Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Explanation of vote by Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia before the UNSC vote on a draft resolution on cross-border humanitarian assistance mechanism for Syria (put forward by Belgium, Germany, and Kuwait)

Russia will vote against the draft resolution of “humanitarian penholders” on the mechanism of cross-border assistance for Syria.

The resolution that is adopted on a yearly basis has become obsolete. It does not account for changes that have happened in Syria since 2014 – the year when resolution 2165 was first adopted. Back then, this mechanism was created amidst emergency developments, when clearly there were no other ways to get humanitarian assistance to areas that were out of control of the Syrian government.

Now the authorities of Syria have regained control of the major part of the territory, therefore cross-border assistance to these areas is no longer needed. The crossing point at the border with Jordan has not been used since July 2018. The volume of deliveries that come through the crossing point at the border with Iraq, according to UN reports, is insignificant – these deliveries can be made both through official crossings that are under control of the Syrian army, and from the territory of Syria.

By the way, let me remark to my German colleague that the SG report on humanitarian assistance to Syria contains information that the cross-border assistance is used by 1 mln people, and not by 4 mln.

We also remind that the key provision of resolution 2165 – about direct access of UN humanitarian agencies – has not been implemented throughout all these years. Militants who still control some areas of the SAR, do not let humanitarians in there. They prefer to control delivery and distribution of assistance themselves. As a result, a great part of it is misused.

I repeat once again: this mechanism was created as a provisional emergency tool. Because the situation was very dire, it allowed for humanitarian deliveries on a notification basis. However, under the humanitarian law – the Geneva conventions, Article 70 of additional protocol 1 thereto, UNGA resolution 46/182, addendum 1 – humanitarian assistance should be delivered with consent of official authorities of the recipient country. Taking into account the current situation in Syria, we should get back to the established parameters of providing humanitarian aid. The second paragraph of the preamble of the draft put forward by the penholders contains reference to firm commitment to sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Syria.

In such case, the opinion of Damascus, which is the opinion of the recipient country, should be accounted for. This opinion is presented in the letter of Deputy Foreign Minister of Syria F.Mekdad addressed to Under-Secretary-General M.Lowcock of 10 December 2019. The letter gives a clear position of the government of Syria that preserving the cross-border mechanism in its current form is unacceptable. 

The draft that “humanitarian penholders” proposed initially, suggested that the resolution should be automatically extended from year to year. It did not suggest that the resolution should be ever revisited or adapted. The draft contained provisions that have nothing to do with the humanitarian component. We believe such approach was inspired only by a political motivation.

At the initial stage of consultations, we pointed out our general concerns in this regard. We saw that it was impossible to proceed with the draft that we had before us, therefore we put forward our own variant of this resolution. Our draft is focused only on humanitarian aspects, it suggests cancelling the crossing points that are not in use.

Let me stress that our document actually extends the mandate of the cross-border mechanism. Earlier we used to abstain from supporting the extension of this mandate, but we never blocked it, because we realized humanitarian needs of the Syrian population. This year we are ready to support it. The draft stipulates access of humanitarian assistance to the North-West of Syria, where this sort of assistance is still needed. We have made a step forwards to our colleagues.

What we got in response was a second, then a third draft from the penholders. They still contain provisions that are detached from reality. We believe this approach is not fair.

We have to repeat all this again, because our colleagues seem to have skipped our arguments at the stage of preparation for today’s vote. It seems our points were ignored deliberately. Being guided by humanitarian goals, we stand ready to renew the mechanism of cross-border humanitarian assistance to those areas that need it. A half-year term will let us see after those six months what we can and should do to use this humanitarian assistance efficiently. This should not be a justification for our colleagues who are ready to block access of humanitarian assistance because of the term of the mechanism’s mandate.

For the above reasons, we cannot support the draft resolution of the “humanitarian penholders”. Therefore, we call on all those who are genuinely interested in keeping humanitarian assistance in Syria rather than in pursuing political goals, to support our draft resolution.

Thank you.