Statement by Ambassador Vassily A. Nebenzia, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, at the Security Council meeting on the situation in Syria
Following lengthy consultations, during which the overwhelming majority of delegations demonstrated a sincere focus on seeking joint solutions — for which we thank them — the Security Council has unanimously adopted the humanitarian resolution 2401 (2018), on Syria.
I wish to particularly thank the penholders, the Permanent Representatives of Kuwait and Sweden, for their tireless efforts and resolve to reach a compromise up until the very last moment. Russia supports the resolution because it encourages the Syrian parties to work as quickly as possible to bring a halt to the hostilities, comply with previous agreed-on decisions in that regard, engage in negotiations on a general de-escalation and establish extended humanitarian pauses throughout the country.
The reason it took us so long to reach agreement on the resolution was because we did not support the directives it included for an immediate cessation of hostilities for a relatively long period, and the reason for that was simply because it was unachievable in that form. A ceasefire would not have happened if we had adopted the directives without any concrete agreement between the warring parties, and any approach so removed from reality would definitely not help to address the pressing humanitarian problems in Syria.
It will be crucial to ensure that the Security Council’s demands are reinforced by concrete agreements on the ground. It would be naive to think that any of these complicated issues can be resolved overnight. We trust that all the external stakeholders with influence will work to bring that about. We can see that some foreign sponsors of the illegal armed groups have either fallen very short in that regard or have been deliberately flouting their obligations.
Russia is working with all the parties to the conflict and doing everything possible to normalize the situation and actively assist the humanitarian efforts. Iran and Turkey, our partners in the Astana process, have taken on a major part of the work, and we are preparing for an important meeting in the Astana format next month. In the southern de-escalation zone a fairly decent level of cooperation has been established with Jordan and the United States, although we have been seeing tension rising in some areas owing to activity by armed groups.
The resolution clearly states that it does not apply to military operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, Jabhat Al-Nusra, other Al-Qaidaaffiliated organizations and various groups that the Security Council has recognized as terrorists. That struggle that will continue. We call on international stakeholders to coordinate closely on this issue, including with the Syrian authorities, and in strict compliance with international law and with respect for Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The goal of combating terrorism must not become a pretext for solving this or that geopolitical issue of dubious legitimacy, which is exactly what the United States is doing in Syria. Instead of being drowned in rhetoric about Russia — and by the way, next time I am going to count the number of times Ambassador Haley mentions my country — what we are insisting on is a prompt end to the occupation-style efforts of the so-called coalition, which, among other things, would have a definite humanitarian impact, enabling the Syrian Government to address the issue of restoring normal life in all the areas that have been liberated from terrorists, including in the north and the east of the country.
Closing the coalition’s Al-Tanf military base would solve the problem of the internally displaced persons in the Rukban camp. In that connection, we would also like to point out that every effort should be made to deliver aid via the most direct routes, as provided for in the humanitarian resolutions on Syria. It is important that today’s resolution calls for speeding up the immediate deployment of humanitarian mine-clearing operations throughout Syria.
It also reiterates the demand that all parties demilitarize medical facilities, schools and other civilian infrastructure and refrain from establishing military positions in residential areas, something that the illegal armed groups have frequently been guilty of. The conflict’s flashpoints are more clearly identified, and are not limited to eastern Ghouta and Idlib, and that includes Raqqa, which the coalition has laid waste. It also expresses indignation at the militias’ shelling of Damascus, in which our Embassy has been hit several times.
We know that the humanitarian situation in Syria is dire and in urgent need of effective measures, but we can see perfectly well that the propagandistic picture being painted of eastern Ghouta is identical to the loud campaign in late 2016 during the counterterrorist operation to liberate eastern Aleppo. We must engage not just with eastern Ghouta, but with Raqqa, Rukban, Foah, Kefraya and Yarmouk. Every area of Syria should get help.
The resolution emphasizes the importance of supporting the restoration of stability in the areas that civilians are returning to, which in our view sends an unambiguous message to those capitals that continue to make restoration assistance conditional on a specific transitional direction in the political process. It stipulates that the humanitarian priorities for Syria in 2018 are not limited to Under-Secretary-General Lowcock’s five requests. The agenda is far broader. We hope in particular that the specialized United Nations agencies and their partners will be sensitive to requests from the Syrian authorities.
In conclusion, I would like to express my deep concern about the public statements by certain United States officials threatening aggression against Syria, a sovereign country. This is a warning that we will not countenance any arbitrary interpretation of the resolution that has just been adopted. We demand an end to this irresponsible and hateful rhetoric. Rather, there should be joint efforts to settle the conflict in Syria on the basis of resolution 2254 (2015).