Statement by Vassily Nebenzia, Permanent Representative of Russia to the UN, at the VTC of UNSC members on the situation in Syria
We thank Geir Pedersen for his briefing. We listened to Ms. Noura Ghazi. I think next time when we discuss political Syria it would be fair to invite a representative of the civil society within Syria to hear their stories about their suffering under the yoke of terrorists, foreign occupation, bombings. War is a very cruel thing. Nine years of war brought indeed terrible suffering to all Syrian people, whether abroad or within Syria.
As the special envoy informed us, he continues contacts with the Syrian parties with an aim of holding the third meeting of the Constitutional Committee in Geneva as soon as the restrictions caused by the global pandemic allow. There are some blueprints for dates and the Syrian parties demonstrate will and readiness for the dialogue on the basis of the agreed agenda.
We support efforts of the Special Envoy. For our part, we will continue to promote inter-Syrian dialogue both in national capacity and together with Turkey and Iran within the framework of the Astana format that has proved its effectiveness. At the same time, we remind that this is a Syrian-owned and Syrian-led process. External interference and imposing foreign agenda should be prevented.
In the Idlib de-escalation zone a ceasefire is generally respected and joint Russian-Turkish patrols continue. However, terrorists continue provocative actions and attacks, including those that killed Turkish troops. My US colleague appealed to Russia and Syria on the ceasefire, but I would appeal to her to listen who the violators of the ceasefire are, which was quoted by Geir Pedersen himself.
There was an attempt to seize several settlements but Syrian government forces managed to repel those attacks. All this once again proves that Idlib is controlled by terrorists. We hope that our Turkish partners will fulfill their obligations to neutralize these elements. At the same time, we will not allow “rebranding” of “Heyat Tahrir Al-Sham” into the “moderate opposition” which some are trying to promote.
In recent months terrorists have intensified their activities in other parts of the country, primarily to the east of Euphrates. ISIS attacked Kurdish units, militants escaped from prisons. Nothing is being done to improve situation in the Al-Hol refugee camp, as well as in the Al-Tanf area and the Rukban camp. We presume that achievement of stability and security in those areas is possible only if the control of legitimate government is restored. For those who demand that Damascus implements Security Council resolution 2254, we remind the first lines of this resolution: respect for the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Syria. We propose to start from the beginning and implement this paragraph first and foremost.
In this regard, we stress the need of finding solutions to Syrian problems through inclusive dialogue and putting an end to foreign occupation. This will also contribute to the return of Syrian refugees to their homes. After being suspended due to the coronavirus restrictions, the process of their return resumed. The Syrian authorities are taking all necessary measures to accommodate returnees, as well as preventing the spread of the pandemic.
Attempts to play with terrorists, use them for own purposes - this is just one proof of how the situation in Syria is politicized. We are convinced that all Security Council meetings on Syria in fact have a political connotation. Because the so-called “chemical” and “humanitarian” dossiers have become just a tool of pressure on Damascus. The humanitarian assistance to Syria is one of the clearest examples of political blackmail that we see from some of colleagues when discussing humanitarian access to government territories and to areas beyond Damascus’s control. We will discuss this in the coming days. We were appalled by the attack on the WFP humanitarian convoy in Lebanon, which was intended for Syria. In Lebanese city of Tripoli several trucks were attacked and burned by locals due to suspicions that it was smuggling Lebanese goods.
Tomorrow, the so-called Caesar Bill will enter into force in the United States. US officials (as we heard today) proudly boast that it is because of their sanctions that the economic situation of the Syrian people has become so complicated. By this they recognize that sanctions imposed allegedly against the Syrian leadership in fact hit ordinary people. This said they confirm that the purpose of these measures is to overthrow the legitimate authorities of Syria.
In late May the EU also extended unilateral sanctions against Damascus. We have repeatedly said that this not only cripples the country's economy, but also hinders humanitarian assistance to people. Advertised exemptions do not work. This is confirmed by the humanitarian workers themselves.
Regrettably, the UN is also used for political purposes. I mean the Board of Inquiry for the north-west of Syria. Despite the fact that we do not consider the creation of this Board to be legitimate, on an exceptional basis the Russian Ministry of Defense examined the summary of its report and conducted its own investigation.
We have repeatedly denied accusations that Russian Air Forces attacked civilian targets. We held a special press conference at the UN on September 16 — exactly 10 months ago — and presented photo proofs. This information was ignored because the political order to put pressure on Russia must carry on. Unfortunately, it has become a usual business to rely on unverified, false data and banal fakes. First of all, the problem is in sources of information. We are well aware why these sources are carefully hidden. They are always opponents of the Syrian authorities and masters of staged chemical attacks. At the same time, the methodology for collecting so-called “evidence” is always the same - social networks, remote interviews with witnesses who actually live in European and Western capitals, photoshop and my favorite, the most ridiculous one – interceptions of pilots’ exchanges.
For their part, the Russian military physically visited the sites of alleged strikes and were able to inspect the buildings and make photographs. One site is located on the territory of terrorists for the time being, so we only have satellite and reconnaissance imagery. Evidence of our Ministry of Defense proves that the sites were not subject to air or artillery strikes. At the same time, the Nayrab Palestinian refugee camp was indeed shelled by militants with civilian casualties. Our mission has these photos as well as eyewitness testimonies. We do not hide their names because they are real people who give true testimonies.
Analysis of the summary of the report leads to one more conclusion: the deconflicting mechanism has more than just gaps — to put it mildly — but it is used for misinformation. Because of false data a special UN Board was created. As if we were coming back to test tubes with alleged Iraqi chemical weapons. Some “deconflicted” objects did not actually correspond to the declared status. And some buildings were used by militants as headquarters.
We handed over all the proofs to the Secretary-General. We are ready to present these documents to all parties concerned. But I wonder whether you will be interested to study them.
I thank you.