Statement by Chargé d'Affaires of the Russian Federation Dmitry Polyanskiy at the UN Security Council meeting on Syria
We thank Special Envoy of the Secretary-General Mr.Geir Pedersen and Under-Secretary-General Mr.Mark Lowcock for their reports.
To our regret, today’s session falls within the overall picture of discussing the Syrian issue here at the Council. We see overemphasis and inflation of humanitarian problems, which definitely are in place.
We are also very concerned about the current developments. However, we understand the root cause too well and call upon everyone not to forget about it. This root cause is not the action of the regime and its allies, as our Western colleagues reckon, this is the action of terrorists, who by the way do not complain about lacking material and military support.
Do not forget that if terrorists had not come to the Syrian land and had not, supported by some of our Western colleagues, attempted to topple the legitimate Syrian authorities, Syria would not have encountered the devastating crisis, death of hundreds of thousand people, and flight and poverty of millions more. Neither Syrians not people from other nations will be able to ever forget about it. And the history will definitely condemn, as my British colleague pathetically put it, the “zealous protectors” of Western values who almost ruined an entire country and doomed it to unprecedented sufferings for the sake of their geopolitical ambitions. Same thing can be said about those who echoed their words here at the Security Council, thus replicating unverified and obviously false information in order to impede political process and national reconciliation. Though you, gentlemen, unlike your predecessors who lied about WMDs in Iraq, have no vials in your hands, but just YouTube videos instead, you are basically no different from them.
Russia by all means supports the efforts of Special Envoy Pedersen and takes active measures to promote political process and restoration of trust between the opposing Syrian sides.
As previously said, we carry out intensive work in the framework of Astana format together with Iran and Turkey, in collaboration with the Special Envoy and in coordination with the Syrian government and opposition.
I stress that this format is the only platform that is really promoting Syrian reconciliation.
The recent meeting in Astana format was convened on 1-2 August. Its distinctive feature was participation of Beirut and Baghdad in their new capacity as observers. The next summit of guarantor countries is scheduled for mid-September; it will be held in Turkey.
The meeting in Nur-Sultan was characterized by a constructive spirit; it reiterated the commitment of participants – guarantors in the first place – to search for compromise solutions and set forth efficient interaction.
We expect that we will soon manage to launch the Constitutional Committee, despite rigorous efforts of our Western colleagues who strive to undermine this process. Just like Geir, we remain optimistic about prospects to finalize the preparatory work at this track. At the same time we insist – and I stress this word – we insist that all stakeholders that have genuine interest in success of the political process, and sustainable settlement in Syria, should not put spokes in the wheels of these efforts.
We have walked a long way. Confrontational, misbalanced action or discussion, i.a. at the UN platform, will by no means promote political settlement of the Syrian crisis. Let me put it frankly: they will definitely impede the activity of UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen, which we do not want to happen.
Joint statement of Russia, Turkey, and Iran regarding Syria made after the Astana format meeting on 2 August explicitly pointed out the need to calm down the situation on the ground through full-fledged implementation of all agreements on Idlib, first of all of the Sochi memorandum of 17 September 2018. It also expressed profound concern regarding the increased presence of 'Hayat Tahrir al-Sham' in the de-escalation zone, it reiterated commitment to set forth cooperation in the interests of ultimate eradication of terrorists – given respect for sovereignty, independence, unity, and territorial integrity of Syria.
The situation in the SAR, especially in Idlib, was subject to discussion at the talks of Russia’ and Turkey’s presidents on 27 August, where the leaders reiterated Turkish-Russian understanding on this and other issues.
Idlib remains the main hotbed of tension. By now 'Hayat Tahrir al-Sham' has in fact turned this area into a springboard for attacks on the positions of the Syrian governmental forces and the civil population from the nearby settlements.
This month alone, militants carried out over 20 attacks on the positions of the Syrian troops, that killed over 140 and wounded approximately 230 Syrian officers. Several dozen civilians also suffered wounds. Besides, there are ongoing attacks on the Russian military facilities in Syria. In August only, our air base “Khmeimim” suffered four terrorist-launched rocket attacks.
If we choose to trust the words of our British colleague who said there were more babies than terrorists in Idlib, then it turns out that those babies have beards and know their way around latest samples of weaponry. Doesn’t it seem strange to you? It does to us.
In response to regular provocations of terrorists and in order to mitigate the threat they pose to civilians, the Syrian army supported by the Russian aviation was compelled to take retaliatory action. Thereby we should emphasize that this action takes place strictly within the limits of the demilitarized zone that should have been created a year ago in accordance with the Sochi memorandum of 17 September 2018.
