Statement by Vassily Nebenzia, Permanent Representative of Russia to the UN, at the open VTC of UNSC members on the humanitarian situation in Syria
We thank M. Lowcock for the briefing. We also listened carefully to the philippic of Ms. Sirkin.
Yet another time we discuss humanitarian situation in Syria. And yet another time we hear from some of you that the cross-border mechanism (CBM) is the “magic solution” for humanitarian problems in Syria. The CBM that in fact has become a political tool for drawing lines of division inside Syria. Yet you forget to mention not only that it is incompatible with international law and humanitarian principles, but that it never functioned in line with resolution 2165. We repeatedly pointed at that but it was simply ignored. What is even more disturbing is that CBM is used as a leverage against cross-line and as pretext and excuse not to engage seriously in humanitarian deliveries from within Syria. That, in our view, borders with sabotage. And this is not just a slogan. We have concrete facts that we can present.
We welcome the UN and SARC joint assessment mission to western Aleppo. We would like to hear more about the situation on the ground and what is left after the terrorists were pushed back from there. What are OCHA’s plans on how to assist the development of this area? We would also like to hear about cross-line delivery to Daret-Izza and Atareb in the North-West of Syria which was approved by Damascus but was not performed by the UN under the pretext of spreading coronavirus from government-controlled areas to Idlib. There are only 255 reported cases in Syria. May be, according to this logic, we should have stopped humanitarian deliveries to Idlib from coronavirus-hit territories from where they come?
We heard Mr. Lowcock’s assessment of the overall situation in the North-East of Syria, including in the Al-Hol camp.
We would be also interested to hear about the situation in Rukban camp and learn more about the five commercial trucks that delivered goods to “Rukban” local market.
We hoped to hear from USG Lowcock an assessment of the impact of the US Administration “Caesar Act” on the humanitarian situation in Syria and on the lives of ordinary Syrians. It’s hard to understand how these measures correlate with the proclaimed aim to ensure the best options for humanitarian assistance? Don’t try to convince us that unilateral sanctions and coercive measures enforced by Western countries against Syria do not affect humanitarian efforts. These reassurances are hypocritical. Your waivers and exemptions do not work. With one hand you advocate humanitarian assistance, through CB first and foremost, with another you choke ordinary Syrians.
I cannot but regret that the report by the Secretary-General on humanitarian issues contains the call to cooperate with the so-called IIIM – an illegitimate structure that was established to implicate Syria. M. Lowcock mentioned that he welcomed Syrian students moving in the country to receive their diplomas. However, he failed to mention that 2000 of them could not leave Idlib, because terrorists prevented them from doing so.
Now on Brussels Donor Conference. We saw the financial report by the European Commission. The figures look impressive, but they are not too transparent when it comes to the recipients of this assistance. Who exactly are these recipients in Syria? Which Syrians received this assistance? We stress again that holding Brussels conferences on Syria without Syria looks at best questionable.
Many of you spoke on the deconfliction mechanism in Syria. In this regard we would like to underscore that this mechanism was a voluntary arrangement. It has neither the mandate of the Security Council, nor any other legal basis.
We repeatedly signaled the drawbacks of the mechanism. This was also consistently ignored. One of its main deficiencies is that the information provided by OCHA comes from unknown and unidentified sources. They couldn’t be verified. At the same time our own inquiry repeatedly proved that some of the de-conflicted sites were in fact used as terrorists’ headquarters or hide-outs and thus couldn’t be granted a humanitarian status. Last September we organized a special media event in the UN Headquarters where we demonstrated with facts the deficiencies of this mechanism.
Information provided was used by terrorists and their backers to deliberately mislead the UN and the international community. It repeatedly triggered false accusations that civilian sites were bombed by Syria or Russia. The functioning of the DM was one of the pretexts to establish the Board of Inquiry. Conclusions of the Board itself proved the deficiencies of the DM. The Russian Ministry of Defense was compelled to use its resources to investigate the findings of the BoI and provide its own conclusions. We will be sharing those with you.
It is also difficult to understand why the Government of Syria was not a direct party to the mechanism. Russian representatives in Damascus, Geneva and New York will no longer accept any lists of objects for de-confliction. We suggest that from now on OCHA settles the issue of deconflicted sites with the Syrian Government. This will be the right way to proceed.
Russia respects and will continue to respect its obligations under the international humanitarian law. We stressed many times that Russian Air Force uses an efficient system of target verification that excludes possibility of civilian sites being targeted. I say this to reassure those of you who fear that humanitarian deliveries in Syria will now become targets – this is not true. Russia never hit any civilian convoy. Our close coordination with the Syrian Government which in fact approves all aid deliveries provides additional guarantees.
I have a rhetorical question. I fail to remember any complaints from UN agencies about deficiencies of deconfliction mechanism in Raqqa, Baghuz, or Hajin. However, today we hear about a terrible situation in healthcare system in the North-East of Syria. You know why? Because Raqqa, for example, was ruined to the ground with all its hospitals. How many Boards of Inquiry were set up then by the UN?
We also would like to hear from OCHA updates on the implementation of “Declaration of Commitment on Compliance with IHL and Humanitarian Assistance” signed by some armed opposition groups under OCHA’s auspices. How do these armed groups respect it and what are these groups? And how does the UN monitor implementation of their commitments?
In conclusion let me reiterate that we should de-politicize the Syrian humanitarian file, as well as the overall Syrian dossier, and ensure that humanitarian aid is delivered in Syria in accordance with humanitarian principles.