Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Statement and right of reply by Chargé d'Affaires of the Permanent Mission of Russia to the UN Dmitry Polyanskiy at an open VTC of UNSC members on the situation in Syria

Mr. President,

We thank G.Pedersen and M.Lowcock for the final briefing on the situation in Syria in 2020.

In two days – on 18 December –UNSC resolution 2254 will turn five years. What results have we achieved to mark this date? What has been done to promote political settlement in Syria?

Let us recall that in 2015 Western states still cherished their hope to militarily overthrow the legitimate Syrian authorities by proxy – through the hands of criminals and terrorists. They received money, arms, training, military support of external actors, they were taught to do propaganda in Mass Media, shoot premeditated video footage and engage in self-promotion. At the same time, Damascus had to face with sanctions aimed at suppressing the Syrian military’s capacity to ward off terrorist threat even though it was a looming disaster for the entire region. There were literally attempts to tear the country apart.

Upon request of the Syrian government, Russia joined the counter-terrorist efforts in this country. As a result, the backbone of international terrorism on the Syrian soil was broken. As of today, terrorists have their last stronghold in Idlib and maintain activity in the north-east of the country.

Our Western colleagues actively engage in rebranding them, often trying to present terrorists almost as a real and politically valid alternative to Syrian state authorities.

In general, Syrian ceasefire holds. Thanks to the Russian Reconciliation Center, hotbeds of intra-Syrian confrontation have been settled. Thus, given our support, Syrian statehood was saved. Syrian state bodies never ceased to provide services to the population even amidst the ongoing conflict.

With the decisive contribution of Russia, Turkey, and Iran as guarantors of the Astana format and on the basis of decision of the 2018 Congress of Syrian National Dialogue in Sochi, the Constitutional Committee was established. This is the only dialogue format, where Syrians themselves discuss future of their country. We welcome convening of the fourth round of its Editorial Commission. As Special Envoy informed us, the Syrians demonstrated a constructive approach and finalized terms and agenda of the fifth session. The political dialogue itself could have started one year earlier, had it not been for the direct interference of Western states, who clearly showed once again that they were not interested in peaceful settlement in Syria. Members of the Council are well aware of all the details of this nasty story.

What do we see Western states do today? They are still in breach of the very first provision of UNSC resolution 2254 – respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of the SAR. After failed attempts to overthrow another unwanted government in the Middle East by force, our colleagues have picked up tactic of financial and economic suffocation. Besides, since the adoption of resolution 2254, sanctions have been on the rise. One can hardly consider it as promotion of political process.

Another breach of UNSC 2254 is US occupation of a part of Syrian territory and attempt to carry out another ethnicity- and religion-based separatist experiment in the Middle East. The US also bears direct responsibility for the deterioration of environmental situation which resulted from plundering and barbaric exploitation of Syrian national oil resources. This has a direct consequence – increasing incidence of diseases, including oncological, with people residing in the areas of oil production.  We also see an outburst of activity of terrorists emerging from ISIL sleeper cells. Syrian refugees for many years on end have been suffering in most inhumane conditions in camps “Al-Hol” and “Rukban” located in northeastern and southern Syria respectively. However, because of the US position, these problems remain unsolved.

As for the penholders of Syria’s humanitarian file in the Security Council, they prefer not to notice those sufferings in virtue of the Euro-Atlantic solidarity.

Mr. President,

Russia has done and keeps doing its best to promote peaceful settlement in Syria. However, its every aspect invariably meets counteraction of the West. Even the chemical file (which was once an immense success, as within it Syrian chemical stockpiles had been eliminated) in the hands of our colleagues turned into a tool of exerting pressure of the legitimate authorities of this country. The recent UNSC session where OPCW Director-General F.Arias was not given an opportunity to answer our concrete questions eloquently proves this.

We try to ease politicization of Syria’s humanitarian aspect. Surmounting the antagonism of Western countries, we seek to improve cooperation between the United Nations and Damascus in order to have all Syrians covered by humanitarian assistance, again as per resolution 2254.

Life in the liberated areas is going back to normal, which gives Syrian refugees an extra impetus to return to their homes. According to data provided by the Russian Reconciliation Center, starting from September, 2015, more than 860 000 people have returned to Syria. Reportedly, another 1 200 000 are willing to go back home. In November, with Russia’s assistance, Damascus hosted an international conference to facilitate the refugee return. Despite an intimidation and sabotage campaign launched by our Western partners, more than 20 countries and international organizations took part in the conference, which reiterated the importance of focusing global efforts on this track.

In this context, the issue of helping Syria restore its ruined infrastructure becomes ever more relevant. In the Security Council we have repeatedly witnessed the hard-line stance of our Western colleagues as to how such help can be provided. In fact, this is a demand to the Syrian authorities to reshape the state structure of the country to fit it into the donor-proposed gauge. In other words, instead of easing the sufferings of the most vulnerable categories of the population, namely – women and children, they impose a political bargain on Syria. In parallel to this, sanction-caused pressure on this country keeps increasing.

