Statement by Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia at UNSC briefing on the political and humanitarian situation in Syria
We thank Geir Pedersen and Martin Griffiths for the briefings.
I think it was extremely useful for all of us to listen to the sobering briefing by Mr. Khaled Erksoussi, the man who represents an organization that does not engage in theory-building around humanitarian assistance and does not politicize this file (which, to our regret, happens a lot, i.a. in the Security Council), but renders real assistance to real people on the ground. I assure you that he knows what is happening on the ground in Syria way better than anyone present in this room. Let me specifically thank him for the briefing.
This is our first meeting after the adoption of UNSC resolution 2585. Endorsing this document was not an easy thing to accomplish, but the Council’s unity on that sends an important political signal and gives us reason to count on having more objective and effective discussions in the future.
It is positive that the ceasefire is holding on the major part of the Syrian territory. However the situation still remains worrisome: there are bombardments along the perimeter of the Idlib de-escalation zone, clashes between Kurds and local Arab tribes in Syria’s north, military action in Syrian-Iraqi border region, and arbitrary attacks of Israel.
Social and economic situation is dire. It is further aggravated by sanctions and the ongoing plundering of the Syrian oil, which is being overtly exported while bypassing Damascus from the US-controlled oilfields in northeastern Syria.
Against this backdrop, we have noted clumsy attempts of the US military to justify the US occupation of south- and northeastern Syria in the public spotlight by referring to UNSC resolution 2254. We call our colleagues to not seek excuses for what cannot possibly be excused, but rather focus on implementing the resolution, which reiterates that sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of Syria must be respected.
We trust that the Constitutional Committee will soon resume its activity in Geneva. This process must remain Syrian-led and Syrian-owned, without external interference. We support G.Pedersen’s efforts at this track. We call on the Special Envoy to facilitate inter-Syrian dialogue, and to not furnish it with artificial pre-conditions and deadlines. We expect the Special Envoy to focus on convening the sixth session of the Constitutional Committee while not getting distracted by situations that are sometimes inflated deliberately. State of affairs in various regions of Syria needs objective assessment.
For example, the situation in Daraa. When considering this, we cannot sink into one-sided criticism of the Syrian Government, which is perfectly entitled to maintaining law at its sovereign territory.
Daraa al-Balad is in fact blocked by bandits. There is trouble with humanitarian access. Radical elements use people as a “living shield”.
On our part, we take every effort to improve the situation in Daraa, though local armed groups do not observe the ceasefire that was made on 14 August with the help of Russian military. Under this agreement, all those willing to exit the province were given an opportunity to do so. Servicemen from the Russian Reconciliation Center render assistance to the local population by delivering food. Russian medics are also deployed there.
As for the humanitarian part, I would like to stress that now that there is UNSC resolution 2585, the United Nations holds a mandate that allows for relaunching the entire system of humanitarian response for Syria.
Dear Martin, this will not be an easy exam for you, but a lot will depend on how the assistance for Syria is going to be transformed and on the unbiased approach of UN OCHA. It will largely determine the success of the Security Council in taking its own exam – the one that will check on the Council’s unity and effectiveness.
First of all, we will be looking forward to updates regarding the long-awaited breakthrough in establishing sustainable cross-line deliveries to Idlib. We hope that everyone in this room realizes the costs in public image that idleness in this issue is going to cause for the entire humanitarian response system. Given resolution 2585 which we already mentioned, it is at the very least groundless to say that allegedly there is no mandate to unlock domestic Syrian routes to the north-west. From now on, this principal issue is the responsibility of each of us and an important guideline for the humanitarian penholders.
Secondly, we need a prompt transition from emergency assistance that cannot last forever to a large-scale recovery and creating conditions for Syria’s self-sufficient development. Recovery of infrastructure is a prerequisite for the return of refugees to their homes and, subsequently, for reset of the economy. This is simple logic that will ultimately mitigate the donors’ burden. Social and economic tension in the neighboring states exacerbates the issue of return of Syrian refugees to their home. The international community should help Syrians pursue a sustainable livelihood on the Syrian territory rather than maintain the dire situation of refugees in tent camps, where they, in particular children, definitely cannot see any “light at the end of the tunnel”.
In this context, we call upon the Secretary-General and Martin Griffiths to keep promoting the interests of Syria’s post-conflict recovery.
Thirdly, we must not ignore the damage that unilateral sanctions against Syria, imposed in circumvention of the Security Council, inflict on the country's recovery. Therefore it is necessary to do the monitoring of those problems and of the ineffective humanitarian exemptions from sanctions. We expect that the Council will soon be briefed about it in detail.
Beside our other efforts, we continue assisting with COVID-19 response. Last month we delivered 250 000 vaccine doses and a million PCR tests to Syria. Also, we cannot fail to mention that all the remaining Russian children were evacuated from the “Roj” camp in July. We have taken all our children back home! Soon the 106 children remaining in "Al-Hol" will also return to Russia. Given the deteriorating security situation in the camp, we call on our colleagues to follow suit. This is what UNICEF is also calling for, whose leadership has recently returned from the region.