Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Explanation of Vote on a draft resolution on cross-border mechanism of humanitarian assistance delivery to Syria

The Russian delegation abstained on the Security Council resolution on extension of the cross-border mechanism (CBM) of delivery of humanitarian aid to Syria.

Our voting reflects Russia’s principle position on the CBM. The mechanism was established in 2014, when the aid to certain parts of Syria could not be delivered from within the country. Since then the situation has changed. The Government of Syria has restored its control over the most part of the country’s territory. It means that humanitarian assistance can and must be delivered in accordance with the principles of the resolution 46/182 and international humanitarian law (IHL). At the same time we were guided by the intention to help Syrian population, which is in difficult humanitarian situation due to the long lasting conflict in this country.

Due to our consistent position, another important step has been made for gradual phasing out of the CBM. It excludes the crossing-point “Bab Al-Salam”, which covered only 14% of all CMB deliveries from outside Syria. At the same time, the Security Council extended the work of the CBM through “Bab Al-Hawa” crossing-point for another 12 months. Regular and UN interrupted provision of humanitarian aid to this area of Syria will be continued.

We repeatedly underscored that the CBM in Syria does not reflect minimal requirements of the IHL. The UN still has no presence in Idlib de-escalation zone which is controlled by international terrorists and fighters. Therefore it’s impossible to control how humanitarian assistance is delivered and who are its final beneficiaries. It’s not a secret that the terrorist groups, listed as such by the UN Security Council, control certain areas of the de-escalation zone and use the UN humanitarian aid as a tool to exert pressure on civil population and openly make profit from such deliveries. Direct as well as indirect proofs of these acts are becoming more and more numerous.

Moreover, the cross-border mechanism was used by some external players as a tool to freeze dividing lines in Syria thus jeopardizing integrity of Syria breaking apart its regions. It contradicts the principle of respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic, which has been repeatedly confirmed in the Security Council resolutions, including this resolution. We remember how vehemently a number of our colleagues tried to oppose the closure of the “Al Yarubiyah” border crossing last January, which provided  humanitarian deliveries to the north-east of Syria in the framework of the CBM. They consistently misled the international community that there were no other ways to help civilian population in that area. As it turned out, this was just a political game. After the closure of “Al Yarubiyah” the Syrian government expressed its readiness to promptly coordinate the deliveries of UN humanitarian aid from Damascus. After lengthy delays from the humanitarian agencies on July 4, the WHO carried out another road cross-line supply of humanitarian aid to the province of Haseke. In total, since the beginning of 2020 when “Al Yarubiyah” was closed, more humanitarian aid has been delivered to the north-east of Syria than in previous years, including through the aforementioned border crossing. It is a fact that speaks for itself. At the same time, humanitarian deliveries approved by the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic go both to areas and medical facilities under its control as well as to those, managed by Kurdish authorities. It proves that the Syrian Government observes non-discriminatory principle of humanitarian assistance delivery.

The Syrian Government has confirmed its readiness to provide cross-line humanitarian supplies to the Idlib de-escalation zone. However, these efforts are hindered. We urgently call the UN to arrange and increase the deliveries to all parts of Syria from within the country, including to Idlib.

Coming back to the text of the adopted resolution, we cannot but note how desperately our Western colleagues opposed reflecting in the resolution the negative impact of their unilateral sanctions imposed on Syria. These coercive measures seriously undermine not only the socio-economic situation in Syria, but also impede activities of many humanitarian NGOs that are ready to help the population in territories controlled by Syrian official authorities. So-called “humanitarian exemptions” from sanctions regimes do not work. This is confirmed by humanitarian workers themselves. Sanctions have a “paralyzing effect”, as NGOs and third countries are scared of being sanctioned if they join efforts with authorities in Damascus.

We proposed that the resolution requests the UN Secretary-General to prepare a report on the assessment of Western sanctions impact on the Syrian economy, how much they affect ordinary citizens and provision of humanitarian assistance. Our Western colleagues were ready to sacrifice the entire CBM but prevent this amendment from being adopted. Despite this hypocrisy, they cannot “sweep the truth under the rug”. Blocking our amendment once again revealed their “double standards”.

We also want to note that the co-penholders of the resolution ignored from the very beginning our principle concerns. It forced us to block the German-Belgium draft twice and present our alternative texts. If not for this we could have avoided “11th hour” adoption of the resolution after technical expiration of the CBM. We want to remind the authors of this resolution as well as penholders of other dossiers in the Security Council that the so-called “penholdership” is not a privilege but rather a special responsibility vis-a-vis other Members of the Security Council as well as the whole international community.

Nonetheless, the result has been achieved. The Russian Federation intends to follow the provisions of the resolution consistently and in a transparent manner. We hope that our western colleagues will stop ignoring the evolution of the situation in Syria and will encourage international humanitarian workers to cooperate with official Damascus. Notwithstanding the fact, that the part of the civil population of Syria is still in need of humanitarian aid channeled through the CBM, it’s high time for a transition to the humanitarian assistance provided in line with the IHL.