Statement by Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia at the UN Security Council Meeting on Syria
What comes to my mind now is briefings by Mark Lowcock on, say, Yemen or Libya, where both the tone and presentation are completely different from those at briefings on Syria. Don’t you have the same feeling? It is not the first time such a thing comes to my mind.
As usual, today we heard another portion of invectives against Syria and Russia. Colleagues spouted figures, quotes and emotional testimonies. By the way, we know the price of some of those emotional testimonies. We remember leading Western Media, e.g. “New York Times”, inflate the tragedy of a Syrian boy Omran Daqneesh from Aleppo. However, after Eastern Aleppo had been liberated, this turned out to have been a staged episode. Later on, the boy’s parents confirmed this. Today my British colleague accused Russia of mocking at the Security Council. I do not intend to turn this meeting into a contest (by the way, I do not know what exactly she held for a mockery), but we remember a mockery at the Security Council that comes from those countries who are used to blaming Russia for everything.
The goal of those calls and invectives is obvious. The goal is to have terrorists remain in Idlib in order to use them as a tool against the legitimate Syrian authorities in the future. This was the case every time a terrorist enclave in Syria was almost eradicated. This was the case in Eastern Aleppo, as well as in Eastern Ghouta. Now the propaganda machine fires all of its artillery guns because of the situation in Idlib. It is absolutely clear for us. I wish people who believe in this provocation were not so naïve not to understand what really stands behind the calls we hear today. To preserve terrorist presence in Idlib – this is the main goal our Western colleagues pursue. Convening of this meeting at this uneasy moment gives us another opportunity to shed light on the true state of affairs around the humanitarian situation in Syria.
Yesterday the Russian Defense Ministry held a briefing that was also dedicated to the real humanitarian setting in Syria. Our Defense Ministry, acting in a spirit of openness, always invites foreign colleagues who hold accreditation in Moscow to attend briefings. However, if they once again showed lack of interest in discovering the truth, we will give you a summary of this briefing now.
I believe that a part of what was said during the briefing will be the answer to my British colleague who likes asking questions in this Chamber, and often does it in a prosecutor’s tone. As highlighted by the previous speakers, the situation inside Idlib and around it causes real concern, which, however, has reasons other than those presented in fake news. The real matter of concern is the intensified activity of terrorists from “Hayat Tahrir al-Sham” who attack civil population and make them victims of criminal provocations. Thereby we point out that jihadists enhance their military capacity through obtaining more ordnance of foreign production, i.a. air vehicles and multiple rocket launchers. Today Mark Lowcock humbly kept silent about the number of victims of these attacks by terrorists.
The humanitarian situation in Syria remains subject to speculations. A recent blatant example was the information about alleged strikes by Russian Air-Space Forces at the market area and adjacent territories in settlement Maarat al-Numan in Idlib province launched on 22 July. I will now cite several extracts from the briefing.
“On July 22, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, citing the so-called “White Helmets”, reported on the attacks of the Russian Aerospace Forces on the al-Khal market and adjacent residential areas in the town of Maaret al-Numan in Idlib province. As a result, dozens of civilians were allegedly killed. These accusations were cited by individual European media and even representatives of the leadership of Western countries and certain international humanitarian organizations. The market is easy to find on the map of the Maaret al-Numan city. It is also indicated on the geo-maps of the corresponding Internet services. The Russian aviation was not used in this area on July 22 and did not fly there. On July 24 and 26, Russian unmanned aerial vehicles twice conducted reconnaissance of the site and the surrounding area to check reports of the destruction of the market in Maaret al-Numan. It was two days after the alleged strikes. Have a look at the screen – the briefer said – As you can see on the images obtained by means of control, there are completely no signs of destruction that would have inevitably occurred, if that area had really been hit by strikes using six air bombs. This is confirmed by the photographs of the Russian spacecraft taken on July 25, 2019, as well as the video taken directly on the al-Khal market in Maaret al-Numan, which we received the day before yesterday. As can be seen in the frames, the allegedly destroyed market is completely intact and functions as usual. It is regrettable that representatives of renowned international mechanisms and organizations once again fall prey to lies that is spread by terrorists (though it is easy to double check this), believe their falsifications and unverified information in order to put forward unsubstantiated accusations”. End of quote.
This lies, however, becomes a leitmotif of our today’s meeting.
The distinguished colleagues also had an opportunity to study the information provided by the Government of Syria about a video recording discovered with one of the eliminated terrorists. That footage showed the “White Helmets” rehearsing another chemical attack in the town of Murak. Fortunately, at least those plots were undermined after the footage had been published.
