Statement by First Deputy Permanent Representative Dmitry Polyanskiy at UNSC briefing on the political and humanitarian situation in Syria
We thank SESG Pedersen and UN OCHA Operations Director Rheena Ghelani for the briefings about the political and humanitarian situation in Syria.
We stand for promoting the Syrian-led and Syrian-owned political process under UN assistance. We support the efforts of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General to deliver on his mandate that is stipulated in UNSC resolution 2254. The Constitutional Committee is the key element of this process that supports the direct inter-Syrian dialogue on the constitutional reform.
At this moment, meetings of the Editorial Board of the Constitutional Committee have been put on hold, i.a. due to the fact that Geneva forsook its status of a truly impartial negotiations platform after Switzerland had joined anti-Russian and likewise anti-Syrian sanctions. We hope this problem will be overcome either by picking a different platform or by providing safeguards by the Swiss side to the arriving delegates.
The situation in Syria remains rather alarming. Apart from the hotspots in the territories that are not controlled by Damascus, first of all in Idlib and cross-Euphrates area, the situation in the north of the country also produces some destabilizing effect.
Idlib has long turned into a terrorist enclave of “Hayat Tahrir al-Sham”. Fighters have not withdrawn from the southern de-escalation zone, M-4 highway has not been unblocked, there are no joint patrols, moderate militants have not been separated from terrorists. The fact that Western states patronize HTS fighters leads up to a situation where terrorists seek to expand their control beyond Idlib.
What remains a serious problem is encouragement of Kurdish separatism by Washington and deepening of Syria’s territorial divide through the continuing illegal presence of the United States in cross-Euphrates and Al-Tanf. Besides, Americans and their allies condone reincarnation of terrorist structures and arbitrariness in refugee camps Al-Hol and Rukban.
As for Rukban, whose inhabitants are the cause of ostentatious concern of our American colleagues in the Council, let me emphasize the following. Over the recent nine months only 730 refugees have been able to exit from Rukban to government-controlled territories. The others are being held forcefully by pro-American illegal armed formations. By our reports, hostages of the fighters have no access to humanitarian assistance and education. The US commando turns out incapable of providing security guarantees on the territories under its control and still impedes the arrival of a joint mission of the Russian Center for Reconciliation and international humanitarian organizations that should assess the real situation in the camp and evacuate the remaining refugees. It is the United States that, as the occupying power, bears the entire responsibility for civilians residing in the camp.
Another destabilizing factor is Israel’s attacks against Syria that systematically violate the air space of Syria and neighboring states, which target civilian objects. Syrians repeatedly addressed both the Secretary-General and the Security Council of the United Nations regarding the numerous violations of the Charter of the United Nations and norms of international humanitarian law. Those letters must not remain without a reaction. This is unacceptable. Besides, there are other episodes on which Secretary-General has been much more vocal, sometimes even before there was a position from UN member states.
Back to Idlib, we definitely welcome the dispatch of another humanitarian cross-line convoy to Sarmada. But let’s be frank. This is only the 8th convoy and we see no particular eagerness to increase the humanitarian provision of this insurgent province in cooperation with the Syrian government. This situation appears particularly cynical in light of the fact that Damascus dutifully issues all the required permits. We must note that both the UN Secretariat and those who cite allegedly poor security environment in the region, are working actively to ensure cross-line deliveries in other country-specific contexts, where the intensity of hostilities makes such operations much riskier in terms of security of humanitarians. We perceive this as another manifestation of double standards.
Socio-economic and humanitarian situation in Syria continues to deteriorate, first of all on the governmental territories where 67% of the population are living. Many have to struggle for survival. And this is not caused by the policies of the Syrian authorities, but rather by the US and EU sanctions coupled with emerging challenges, such as COVID-19, the food crisis, and increased incidence of cholera.
UN specialized agencies and the ICRC lack funds that would have enabled them to render urgent assistance to all those in need – the humanitarian response plan has only been financed by 25%. Western donors under the lead of the United States only make generous pledges, but in reality are busy robbing Syria of its natural resources. As reported by the Syrian Ministry of Oil and Mineral Resources, Syrian energy sector has sustained losses worth 107 billion USD as a result of the actions by the United States and the Kurdish administration, including the activity of Delta Crescent Energy and the consequences of the so-called Caesar Act.
In this connection, we attach great importance to the regular review of the international humanitarian activity in Syria in the framework of the informal interactive dialogue, aimed at transferring the implementation of UNSC resolution 2642 into a practical domain. This is important not only because we will need to make a conscious and well-founded decision regarding its renewal in January 2023, but also because we need Syria to develop fundamental conditions that will be needed i.a. to meet the returning refugees. For the neighboring Lebanon, accommodating Syrians on it territory is an unmanageable burden. The Lebanese authorities openly state this, however none of our Western partners is interested in addressing this problem meaningfully. Neither do they offer any alternatives for bringing people back to normal life, while humanitarians only act as passive onlookers, afraid that they might stir up the anger of Western capitals by making steps or producing initiatives that would not be welcome there.
The problem of refugees needs to be resolved urgently. Thus at the end of September a boat tipped over and sank in the Mediterranean which was carrying 120 to 150 Syrian refugees who had departed from Tripoli to Europe. One hundred of them died. The survivors are receiving assistance. Ships of the Mediterranean squadron of the Russian navy took part in the search-and-rescue operation. Such tragedies involving refugees send a grim and very alarming signal to all of us.
On our part, we engage closely with Damascus and do our best to improve the humanitarian situation on the ground. As of today, more than 2 million Syrian citizens got back to their homes thanks to these efforts. More than 1 million and 375 thousands of them were IDPs, and 1 million – those who returned from abroad. Since 2018, more than 22,000 socially significant and industrial facilities have been repaired and put in service, more than 4,100 facilities are under reconstruction at the moment.
Over the past month alone, 11 cooperative farms have been established in Aleppo, Latakia, Tartus, Daraa, and Suwayda in order to support Syrian agriculture. Easy-term loan services have been launched in the country, and in Deir ez-Zor an irrigation facility was put in service that made it possible to recreate approximately 7,500 hectares of farmland.
Besides, 921 residential facilities are under construction in Damascus, Deir ez-Zor, and Homs that will be made avail to the IDPs and refugees free of charge.
Apart from that, we are making efforts to preserve Syria’s cultural and historical legacy. Russian Academy of Sciences’ Center for Rescue Archaeology and the Syrian Department of Antiquities and Museums are engaging together to reconstruct the Triumphal Arch of Palmyra. First stage of the restoration process has been completed already. Within this project, Russian-Syrian experts undertake a set of measures for post-traumatic response, full-scale archaeological studies of the premises and elaboration of the restoration procedure.