Statement by First Deputy Permanent Representative Dmitry Polyanskiy at UNSC briefing on the humanitarian situation in Syria
We thank Secretary-General and Martin Griffiths for sharing their assessments. We took note of the remarks by Mr. Iyad Agha.
We would like to share some considerations regarding Secretary-General’s report on the humanitarian situation in Syria in April-May this year. The report refers to a food and fuel crisis in Syria, which raises our growing concern. It is a pity that the report again fails to highlight the responsibility of the United States, which not only introduced unilateral sanctions, but also occupies Syria’s north-eastern territories. The population, including children, is starving, the work of social, i.a. medical facilities gets stalled. A lack of fuel affects the operations of water and energy stations, Syrian agriculture is also at risk. Humanitarians working on the ground in Syria complain about West-imposed sanctions that create difficulties with financial operations, logistics and other aspects that we addressed on numerous occasions. Humanitarian exemptions are not working. Claims by Washington and some other capitals that by imposing unilateral sanctions they allegedly observe their international obligations, and that their sanctions always remain targeted and well-calibrated sound false and unconvincing, and also demonstrate how ruthless they are to the Syrian peaceful population.
The already deteriorating humanitarian situation is further aggravated by tragic incidents that undermine security. What stands out in this context is a series of air strikes that Israeli air force launched on 10 June against the suburbs of Damascus. The attack damaged the tarmac and the building of the Damascus International Airport that had to be closed afterwards. As a result, all Damascus-bound flights were put on hold, including those of the UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS), which is a key humanitarian channel that provides lifesaving support to more than 2 million people. Such acts are unacceptable, as they cause serious implications for the people of Syria and create risks of escalation for the entire region.
We are surprised by the lack of reaction to this from all those who advocate for humanitarian deliveries to Syria. Apparently, our Western colleagues perceive Syrian recipients of humanitarian assistance in the governmental territory and outside of it as two different categories of people.
Against this backdrop, there have been reports that the United States found an opportunity to take care of their sponsored militants from ‘Mahavir as-Saura’ in Rukban camp. If true, this plan looks totally aweless, especially against the background of anti-Syrian sanctions. At the same time, it is much easier for them to take same sort of care of listed terrorists from 'Hayat Tahrir al-Sham'. For several years in a row, the panel of experts of the monitoring group of UNSC 1267/1989/2253 Sanctions Committee have reconfirmed that HTS has been profiteering from humanitarian assistance to Idlib, and that it constitutes one of their main sources of financing. So in order to keep charging its militants, Washington only needs to ensure that the cross-border mechanism (CBM) is renewed. We also note that recently, US political circles have revitalized discussion in favor of whitewashing these terrorists.
By incoming reports, there are more and more cases when Western weapons are sold by corrupt Ukrainian officials and later surface in Idlib. In a word, the terrorist in Idlib have nothing to complain of. Arms black market, that has been stirred up in Europe recently, is now a real treasure vault not only for them, but also for radical Islamists across the Middle East.
Today, many spoke of a need to renew the mandate of CBM in July, which was not unexpected. We also heard that there are many shortcomings at the Syrian humanitarian track, but all due to reasons that have nothing to do with the United Nations. To be frank, this is a rather controversial proposition. And we can hardly avoid a conclusion that there are double standards with regard to Syrian settlement. For example, take a recent collective address to the Council of high-ranking UN officials on the issue of CBM. We regret that almost nothing of this sort happens with regard to other Syrian matters, including early recovery projects and cross-line humanitarian deliveries. We find the results of UN engagement at this track rather discouraging, especially the fact that there have been only five cross-line humanitarian convoys this year. Is it what was meant when we were adopting resolution 2585 a year ago?
We are absolutely convinced that organization of humanitarian deliveries to all areas of Syria is possible in coordination with Damascus, and the Syrian government welcomes and supports this process. This became obvious once Al-Yarubiya checkpoint at the Syrian-Iraqi border was shut down. By the same token, cross-line procurement of Syria’s north-west may grow considerably once Bab al-Hawa checkpoint is also closed. We do not deny that marginalized terrorist elements block UN efforts and undermine trust in humanitarian workers at large. So it turns out that “the tail is wagging the dog” and our Western colleagues are okay with this. You had a whole year to prove the opposite. But we saw no particular eagerness in that matter that, say, could be compared to preoccupation with Idlib-based and other terrorists. In parallel to this, some our colleagues initiate politicizing of dialogue on humanitarian assistance for Syria. As a result, the Security Council is left unable to adopt modest, yet very important documents that would lay down the groundwork for a constructive discussion on the CBM. We cannot ignore all this unfavorable context.
In conclusion, we would like to request UN OCHA to provide more detailed information about the so-called Integrated Action Plan for Dignified Shelter and Living Conditions for the population of north-western Syria. What exact areas does this program cover? What is the progress of its financing? We would also welcome more details on early recovery projects that have received donor financing. We proceed from the assumption that analogous efforts need to be made at the government-controlled areas so the refugees returning to Syria have a roof over their heads.