Statement by Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia at UNSC brieifng on the political and humanitarian situation in Syria
We thank Deputy SESG for Syria, Ms.Najat Rochdi, and OCHA Operations Director, Ms.Edem Wosornu, for the briefings.
At the political track, we stand for resuming the work of the Constitutional Committee in the interests of promoting a Syrian-led and Syrian-owned political process under UN assistance. For this purpose, Syrian representatives need to agree on the platform for the Committee. We trust that the Special Envoy will contribute to this in every possible way, as prescribed by his mandate, without dispersing his efforts to other initiatives that Syrian parties have not endorsed.
At the moment, the difficult situation on the ground in Syria is aggravated by the acute escalation of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The country, as well as a number of its neighbors in the region, is literally teetering on the brink of being drawn into a large-scale confrontation. The way Western countries treat the Syrian Arab Republic most vividly exposes their blatant double standards. While baselessly claiming that Israel – the occupying power – have a right to self-defense in relation to the occupied Palestinian territory, they obviously deny this right to Syrians and the Lebanese when Israelis arbitrarily attack their territories, provoking, among other things, new waves of IDPs. Lately, the Israeli Air Force has not only repeatedly attacked the international airports in Damascus and Aleppo, the main gateways for access of UN assistance to Syria, but also carried out strikes in the area of Deir ez-Zor, Abu Kemal and the Golan Heights.
The latest Israeli airstrike against the Syrian territory took place on November 26. Israeli aircraft once again attacked Damascus International Airport, which had just resumed operations after the previous air strike of October 12. As a result, the work of Syria’s air harbor was again disrupted for an indefinite time. We regard the continued strikes on the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic as a flagrant violation of the sovereignty of the country and the basic norms of international law. We strongly condemn such steps. In these circumstances, the silence of our Western colleagues is very telling, for they cannot but realize the risks stemming from such reckless actions.
Western interventions in the region that take place on the pretext of supposedly fighting terrorism continue to play an extremely destabilizing role. It is under this slogan that the United States and its allies have maintained an illegal presence in Syria since 2014. At the same time, Western states have actually suspended the fight against ISIL/Al-Qaida in SAR and have long started to use the militants (whom they had nurtured) exclusively for their own needs, which includes acts of sabotage against the Syrian governmental forces. The Americans and Europeans are trying to "whitewash" the UNSC-listed terrorists of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, who control Idlib, by condemning Damascus and its allies for fighting them.
Speaking of the humanitarian aspects of the Syrian settlement, we fully welcome the goodwill shown by Damascus in authorizing the UN to continue using the Bab Al-Salam and Al-Rai border crossings until February 13, 2024. This sovereign decision by the Syrian Government demonstrates Damascus' focus on a constructive and responsible approach in addressing the humanitarian challenges in the northwestern parts of the country. Unfortunately, Western countries are simply unable to act in the same constructive spirit, as they continue to shamelessly cover for the HTS terrorists who are blocking United Nations’ cross-line humanitarian deliveries to Idlib. None of the Western delegations on the Security Council can even find the courage to condemn the continued destructive behavior of these internationally recognized terrorists.
This being said, we are aware that personnel of the UN office in Gaziantep actively use Bab al-Hawa crossing for field missions to Idlib. We would like to ask Ms. Wosornu whether visits by United Nations staff to the terrorist-controlled enclave are coordinated with Damascus and whether the Syrian Government is in receipt of corresponding reports on the outcomes of such trips.
In that regard, we cannot fail to note that if our Western colleagues were to approach the unimpeded, sustained and safe passage of emergency aid convoys to the blockaded Gaza Strip and the provision of assistance to the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians affected by Israeli bombardments as zealously as they engage in cross-border access to the Syrian Idlib, the work of humanitarians in Gaza would be much more effective.
We also note that both the United Nations and the West remain silent about the negative implications of the illegal unilateral sanctions for the humanitarian situation and more broadly the socio-economic development of Syria. The thematic report that former Resident Coordinator a.i. in Damascus, Mostafa Benlamlih, promised to the Security Council and that the UN country team in Syria has been working on for more than 12 months has not yet materialized. This situation is absolutely unacceptable, given that the sanctions actually block the work of the United Nations personnel on the ground, depriving Syrians of the real benefits of the UN presence.
Taking into account the adoption of resolution “Unilateral economic measures as a means of political and economic coercion against developing countries” in the Second Committee of the General Assembly, we assume that the Resident Coordinator in Damascus now has the mandate necessary for preparing the report. This resolution articulates a direct request to the Secretary-General to monitor the imposition of unilateral economic measures as a means of political and economic coercion and to study, inter alia, with the support and cooperation of the resident coordinators and United Nations Country Teams, the impact of such measures on the affected countries, including the impact on trade and development.
We must warn that if the Secretariat continues to silence down this topic, it will mean a deliberate sabotage by the United Nations of the task assigned to it by member states; and undermine the reputation of the global Organization.