In this regard, we once again call upon the Security Council and the UN specialized agencies, including WHO, not to hurry up publishing unverified information. Data must come from verified non-politicized sources, that by all means must be double checked.
It was said today that Russia launches deliberate airstrikes against hospitals and schools. This is lies! I repeat it once again. The Russian Reconciliation Center is functioning in Syria 24/7. On many occasions have we suggested that i.a. Mr.Lowcock should come in contact with it in order to verify information about the facilities that have gone through the deconfliction procedures and that we allegedly attack. This is what needs to be done, instead of spouting baseless allegations here at the Council that are verified by nobody and based on very doubtful, rather than ‘directly verified’ sources as we are told.
Besides – and we repeatedly stated it before – I cannot recall any statement made by either the High Commissioner on Human Rights or UN OCHA about the principles of “precaution and distinction” when the coalition was “ironing” and razing down to the ground such cities as Raqqa, Hajin and Mosul. Why wasn’t anyone speaking about this back then? A have raised this question many times and never received any answer.
We have long been talking about the need to stop applying double standards to what is going on in Syria. Attempts to “cover up” for terrorists in order to involve them in some sort of a hidden agenda or make part of political process as local administration do not stand up to any criticism.
In case anybody forgot about it, let me remind that “Hayat Tahrir al-Sham” is “Jabhat al-Nusra” under a different name. Its “kind militants”, that Mark Lowcock mentioned today citing the people of Idlib, terrify the local population, use civil infrastructure, i.a. medical facilities for military purposes, and turn peaceful people into a human shield. At the same time, the remaining illegal military presence in the Euphrates region is explained by the need to counter terrorism. This comes in direct contradiction to the proclaimed respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria, and constitutes a clear case of using double standards.
Much has been said today about hospitals. Figures have been cited. For example, Ms. Sirkin shared that out of 46 attacks on medical facilities in Syria they could prove only one third, which is 15. There are certain questions as to how the Organization could confirm those attacks when it is not present on the ground, but I want to highlight another point. It appears that two thirds of incoming messages have been an information throw-in, a fake. And we are highly concerned by the fact that a UN mechanism is getting involved in spreading these fakes.
Before military action started in Syria, there had been only 12 hospitals in Idlib. Where do the figures come from that UN representatives, UN Member States and NGOs cited today and before? I said it previously and I repeat now: in the entire pre-conflict Syria there were not that many hospitals as you say have been destroyed in Idlib. Or do you hold every tent that treats the wounded militants for a hospital?
We believe it vital not to keep silent about the situation at the territories that are out of control of the Syrian authorities. They are “white spots” at the maps of humanitarian organizations, and this is not because everything is okay there. On the contrary, the Euphrates region lies in ruins, lacks energy and water supply, the inhabitants have no access to medical assistance. According to the data provided by our military, throughout June and July over 300 terrorist attacks took place there.
IDP camp “Rukban” remains in a dire situation. However, thanks to the efforts of the Russian Reconciliation Center, over 17 thousand people could exit Rukban. We intend to continue working in cooperation with the United Nations and the ICRC in order to solve the task of getting refugees back and supplying them with everything they need.
As for the Al-Houl camp, the situation there is disastrous indeed, because of the impeded access of humanitarian agencies and the lack of finance. Half of the camp's inhabitants are women and children. This is what one should really worry about when speaking of the humanitarian situation in Syria.
We remain concerned about the situation in the East bank of the Euphrates – in the “Al-Tanf” zone that is illegally occupied by the U.S. Since Geneva conventions have already been mentioned, let me remind once again that thereunder the occupying state is responsible for the population residing in the occupied areas. The U.S. however does not hurry to supply the Rukban camp with everything it needs.
What is also very alarming is the information about preparations made by major armed formations that relocate to the area of As Suwayda, Palmyra, and Abu Kamal.
In conclusion, let me emphasize that Russia’s position remains unchanged: we will continue to take every effort to bring peace back to Syria. We will be doing so in our national capacity, as a Member State of the UN Security Council, and as part of the “Astana troika” – the format that has done more than any other one to achieve de-escalation in Syria, elimination of terrorist threat, expanding of humanitarian assistance and promotion of political process. We will continue working jointly with Turkey in the framework of the Sochi memorandum dated 17 September 2018. We urge not to impede our efforts by creating political “cover up” for terrorists and their provocations.