Statement by Deputy Permanent Representative Dmitry Chumakov at UNSC briefing on the humanitarian situation in Syria
We thank Martin Griffiths for his briefing and for providing a detailed account of the outcomes of his trip to Syria and its neighboring states. We commend the active and constructive position of the new head of UN OCHA at the Syrian track. We also note the input of Ms. Amany Qaddour to this discussion.
We welcome the first successful humanitarian campaign of the WFP in Idlib that was carried out through the crossline mechanism. We realize that there were big difficulties in endorsing the dispatch of this convoy to the warehouse in Sarmada. A the same time, we call on all the stakeholders to note make do with the modest (though very important) and one-time result. We say it was modest because the WFP mission was carried out but partly. In the absence of a distribution mechanism, the job is not complete. People still have not received the aid. It is being stored in a warehouse under the supervision of anonymous, but ostensibly verified partners. We wonder if those partners are listed among the 80 NGOs from the recent UNSG report or not? How are we to make sure that the humanitarian assistance is not going to be plundered or sold out to those in need?
We also would like to ask Mr.Griffiths to elaborate on the developments around the joint UN/ICRC/SARC convoy. Are there any prospects that it will be dispatched to the towns of Attareb and Daret Izza, as it was agreed with Damascus in April last year? What efforts is the United Nations taking to that end?
We would like to reiterate our firm position that northwestern Syria needs resilient crossline deliveries of humanitarian aid. Half-measures will not solve this problem. Insofar as we can tell, Western members of the Security Council are not as eager as they should be to perform this crucial task, envisaged in UNSC resolution 2585 that the Council adopted unanimously. Neither are they too eager to put some pressure on the terrorist groups in Idlib whom they patronize. At the same time, they forgive Damascus no single delay in issuing permits for the work of UN staff on the government-controlled territory. This is what regards ambivalent attitude of our Western colleagues to the legitimate government of Syria and the remaining terrorists in Idlib, who are excused, by the way, even for the fact that the enclave is seeing an increase (as reported by the UNFPA) in the number of early and child marriages. It seems that when it comes to the Idlib enclave, the rights of women and girls are a far lesser concern for our colleagues than the same rights in say Afghanistan. It is double standards yet again.
We welcome the normalization of the situation in Daraa, in particular in the area of Daraa al-Balad. This was made possible thanks to the efforts of Damascus and under the mediation of the Russian military. Civilians are returning to their homes, additional humanitarian assistance is accessing the province via the channels of both the United Nations and SARC. We believe there is no point in following up on this further on. Syrians have far more urgent problems to address.
In particular, representatives of some Western states at the Security Council continue to assert that their sanctions against Syrian officials allegedly be very “targeted” and never affect the lives of ordinary Syrians.In the meantime. The US Agency for International Development (USAID) has published a rather interesting report that analyzes the situation in Syria against the backdrop of COVID-19 for the period from July 2020 to July 2021. I will indulge in citing a few of its paragraphs.
- “The US sanctions, which came into effect in June 2020, significantly contributed to the devaluation of the Syrian Pound and the spiraling economic crisis”.
- “The combined effects of COVID-19 related restrictions imposed from March to May 2020 and in June, along with the US Caesar sanctions led the exchange rate to devalue even more. As a result, the Central Bank of Syria was forced to devalue the official exchange rate”.
- “In January 2021, the US administration announced the continuation of sanctions against Syria to reduce flows of funding to the government, which led to even further devaluation”.
- “Coinciding with the implementation of the US economic sanctions and the end of a two-month lockdown, inadequate food consumption rates kept increasing sharply”.
- “Trade was also further limited by US sanctions, resulting in an increase in criminal activity and unofficial trade in the black market instead”.
- “COVID-19 precautionary measures and fuel shortages, currency depreciation and economic sanctions, importation constraints, and high transportation costs, all contributed to a general rise in the prices of key agriculture inputs and products from March 2020”.
Having published this data, USAID shows the real scope of impact of anti-Syrian US sanctions on each and every Syrian. Some our European colleagues do not drop behind. They make life more difficult for ordinary Syrians by trying to put the blame for this on Damascus – contrary to the obvious statistics and calls made at the international level, i.a. by the UN Secretary-General.
We remain very concerned by the situation in the “Al-Hol” camp, which is mostly inhabited by women and children. Since the start of this year, 74 premeditated murders have been committed in the camp. The situation threatens to spiral out of control. Against this backdrop, we receive reports about active radicalization among those living in the camp. A dangerously similar situation is evolving in the area of Al-Tanf. We remind that the occupying power bears the entire responsibility for everything that happens in these territories.
Another issue of great concern is the “question of water” which is pertinent for areas in norther Syria and cross-Euphrates region. 70% of population of these areas already have problems with access to drinking water. Grain crops are under a threat. The problem is not only in the depletion of the Euphrates, but also in the continuing interruptions of the work of water station "Alouk", which, as a great many Syrian infrastructure facilities, needs an all-out renovation and subsequent maintenance. We call upon the donors to pay attention to this and render the required support to the United Nations in implementing corresponding provisions of UNSC resolution 2585.
To conclude, we would like to point out that the new course of UNSG reports on the humanitarian situation in Syria pursues the right direction. However there is still much work ahead for all of us. In order to save the Council trouble in winter when renewing the cross-border mechanism of humanitarian deliveries to Syria, we call upon all UNSC delegations to engage in establishing crossline deliveries and contribute to normalizing the humanitarian situation in Syria and strengthening its territorial integrity. We emphasize again that resolution 2585 foresees no automatism in this regard. Everything will depend on whether its provisions have been properly implemented.