Cessation of hostilities was addressed here, however no one mentioned that the Syrian Government had agreed to ceasefire in Idlib. This agreement was achieved in Nur-Sultan on 2 August, and had a condition: all sides should observe the Sochi memorandum that embodied withdrawal of heavy weapons. However terrorists from HTS rejected the ceasefire and refused to withdraw militants from the de-escalation line. Therefore no ceasefire was agreed on, however it is not Damascus to blame for that, but terrorists who keep firing from Idlib.
Russian and Syrian military take effort to make the real state of affairs in the Idlib de-escalation zone receive maximum broad media coverage. On 26 August, over 20 Russian and European journalists visited the area around Khan Sheikhoun in southeastern Idlib. Yes, I am speaking about the Khan Sheikhoun that became platform for the flagrant provocation of the “White Helmets” regarding alleged usage of chemical weapons by the Syrian troops – the provocation that we have long and exhaustively debunked. The journalists could see for themselves without any intermediaries how terrorists had used civil infrastructure for military purposes and examine the broad network of militants’ fortifications. We expected our Western colleagues to highlight this in their statements. Unsurprisingly, we heard nothing, though journalists from those Western States did not shy away and dared personally go and learn the truth about the situation in the terrorist-controlled areas.
As for other Syrian regions, we have concerns about the remaining instability in the North-East of the country. Despite the proclaimed defeat of ISIL, terrorists continue underground activity. They have vitalized their broad network of “sleeper cells”. The situation is also aggravated by lasting clashes between Kurdish units and sunni Arabs who have historically resided in those territories. Russia’s position on that matter remains unchanged – we stand for restoring territorial integrity and sovereignty of Syria as a guarantee of ensuring neighbor States’ national security and region-wide stability.
The overall humanitarian situation in northeastern Syria remains dire. Vivid example of this is the situation in IDP camp “Al-Houl” that finds itself at the territory out of control of the Syrian authorities. We have long been requesting the forces that stand in control of those areas to share information about what is really going on there. However, there is still informational vacuum regarding the developments in the Euphrates region.
There comes a reasonable question to “zealous protectors” of the humanitarian stability in Syria: Why do you pay attention only to the Idlib province? Are you indifferent to Syrians who live in the North-East? Is it not peaceful people who die there from the militants’ activity and have infrastructure destroyed? We have such data, and we share it. Don’t you have the information or are you simply not interested?
We are no less concerned about the situation in the Al-Tanf zone. To sum up what was said about all those territories, let me remind that the occupying State bears the responsibility for the population residing in the occupied territories in accordance with the Geneva Conventions.
Russia cooperates with the Government of Syria and specialized international humanitarian organizations and continues efforts to disband IDP camp “Rukban” situated in the zone under the illegal U.S. occupation and resettle its inhabitants. In late August, assessment mission of the UN OCHA and SARC carried out census of the camp’s civil population who were willing to exit Rukban. It is planned to let them (about 16 thousand people) out of the camp within one month from now. All in all, about 18 thousand refugees have exited Rukban since March. After evacuation, almost all of them could get back to places of their permanent residence at the territories controlled by Damascus.
We are still proceeding from the assumption that humanitarian aid should be provided to all Syrians throughout the area of the country without any preconditions. We believe it important to promote restoration of Syria that should be carried out in full compliance with provisions of the international law, the principles of neutrality, zero bias and non-prejudice. We should work to develop conditions for and assist with safe and voluntarily return of refugees and IDPs to places of their residence in Syria, protect their right to return and receive support.
In conclusion, let me share an observation about a striking pattern that we see regularly. Every time the Syrian forces gain advantage on the ground and start to push terrorists, our Western colleagues amplify their moans and calls to stop armed action, as if forgetting about our shared decisions to fight terrorism in an uncompromising manner. Then, as you could see today, terrorists become innocent babies, there appear schools and hospitals allegedly destroyed by the regime and by Russia, whereas in reality those schools and hospitals either do not exist or, if they do, they suffer no attacks whatsoever. We refute it, but nobody listens to us: their task is not to find out the truth, but to reverse Syria’s movement towards peace under the lead of its elected president and the legitimate government. Let me disappoint you, gentlemen, this process is irreversible. Consensus in favor of a new peaceful Syria owned by the Syrian people rather than Western protégés and mercenaries is already in place. Terrorists and those who support them are not the ones to hold the initiative. You will not be able to save them. The sooner you realize it the sooner peace comes to the long-suffering Syrian land and the more lives we are able to save. Do not forget about this vast responsibility to the history and generations to come that rests upon you today.