Mr. President,

Let me dwell on it in more detail. On 10 December, 2020, UN Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights A.Douhan issued an anti-sanctions guidance note for the period of COVID-19 pandemic. This document was a result of a two-day-long brainstorming that Special Rapporteur Douhan held in October with 24 major humanitarian organizations. Let me just quote the indicated attitude of humanitarians to sanctions: “Unilateral sanctions as the main obstacle to the delivery of aid, including medicine, medical equipment, protective kits, food and other essential goods. Multi-layered, confusing, non-transparent unilateral sanctions build an extensive system. Humanitarian exemptions remain ineffective, inefficient and inadequate”. Esteemed Western colleagues, do you realize that what you do to Syria looks increasingly immoral and does not reconcile with your high-sounding speeches on the need to protect human rights in the entire world? As for your attempts to write off all Syrian problems on the shortcomings of Assad regime, they are little convincing.

On our part I would like to note that Russian military who are present in Syria upon request of the legitimate government, almost daily provide food assistance to the population and take part in restoring the civil infrastructure. This work will continue.

Mr. President,

In conclusion let me once again raise the issue of a cross-line humanitarian convoy to be dispatched to Idlib. We are absolutely dissatisfied with how this issue is dragging on. The passive stance of the United Nations is highly puzzling, to say nothing of the worn-out coronavirus-related reasoning and talks on modalities of this convoy lasting for eight months by now. The silence of those who champion the cross-border mechanism, as well as them not condemning those forces who are hindering this convoy remains incomprehensible to us. Reports on humanitarian developments in Syria clearly show that Damascus complies with its obligations to deliver humanitarian aid on a non-discriminatory basis through contact lines to all parts of the country. After all, the assistance that UN OCHA reports of somehow make its way to the Syrians, doesn’t it? You may not like it, you can keep putting forward political conditions, but facts say that the situation in Syria has changed and will not get back to its conflict-ridden past.

I wish for our Western colleagues to understand that the lack of progress in establishing regular rather than one-time humanitarian cross-line deliveries to Idlib incurs irreparable damage on the cross-border mechanism that has been extended until June 2021 and once again highlights its inferiority and political bias.

Thank you.


In response to the representative of Germany:

Before this session we had a little discussion as to how Ambassador Heusgen was most likely to behave during the VTC. Our opinions split and we even made some bets between ourselves. Some of my colleagues argued that Ambassador Heusgen would read out a statement on behalf of humanitarian penholders and that’d be it. I thought otherwise and, frankly speaking, I won. Christoph, thank you for not failing me this time either.

In general, I agree with many things that you have just said. You said that the Security Council had failed Syria, that human sufferings were going on there. We do not argue with that. The Council failed Syria indeed. And the reason for this is you and the Western states, your hypocritical position, your attempts to say that things are white when they are black. All of this continues with regard to Syria, that is why people are still suffering. We totally agree with conclusions and diagnosis you make. What we disagree with is your vision of why it happened. 

You keep mentioning this “Koblenz Trial” – a trial on Syrians. It is some kind of your signature reference. I understand that people who are in your hands and who testify to you can say many interesting things, because they want to get out of this, be saved. That is why all those horrors and all that evidence that you are talking about – they are astounding, but you need to double-check on this, on all sources of information. At least, this is what we normally do. 

By the way, Cristoph, you have a good opportunity to prove that in Germany no one can remain unaccountable. There is such a magazine (though I don’t know if you read anything else but the New York Times), called Der Spiegel. We sometimes read it. Recently, this magazine published very alarming information that one of the leaders of notorious “White Helmets” Khaled Saleh was transferred to Germany. This man has a vast terrorist record, his reputation raises no doubt. There is evidence of his affiliation with extremist activity, i.a. killings of foreigners. This is why the German Ministry of Home Affairs, as we know, for quite a long time was objecting to this man being admitted to Germany. However, the Foreign Ministry insisted that he was. And he was not just admitted to Germany, he arrived there onboard of a governmental aircraft, as a guest (by the way, this reminds of another person who also arrived in Germany recently, which is yet another interesting story). Even if you, out of political considerations, want to turn a blind eye to this man's crimes, you will not be able to. We believe that you must investigate all crimes committed by him and by other "White Helmets" just as ardently, without any double standards. This issue simply cannot be resolved in a different way.

I would like to thank you, dear Cristoph. You have made this VTC almost your “swan song”, your legacy. We will remember you, and we will miss you. Everyone has already learnt your manner of engaging in discussion, and ask questions to the briefers on every occasion but the case with Director-General Arias, when you would assert the opposite – that ostensibly it was not normal practice to put forward questions for briefers. We will also remember you as a very cynical man, who promoted double standards in the Security Council, who regularly reads the New York Times and tries to draw some conclusions based on the materials of this paper that, I repeat. frequents our rubbish bin. In this, we will definitely miss you. 

In conclusion, I have to say that many our colleagues at the United Nations took the news that Germany would be a non-permanent member of the Council with great anticipation. However, thanks to you, they developed many questions as to whether the Council really needs that much dissent, division, and negative emotion.

Therefore, as I take it from my contacts here, I have to state that the number of those who welcomed Germany’s tenure in the Council, seems to have dropped dramatically. I think this draws a fine line under your presence here. So all the best to you.

Thank you.