Statement by First Deputy Permanent Representative Dmitry Polyanskiy at UNSC briefing on the humanitarian situation in Syria
We thank Martin Griffiths for sharing his insights.
Colleagues, it will not be an overstatement if I say that in the context of our today’s agenda all of us are concerned over the future of the cross-border mechanism (CBM) of humanitarian deliveries to Syria, which will expire in July this year. We have heard (and will surely hear more) opinions about the importance of this mechanism for Syrian refugees and the need to renew or even expand it. You know that we have a different view of this. We cannot ignore the fact that the CBM, if we call things by their real name, violates sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria.
Nevertheless, a year ago we let you convince us that CBM should remain until cross-line deliveries start working at their full capacity. This is how UNSC resolution 2585 appeared. It also contains some other elements, in particular support for early recovery projects.
Implementation of 2585 stalled from the very beginning, and the reasons were crystal clear. None of you, colleagues, wished to assume responsibility for proper work with Idlib’s terrorists in order to make them stop sabotaging cross-line convoys. As a matter of fact, you only had some second thoughts in January this year, when it was time to extend the CBM for six months. So you tried to convince us that there were some positive trends on the ground that should be supported. We tried to look at all this from your perspective and agreed to renew the CBM for half a year – as an advance, so to say. What do we have now? Basically, it is the same situation.
Speaking about establishing sustainable humanitarian deliveries from Damascus, in particular to Idlib, 4 cross-line convoys in a year can hardly be called a success. Talks about the lack of security in the area required to ensure passage of humanitarian convoys only begin in the context of cross-line deliveries. Whereas nothing seems to stand in the way of endless cargo flow through “Bab Al-Hawa” crossing point. Even if the number of cross-line convoys increases to six or seven by the moment the CBM expires, it will not change the overall picture. We see no systemic efforts here.
Despite high demand for early recovery projects that are envisaged by UNSC resolution 2585 and needed to guarantee decent living conditions and subsistence for Syrians, at this stage all we can do is welcome the intentions of the United Nations to enhance such work. Martin Griffiths repeatedly expressed himself in favor of building up efforts at this track. In fact, cumulative effect of restoring basic infrastructure and thus strengthening resilience of the Syrian community is able to save a huge portion of donors’ money. Martin, we do support you in this and regret that basic logic, according to which Syria badly needs humanitarian recovery, does not find any understanding with the donors, among whom there are signatories of UNSC resolution 2585.
The main problem, which is incompatible with UN principles, is that donor states keep furnishing implementation of early recovery and reconstruction projects with political pre-conditions. To our regret, it is very hard for the United Nations to withstand this pressure. A clear confirmation of this is an internal Secretariat’s guideline called “Parameters and principles of UN humanitarian assistance in Syria”, containing political conditions, that was never cancelled.
Let me be frank –your efforts to keep the CBM at any cost make you look like parents of an indolent pupil who is about to be expelled from school. You do your best to have this pupil stay for another school year. As you surely know from your life experience, nothing good usually comes out of such spoiled children. But you, in defiance of all facts, take all efforts to present your progeny as a model student. Unfortunately, choice of one of the briefers for this meeting clearly points at that.
As we told you on many occasions, our discussion of the developments in the Idlib terrorist enclave and explicitly lopsided treatment of this episode by some Council members has run over time. You want to preserve the status quo which is uncomfortable even for yourselves at any cost, while not proposing any solutions and refusing to accommodate Damascus’s legitimate demands. We are not okay with that. We cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that terrorists from HTS (recognized as such by the international community) usurp the authority and manipulate humanitarian assistance, which, if wished, can be easily arranged to arrive from Damascus. But you show no such wish, which leaves us no reason to preserve the cross-border mechanism. In parallel to this, Nusra fighters openly state that they are not going to let through humanitarian cargo from Damascus to the detriment of the CBM. As for the three zones of Turkish operations in northern Syria, there is still no domestic procurement of these areas at all, in spite of the fact that Damascus timely accommodates all UN requests.
We cannot fail to notice that the United Nations still tries to sidestep the problem of a devastating impact of illegal unilateral sanctions of the EU and US on the Syrian economy and international humanitarian assistance to this country. As a result, ordinary Syrians become hostages of this, as they have no access not only to their oilfields, but also to farmlands that used to be a breadbasket of the region. Washington that occupies these Syrian lands, for quite some time has been manually causing hunger in the country which was once very self-sufficient in terms of food. General License 22 on Syria, issued by the US Department of the Treasury on 12 May, authorizes access of north-western and north-eastern areas of Syria to private foreign investment. In fact, it authorizes Washington to rob Syria of its grain in cross-Euphrates area.
We regret that leadership of the United Nations has not been able to give a proper assessment to this illegal activity of the United States in Syria, including yesterday, when we were discussing problems related to global food security. In the meantime, if this situation that runs counter to the international law was prevented, it would make life much easier not only for Syrians, but also for their neighbors, to whom Syria used to sell excesses of food before the American intervention.