The Syrian conflict has entered its tenth year, yet peace still remains far too elusive. The brutal conflict has exacted an unconscionable human cost and caused a humanitarian crisis of monumental proportions. Millions of civilians continue to face protection risks, over half the population has been forced to flee their homes with millions living in precarious conditions as refugees and 11 million continue to require life-saving humanitarian assistance. We have seen nine years of horrific atrocities, including war crimes. Nine years of human rights abuses on a massive and systematic scale, eroding international norms to new depths of cruelty and suffering. Tens of thousands are missing, disappeared, detained, subjected to ill-treatment and torture. Untold numbers have been killed and injured. There must be no impunity for such horrific crimes.
Throughout the conflict, the humanitarian system has used all available means to get aid to those who need it – from airdrops to crossline deliveries to cross-border deliveries. In 2019, the United Nations and its partners reached over 6 million people each month throughout Syria. In January of this year, food assistance for around 1.4 million people was delivered via the cross-border mechanism alone, as were health supplies for almost half a million people, and non-food items for more than 230,000 people.
The steps to end the suffering of the Syrian people are well known but must be realized. First, the 5 March Additional Protocol to the Memorandum on Stabilization of the Situation in the Idlib De-Escalation Area agreed between Russia and Turkey must lead to a lasting cessation of hostilities that paves the way to a permanent ceasefire nation-wide. Second, the parties need to return to the UN-facilitated political process mandated by resolution 2254 (2015), which remains the only viable path to end the conflict and offer lasting peace to the Syrian people.
My message today is clear. We cannot allow the tenth year to result in the same carnage, the same flouting of human rights and international humanitarian law, the same inhumanity.