Statement by Vassily Nebenzia, Permanent Representative of Russia to the UN, at the open VTC of UNSC members on the situation in Syria
We welcome your participation and presidency in this meeting. We thank Geir Pedersen for the briefing. We carefully listened to Ms.Wafa Mustafa.
We welcome announcement by the Special Envoy that the third round of the inter-Syrian dialogue within the framework of the Constitutional Committee will be convened in Geneva in August. We hope that Syrians will continue discussion of important issues of Syria’s future within agreed agenda if Covid-19 restrictions around the world due to which they could not get together for several months, will allow it. It is inspiring that the Syrian delegations to the Committee demonstrate their readiness for work and engage.
We support these efforts of the Special Envoy. For our part, we will continue to promote the inter-Syrian dialogue both in national capacity and together with Turkey and Iran within the framework of the Astana format which proved its effectiveness during a teleconference of Presidents of the three countries on July 1. At the same time, we stress that this is a Syrian-owned and Syrian-led process which must be safeguarded from external interference.
Parliamentary elections were held in Syria last week. This is a third electoral cycle that the country has been going through since the beginning of the armed conflict. By organizing elections, the Syrian authorities ensure that all power structures, both legislative and executive, function normally.
The overall situation in Syria is aggravated by socio-economic problems, which are exacerbated by unilateral coercive measures despite the call of the UN Secretary-General for their lifting amid the coronavirus pandemic. Those who impose sanctions do not hide that their main goal is to suffocate the Syrian economy and increase sufferings of ordinary Syrians with an eye to inciting social protests. It is also openly said that sanctions are not imposed on areas not controlled by Damascus. So-called humanitarian exemptions from sanctions do not work and our American and European partners know this. Their deception was revealed when they fiercely blocked a proposal to include information on the impact of sanctions on the humanitarian situation in Syria in the Secretary-General's reports. They would rather sacrifice the whole cross-border mechanism than have paragraph on sanctions find its way to the resolution.
For our part, we call for intensification of international humanitarian assistance to all those in need throughout Syria without discrimination, politicization and preconditions in coordination with the Syrian Government as provided for by UN guiding principles of humanitarian assistance.
In the Idlib de-escalation zone the ceasefire is generally observed. In accordance with additional protocol of March 5, joint Russian-Turkish patrols continue efforts to establish a security corridor along the M-4 highway. On July 7, joint patrols unblocked the highway until the village of Ain al-Hawr on the far end of the de-escalation zone. However, terrorists continue to destabilize the situation in the northwest Syria. There are reports of many terrorist acts as the one in Saju village and clashes between militants. We would like to hear from the UN about these acts of violence in non-government controlled territories. On July 14, a land mine was detonated on the route of the Russian-Turkish patrol near the settlement of Ariha. Shelling of positions of the Syrian government forces and nearby settlements has increased and the Hmeimim airbase was again attacked by drones. Terrorists from "Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham" and other extremists still control Idlib. All these provocations and terrorist attacks will be resolutely suppressed. Attempts to "whitewash" the terrorists will not work. Neither will the attempts to present the provocateurs from "White Helmets" as heroes. Recently an investigation on the financial frauds of the founder of this organization, James Le Mesurier, was published in the Netherlands. It yet again betrays those on whom our Western colleagues were betting.
The situation in the Northeast is aggravated by several dangerous factors: intensification of ISIS activities, including attacks against Kurds, illegal presence of the United States, protests by the local population against the Kurdish administration, deteriorating humanitarian situation in the IDP camps, primarily in “Al-Hol”. We are concerned with reports of prison riots, terrorists escaping or, even worse, released for bribes. We once again draw attention to the responsibility of the occupying forces. Escaping terrorists replenish the so-called sleeping cells and scatter throughout the Middle East. We also saw reports that a special building is being built in the northeast of Syria for trial of militants, including foreign terrorist fighters. We would like to hear from the representatives of the United States, which is in control over these areas, on the basis of legislation of which country and how these trials in general will proceed? We again receive information about extremists being trained and supplied with weapons by the United States in the At-Tanf area. Several more militants escaped from there and confessed to participating in attacks on governmental sites after undergoing training by American instructors. We would also like to hear comments on this information.
We also draw attention of the UN and the Security Council members to the reports that appeared in the Western press about a large-scale environmental catastrophe threatening the northeast of Syria and Iraq due to the barbaric methods of oil extraction in the fields which the United States "protects" as it says. On the request from UK a special UNSC session was held last week on potential ecological threats from “Safir” tanker offshore of Yemen. We would also like to request the UN Secretariat and OCHA to include information on this issue in northeast Syria in the briefing on the humanitarian situation in Syria on July 29. We once again call on the United States to immediately end the occupation of the Syrian Arab Republic and return its natural resources to the government which will be able to protect the environment. Syria loses up to 40 million USD in oil revenues monthly. To return its property to the Syrian Government would be a better US contribution than the one it announced at a donor conference on Syria in Brussels.
We once again call on Israel to stop airstrikes on Syrian territory. We call to stop foreign occupation of Syria, as well as attempts to pull Syria apart "piece by piece" and to freeze artificial dividing lines. Internal Syrian problems must be resolved through a broad and inclusive dialogue. It will also facilitate the return of Syrian refugees to their homes.
Given the upcoming re-launch of the Constitutional Committee, we urge everyone to support the political process by engaging with Syrian parties and encouraging them to a constructive dialogue. The only way to bring peace and stability to Syria is to return all its lands under the control of Damascus and promote political settlement through a comprehensive and inclusive dialogue of all Syrian groups of population. In order for this to happen as soon as possible, we should spare no effort.
I thank you.