Statement by Chargé d'Affaires of the Permanent Mission of Russia to the UN Dmitry Polyanskiy at UNSC briefing on the humanitarian situation in Syria
We thank Martin Griffiths for his review of the situation in Syria. We welcome Mr. Jan Egeland at this meeting, and we appreciate his well-weighed assessments of the situation on the ground.
This is our first meeting since we endorsed a six-month rollover of UNSC resolution 2585 earlier in January this year. At this stage we believe it is important to preserve and build upon the new trends in arranging humanitarian assistance for Syria. That is why we will not fixate on the fact that the scope of work done has been very limited. It is no exaggeration to say that it is our credit of trust to the Security Council, and our willingness to let the UNSC “newcomers” contribute to our common cause.
The UN mandate for cross-border humanitarian deliveries to Syria through “Bab al-Hawa” crossing point will remain effective until 10 July 2022. There are a lot of things that we need to do in the remaining months, so we have no time to get started slowly.
The problems that we need to solve in order to balance the UN humanitarian efforts in Syria are very numerous. In the next five and a half months we need to fulfil a number of critical tasks.
First of all, we need to ensure that the established mechanism for cross-line deliveries should keep working without interruptions and that it should be extended to the areas that cannot be accessed via the cross-border mechanism (CBM). We believe everyone agrees that this is a critical step, especially amidst Syria’s harsh winter. Therefore any delays with dispatch of humanitarian convoys, i.a. to Idlib, cannot be perceived as anything other than a deliberate sabotage and intended threat to the lives of ordinary Syrians. At the very minimum, we must fully implement the clear operational plan, articulated by OCHA in October last year. So far, there has been little progress with that. We expect our UNSC colleagues to adopt a principled stance on that matter.
We stress again that the United Nations should be present in Syria’s north-west in order to enhance control over the distribution of humanitarian assistance.
It is crucial to build up efforts to ensure early recovery of infrastructure that should provide essential services to the Syrians. Humanitarian organizations already got tired explaining one simple thing – no humanitarian assistance can be as effective as unimpeded functioning of hospitals, power stations, plants and factories. Donor contributions to these works will not only help improve the status of ordinary Syrians, but also reduce cost of humanitarian works while increasing their added value. In our view, this simple math-based logic is hard to argue with. We would very much want for our colleagues in the Security Council to double their efforts at this track.
In our future work on the Syrian humanitarian file, we must not ignore the problem of negative impact of unilateral sanctions and coercive measures on the lives of ordinary Syrians. Mr.Egeland also addressed it today. Besides, Secretary-General mentions it in his reports from time to time. Hopefully, SG Guterres will pay more attention to this issue in his subsequent reviews – until this problem is fully eradicated in Syria. We believe, he has enough reasons to do this. From the most recent documents, we can refer you to the reports by FAO (2021 FAO crop and food supply assessment mission to the Syrian Arab Republic, as of December 2021) and WHO (WHO-Syria Special COVID-19 report, as of January 2022), which address the devastating impact of sanctions on agricultural production and deliveries of medicines and medical equipment to the country. Those who suffer from that are ordinary Syrians that fall short on food and medical treatment. Let me repeat that responsible UN agencies write about it, and we appreciate their decency and a responsible approach to professional duties.
Unfortunately, the beginning of 2022 was marred by a real disaster in one of Hasakeh’s prisons. Taking into account the scope of the tragedy and associated threats to the regional security, we have requested a separate Council meeting to address this issue that will start upon the adjournment of this briefing. We trust that this special meeting will let us not only present our assessments of those events, but also give us an understanding of what is going on in the cross-Euphrates area that remains illegally occupied by the United States.
In response to the representative of Great Britain:
I took the floor again to express our surprise at the words that Russia’s non-participation in the deconfliction mechanism allegedly be unjustified and unacceptable, and violate norms of the international humanitarian law.
We find it even more surprising that it was Great Britain that accused us of that. It was Great Britain, whose armed forces have launched the total of more than 4500 airstrikes against the territory of Syria and Iraq. For example, take the attack on Raqqa in August 2017. It killed dozens of civilians, which was confirmed by the commando of the international anti-ISIL coalition. To that, official London provided the following explanation: “The risk of unintended killing of civilians cannot be fully excluded, mainly because of the inhumane conduct of the opponent who uses people as a human shield”.
Russia has always maintained that the issues of deconfliction of civil facilities and providing humanitarian assistance must be resolved by the United Nations while in direct interaction with the legitimate government of the Syrian Arab Republic, which is a UN member-state. We have repeatedly said that it is unacceptable to grant a protected status to the Idlib facilities that the UN cannot access and make sure whether they are used as civil infrastructure or have been seized by terrorists and transformed into military locations. I believe our Syrian colleagues can better than anyone else give firsthand information as to the real situation with deconfliction in that country.