launched by the regime on Daraa and expressed concern about increasing attacks in the north-west.  The situation of civilians and humanitarian workers remain a priority, she said, calling on the regime to authorize humanitarian access to the Daraa district.  While welcoming progress in re-establishing a cross-line convoy towards the north-west, she underscored that it cannot replace the cross-border mechanism.  Citing food insecurity and water shortages, she said the absence of humanitarian access is extremely worrying.  The uprising in the south-west underscores the importance of reaching a political solution, without which cycles of violence will continue.  Noting that two years after its creation the Constitutional Committee has not made much progress towards drafting a new constitution, she called on the regime to participate fully and constructively.

ANDRE LIPAND (Estonia) cited recent military escalation in the south, as Syria’s authorities have failed to ensure stability in Daraa Governorate, with 35,000 people displaced this summer due to violence.  Condemning the shelling of urban areas by Syria’s army, he said an immediate nationwide ceasefire is a precondition for peaceful dialogue.  With living standards continuing to deteriorate amid widespread corruption and warlordism, the safe and dignified return of refugees is impossible.  With the pandemic still spreading, safe and unimpeded humanitarian access to all Syrians remains critical.  Renewal of the cross-border aid mechanism for one year in July is encouraging, especially considering that no cross-line deliveries have taken place to the north-west.  With political discussions in a deadlock, he encouraged the Special Envoy to explore additional confidence-building measures and suggested that meaningful steps regarding arbitrarily detained people could help ease tensions.  He reiterated the call for the creation of an international mechanism to locate missing people or their remains.  There must also be accountability for the many war crimes and crimes against humanity, and an end to impunity.

JAMES KARIUKI (United Kingdom), voicing deep concern about the situation in Daraa, where 50,000 civilians have been besieged since June, called on all parties to ensure and expedite impartial humanitarian access through all modalities.  He also noted the escalation of violence in Syria’s north-west, in violation of the ceasefire agreement.  Further, it is essential to address water scarcity through an inclusive multi-sector response plan.  On the political process, he called on all parties to work towards a nationwide ceasefire; unhindered aid access; release of those arbitrarily detained; conditions for safe refugee return; and free and fair elections pursuant to a new constitution.

TRINE SKARBOEVIK HEIMERBACK (Norway) said all parties must agree on a nationwide ceasefire, as the status quo is not viable in the volatile situation, with a significant risk of further civilian casualties.  She urged all actors to identify concrete issues for step-by-step negotiations, noting that women must be included in any process.  Resolution 2254 (2015) remains the framework for any political solution in Syria, with the Constitutional Committee the only ongoing process in that regard.  Although there has been no sixth round of negotiations, she expressed hope that all parties will agree on a suitable framework, as the Committee must produce results.  The Syrian people and the entire region deserve peace and stability.

NIANDOU AOUGI (Niger) stressed that the crisis will not be resolved by the force of weapons.  Condemning ongoing hostilities in areas inhabited by civilians, he echoed the Secretary-General’s call on the parties to establish a general ceasefire and to create the conditions for a successful political process.  Noting the lack of progress on the political front despite the establishment of the Constitutional Committee and multiple rounds of negotiations, he said it is high time that “the parties present get their houses in order and demonstrate a minimum level of compromise”.  Welcoming the daily efforts of humanitarian organizations, which continue relentlessly to aid the Syrian population, he described them as the “real heroes”.  The safe and impartial provision of humanitarian aid, in accordance with international humanitarian law, is more important than ever, he said, also stressing the need to lift the sanctions that are causing much distress to the Syrian population.

MARTIN KIMANI (Kenya) called upon the parties to genuinely commit to breaking the impasse around Constitutional Committee meetings and give serious consideration to the Special Envoy’s bridging proposals.  He expressed grave concern over cross‑line fire, indiscriminate shelling and air strikes in the north-west, in southern Idlib and in the south-west, particularly in Deraa and Suweida Governates.  Calling upon all parties to prioritize the protection of civilians, including in Al-Hol camp, amid growing threats against women and girls, he affirmed the need for renewed efforts to combat Security Council-listed terrorist groups, such as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) and Hayat Tahrir al Sham.  Citing economic distress, COVID-19 and deteriorating food and water security, he encouraged the Government and the United Nations to continue working towards an agreement that will enable cross-line deliveries in the north-west.

T.S. TIRUMURTI (India), Council President for August, noted in his national capacity that the Small Body of the Constitutional Committee, tasked with preparing and drafting the constitutional reform for popular approval, has not met since January 2021.  Voicing hope that the Special Envoy’s recent engagements, including his visit to Moscow, will help in convening the sixth meeting of that body, he called on all major stakeholders to engage in a constructive dialogue.  The adoption of resolution 2585 (2021) in July proved that sincere efforts on behalf of all stakeholders can lead to positive outcomes.  Noting that the recent fighting in Daraa reflects the fragile nature of the situation, he called for active engagement that is consistent with Syrian independence and addresses the urgency of the humanitarian issues.

