Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Statement by Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia prior to the the UN Security Council vote on the draft resolution on Idlib put forward by Belgium, Germany, and Kuwait

We are to vote on the draft resolution presented by the “humanitarian co-penholders” – Kuwait, Germany and Belgium. Let us first define what goals its authors proclaim and pursue. From the very start of discussions they tried hard to convince us they were guided solely by humanitarian concerns, never were after any hidden aims and never wanted to undermine the unity of the Council. If it had been so indeed, we would have supported the text without any doubt. However, to our regret, both the contents of the draft resolution and the working process on it unambiguously define the real goal of our colleagues: save the international terrorists entrenched in Idlib from the ultimate crushing defeat and portray Russia and Syria “guilty of what is going on in Idlib”.

Let me stress at the very start: it is the disregard of the draft’s authors for the need to combat terrorists that became the dividing line that does not let us support the draft we have in front of us. By doing so the “humanitarian co-penholders” attempt to ignore the existing agreed decisions of the Security Council. When calling upon us to observe the Sochi memorandum of 17 September 2018, the co-authors stubbornly refused to notice its key provision – the ceasefire does not work for terrorist groups.

Throughout the entire consideration period of the draft resolution we could not get rid of a sense of déjà vu. Outbursts of humanitarian activity of our colleagues strangely coincide with terrorists’ defeat in another region in Syria they had previously captured. This was the case with Aleppo and Eastern Ghouta. This is happening with Idlib at the moment. Gentlemen, you sing one and the same song over and over again. As the Syrian governmental troops approach terrorists’ strongholds, the latter turn into the Syrian opposition that counteracts the “Assad-regime”.

In Idlib, as our British colleague recently tried to persuade us, there turns out to be more babies than terrorists. There occurs absolutely unbelievable and unsubstantiated statistics about the alleged mass movements of people. Where do those people move to? Where do they live afterwards? When citing the population of Idlib, various sources (including the UN sources) provide figures that differ from each other by several hundreds of thousands. Besides, now we come to hear admonitions that 'Hayat Tahrir al-Sham' that is entrenched in Idlib allegedly has “emancipated” into a responsible structure that establishes peaceful life, and runs some kind of civil administration. We used to hear similar ideas about HTS’s predecessor – ‘Al-Nusra’. This is given that both groups have been listed by the Security Council.

Finally, there is one more aspect that is no less important. The “humanitarian co-penholders” threw in their draft resolution and sought to accelerate the process of its consideration by appealing to the reports about massive losses of civil lives in Idlib. But the reality is different. First of all, no massive operations have been held in Idlib or are held there at the moment. The province observes the ceasefire that is occasionally violated only by terrorists. Secondly, there is much doubt about the credibility of data that has been dumped into mass media and then found its way to the statements of our colleagues in the Security Council. On Monday, 16 September, we held a detailed press-conference, where, based on irrefutable data, we pointed out that the most “high-profile” cases of alleged Russian and Syrian attacks on civil facilities in Idlib actually were a fraud, and the deconfliction mechanism was used for spreading misinformation.

Today the distinguished representative of the United States started her statement by saying there were new reports about air-strikes on hospitals. We have not heard that statement by Ms.Mueller; she has justly pointed out the change of the situation on the ground that has occurred after 31 August. Since we are talking about hospitals again, I will give you two examples we cited at the press-conference. “The allegedly bombed hospital in Kafr-Zeita in reality turned out to be a dugout containing a hand-made medicine storage, that terrorists had dug 4 kilometers away from the real health facility. What was said to be a hospital in Ma’arat An-Numan that also had been allegedly bombed, was a police outpost 10 kilometers away from the real hospital. The outpost was used as a weapons depot. Moreover, neither the real hospitals that are safe and sound, nor the dugout and the police outpost have been bombed”. We received this data through the deconfliction mechanism from the United Nations that received it from reliable sources in Idlib, since we know that the UN is not present on the ground in Idlib. During July alone we received 12 coordinates that were false just the same. We demonstrated pictures taken both before and after the alleged attacks. Buildings and facilities, including the medical ones, remain untouched.

I understand that this information is unpleasant and uncomfortable for you. It is no coincidence that not a single Western Media outlet published anything about it. We agree that the Syrian conflict has no military, but only a political solution. In order to facilitate the process of political settlement, it would not be bad to withdraw all illegal armed formations from Syria.

Distinguished colleagues, we are convinced that one should not be guided by misinformation and lies when making decisions at the Security Council; even if this lies and misinformation are very profitable for someone. It is both unacceptable and immoral to speculate about sufferings of the civil population that remains hostage to terrorists whom some of our Western colleagues safeguard and patronize so carefully. Besides, we all understand that unconstructive and bullet-headed position of our Western colleagues that they have displayed from the very start and have never changed in the course of our work on the draft, discloses their true goals – make Russia once again use veto right on the Syrian issue. We warned the co-authors at the very start that their draft resolution in its initial form was doomed. They knew it back then, they know it now. However, despite our warnings, they put their draft to vote, thus deliberately damaging the Council’s unity. I have a question to the authors of the resolution: what do you work to achieve and what will you actually achieve by this? What signal do you send to the global community? Do you want to watch us use the veto right during the month of our Presidency? Is this how you mark the beginning of the High-Level Week? Is it your contribution to the establishment of Constitutional Committee?

I call upon the delegations that advocate for real settlement in Syria, and for depolitization of the humanitarian dossier, to join us and vote against the draft resolution of the ‘humanitarian co-penholders’.