Statement and right of reply 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 Under-Secretary-General Mark Lowcock for his briefing and we listened carefully to Ms. Amany Qaddour. I would also like to wish Marc [Pecsteen, the Permanent Representative of Belgium] all the best in his new assignment in Geneva.
Next time we would like to hear information on the repositioning of the UN humanitarian deliveries to the north-west of Syria in accordance with new format of work of the cross-border mechanism (CBM). We would be interested to receive more details in the future and hope that OCHA will be able to organize the second UN inter-agency mission to this part of the country to be able to make first-hand assessment of the situation on the ground. Since the beginning of the year, many changes have taken place in the north-west and it requires to be reflected through reliable information.
With regard to the difficulties the UN is facing with access to the territories previously supported through Bab Al-Salam border crossing we have the following question. As the Board of Inquiry revealed, “some armed opposition groups in north-west Syria have signed a Declaration of Commitment on Compliance with International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and Humanitarian Assistance under OCHA’s auspices. And this Declaration helped to structure the engagement of humanitarian actors with armed opposition groups”. We want to learn more about the Declaration, cooperation with these armed groups, how fruitful it is and how it helps OCHA to facilitate the provision of humanitarian assistance to the north-west of Syria especially under new technical circumstances.
We do believe that it is donors’ right to have certain accountability on the efficiency of their financial resources in terms of final beneficiaries of the humanitarian aid.
We expect that by the next Security Council meeting on the humanitarian situation in Syria we will see progress in cross-line assistance to the north-west. But not only to the NW. It is high time to engage fully with the Syrian authorities on increasing cross-line deliveries throughout the country. We also expect OCHA to report to us what measures in this regard would have been undertaken.
We once again want to draw attention to the fact that cross-line deliveries of humanitarian aid are growing, and it should be properly acknowledged. On 4 July the WHO carried out new road cross-line supply of humanitarian aid to the province of Haseke. In total, since the beginning of 2020 when “Al Yarubiyah” was closed more humanitarian aid has been delivered to the north-east of Syria than in previous years, including through the aforementioned border-crossing. It is a fact that speaks for itself. At the same time, humanitarian deliveries, approved by the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic, go both to areas and medical facilities under its control, as well as to those managed by the Kurdish authorities. It proves that the Syrian Government observes non-discriminatory principle of humanitarian assistance delivery. Don’t try to pervert this fact in your attempts to blame Syrians for their reluctance to cooperate openly and fruitfully.
In the north-east, beside the situation in the Al-Hol camp, we are seriously concerned about the high risks of environmental disaster that would impact the overall humanitarian situation and well-being of people living there.
During Council’s last week meeting on Syria we mentioned already the news spreading in the media about the oil spills. Such spills only from the “Rumeilan” oil field are accounted for 60 barrels per day for the last 2 years. A total of 50 thousand barrels have already leaked into the environment. From a damaged storage facility oil gets into nearby streams, poisoning the Euphrates drain. According to experts, it is an ecological time bomb not only for Syria but also for Iraq.
As a result, to the East of Euphrates – a well-known granary of Syria – each year cropland is decreasing and harvest volumes are falling. Negative consequences for human health are also obvious – the number of miscarriages and birth defects (including hemophilia, anemia and hypothyroidism), acute respiratory and oncological diseases, meningitis and skin inflammation have increased sharply.
It’s noteworthy that the US, occupying Syrian oil fields, do not provide either financial or technical assistance to solve this problem. With production of 100 thousand barrels per day, amounting to 30-40 million US dollars monthly, nothing is being done to protect the environment.
We regret that despite obvious relevance of this topic for today’s discussion, our request to have an additional briefer from the UN Secretariat was not treated appropriately. Such reluctance raises a lot of questions and may force us to ask for a separate UNSC VTC meeting on this topic.
The responsibility for the humanitarian situation in Syria lies with those countries who deliberately and discriminately introduce unilateral coercive measures and sanctions against Syria and pretend that this does not have any effect on the lives of ordinary Syrians. Deepening deficit of food and medicines in local markets and growing inflation which undermines buying capacities of ordinary Syrians, and such requisition of national resources additionally cut the abilities of the legitimate Government to overcome the socio-economic crisis. We find this approach inhumane and hypocritical.
We must register our dissatisfaction with the way the penholders conducted the extension of the cross-border mechanism. They put their interests above the Security Council common interests, and made us struggle for over a week and enjoyed themselves seeing our veto instead of a swift adoption of the resolution. We also regret that our Western colleagues chose to ignore the obvious: the increase in cross-line and the need to speed up efforts to make cross-line more effective in reaching all parts of Syria. Same applies to mentioning the need to assess the impact of unilateral coercive measures in Secretary-General’s reports. The French Ambassador mentioned today resolution 2532 where these appeals and calls of the Secretary-General are mentioned. But they failed to concur with it in the resolution that we adopted on CBM. That is again an example of double standards.
Some of our colleagues would rather sacrifice the resolution itself than have these important clauses in the resolution. I agree – accountability will come, but those who you may see held accountable in the end may not be those whom you consider usual suspects. Not all is measured in USD, but we regularly (almost on a daily basis) provide our bulletins on what we provide to Syria as humanitarian assistance. I hope you read them from time to time. But what is more important is that we have been saving the country from those who were or are still trying to ruin Syria, including from the outside, as you once did with Libya. With one hand you provide humanitarian assistance, with another you are trying to strangle the country. Your reassurances that it does not affect ordinary people convince no one. At least, they do not convince us or Syrians.
I thank you.
In response to the representative of Germany:
Christoph [Heusgen, the Permanent Representative of Germany], I am proud to be the target of your statements in national capacity. I am the usual suspect, always eager to hear from you. I think the rest of the Council also enjoy our exchanges. I do not recall the 24-hour rule, despite being a permanent member of the Security Council. I will check it. But as I said in my statement, be there a 24-hour rule or not, we will ask for a separate meeting because your reluctance to provide us with a briefer on the subject will prompt us to do so.
Replying to what Kelly [Craft, the Permanent Representative of the United States] was saying and, in fact, to what you were saying, this is not a domestic issue. This is an issue, which is bordering with a foreign country being in effective control of the territory where this environmental damage takes place. This is not our propaganda, these are reports that are coming not from Russian news as you like to present it most of the time, and not from fake news in the United States. These are reliable information agencies that provide this information and would like to hear about what is happening in the oil fields in the north-east that are illegally occupied and effectively controlled by the occupying power. That is it. Since you were not able to provide us a briefer today, then we will find a time and ask to discuss it separately.