BASSAM SABBAGH (Syria) said the return of citizens to his country is a priority, noting that cooperation with friendly States and the United Nations has assisted in that endeavour.  However, the United States and Western allies have hindered these operations with misinformation and anti-Syrian propaganda.  Improving the humanitarian situation requires lifting unilateral economic measures, he stressed, which have had catastrophic consequences, preventing food and fuel deliveries and directly impacting aid efforts.  He called for an end to the occupation by United States forces in the north-west and by Turkey’s forces in the north-west and north, the latter of which are depleting the national wealth, especially oil, gas and water reserves.  Despite false justifications, Turkey’s occupation forces and affiliate terrorist groups use water as a weapon of war against civilians, having cut power to the Alouk station 26 times, which amounts to a war crime.

He went on to stress that humanitarian activities should include recovery and infrastructure projects, and that work must be enhanced from within Syria itself.  The Council should end the “failing mechanism” of cross-border delivery, which he called a waste of resources that politicizes humanitarian action and violates Syria’s sovereignty.  The Daraa situation has been falsely described, he continued, with terrorists violating ceasefires brokered by the Russian Federation.  While Syria has processed 3,900 files of those wanted for terror acts and released more than 1,700 detainees, terrorists have assassinated 18 municipal chiefs, 150 army and police forces and 65 citizens, “which is exactly what Boko Haram does in Nigeria”, he said.  While the Government is exercising self‑restraint in the south, there has been “utter silence” from the Council on a well-coordinated campaign of falsehoods and violations by Israel of Syria’s sovereignty.  He demanded that Turkey fulfil its obligations and end practices that prevent political solutions.

RAZIYE BILGE KOÇYIĞIT GRBA (Turkey), expressing her country’s support for humanitarian efforts in Syria, emphasized that the cross-border mechanism is more crucial than ever.  “Last month, the Council made a choice between the urgent needs of the Syrian people and the political calculations of the Assad regime,” she said, adding that millions of people in the north-west continue to need the aid coming from Turkey through Bab al-Hawa crossing.  Regarding recovery projects, she said it is essential to not allow the regime and terrorist organizations to abuse this issue for their narrow agendas.  Council resolution 2585 (2021) entails cross-line operations to the north-east, but the people of that region have not received a single COVID-19 vaccine to date, she emphasized, and requested the start of cross‑line operations there as soon as possible.  Voicing regret that the sixth Constitutional Committee round has not been convened due to the regime’s obstruction, she noted the rising civilian toll.  The only way to end the conflict is through a political solution, she said, stressing that “besieging towns and oppressing civilians will yield no results”.

ZAHRA ERSHADI (Iran)called for the full and immediate lifting of all unlawful sanctions against Syria, describing the measures as one of the major reasons behind the country’s current humanitarian situation, which seriously undermine the efficiency of international humanitarian operations.  Urging improved cross-line humanitarian assistance, she requested that the Secretary‑General provide a report containing detailed information on cross-border operations.  She said there is a lack of transparency in cross-border humanitarian assistance, emphasizing that the mechanism should not be used, directly or indirectly, to support terrorist groups inside Syria.  To create a conducive environment for ending the conflict, all uninvited foreign forces must leave the country without any precondition and delay, she stressed.  Terrorist groups must be confronted, she added.  She went on to call upon the Council to compel Israel to end its aggressions in Syria immediately.

Mr. PEDERSEN, responding to questions expressed hope that upcoming diplomacy will offer promising news for his next Council intervention in late September.  He would not address upcoming activities for the Constitutional Committee, instead deferring his response to Mexico’s delegate for that next briefing.  It is urgent to come together, prepare and draft a new Constitution for the Syrian people — “a task for them only” which nonetheless requires the two parties to the Committee to agree on how to proceed.

Mr. GRIFFITHS responded to a question from the United States delegate, noting that an improvement in humanitarian access will require the cessation of hostilities, and the easing of administrative restrictions.  The decentralized nature of the United Nations presence has helped, he said, adding that he will look further into the issue during his visit to Damascus next week.  There is no final agreement on convoys, with violence and mines remaining on those routes.

Mr. KHALED renewed the call for more access and support for humanitarian actors.  While that work will not solve the conflict, he asked donors and the Council to ease this process.  He noted that sanctions and restrictive measures have an adverse effect in the field, especially on banks and suppliers.

For information media. Not an official record.