8201st Security Council Meeting: Situation in Middle East

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12-Mar-2018 02:12:34
Briefing Security Council on Syria ceasefire resolution, Secretary-General says humanitarian convoys remain unable to safely enter Eastern Ghouta at 8201st meeting.

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Despite the demands of the Security Council’s resolution for a ceasefire in Syria, humanitarian convoys had not been able to enter eastern Ghouta without impediment, members heard today as the Secretary‑General provided an update on the situation.

António Guterres, United Nations Secretary‑General, reporting on the implementation of resolution 2401 (2018), said that there had been no cessation of hostilities in parts of Syria, and violence continued not only in eastern Ghouta but also in Afrin, Idlib, and Damascus and its suburbs. The delivery of humanitarian aid had not been safe or unimpeded, and no sieges had been lifted. He also underscored that efforts to combat terrorist groups did not supersede those humanitarian obligations.

He said that he and Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura had worked to create the conditions needed for a ceasefire in eastern Ghouta, and the Russian Federation had announced a five‑hour daily humanitarian pause in the area. There had also been commitments from three armed opposition groups to ensure humanitarian access. In addition, he and the Council President had received a letter on 6 March from the Government of Syria that welcomed the adoption of the resolution. However, Damascus and its allies had intensified air strikes and initiated a ground offensive, and had gained more control over eastern Ghouta, he said.

Outlining what had been achieved regarding delivery of humanitarian aid, he emphasized that delivery had not matched the plan. Syria had not allowed the delivery of life‑saving medicine, and few civilians had been able to leave eastern Ghouta due to safety and protection concerns. The United Nations had sent an inter‑agency convoy to Douma with food for 27,500 people, which represented only a third of the people who needed to be reached. In addition, the Syrian authorities had removed most of the health supplies from that convoy, with only 30 per cent of medical supplies being allowed to proceed to their destination. Underscoring that he refused to lose hope that Syria would rise from the ashes, he called on States with influence to exercise it in support of the United Nations efforts.

Syria’s delegate said that his country was well within its right to defend its citizens and to fight terrorism, and that its actions were within the remit of the ceasefire resolution. He called out actions by the United States as aggressive, and pressed that country, as well as France and the United Kingdom, to stop supporting terrorists in Syria. Following the adoption of the resolution, he said that hostilities had ceased daily for five hours, to ensure the delivery of aid and the unimpeded exit of civilians from terrorist‑controlled areas. However, efforts to send convoys to eastern Ghouta on 5 and 9 March had been countered by armed groups, he said. Those groups had used civilians, who were trying to leave the area, as human shields.

His country had recently requested that the United Nations investigate the humanitarian situation in Raqqa, which had been destroyed by the United States‑led coalition. Those sponsoring terrorism had launched an anti‑Syria campaign, he said, noting that such behaviour was not limited to States but had also been demonstrated by Secretariat officials. United States forces were in Syria without the approval of its Government, and he had hoped that the Secretary‑General would have provided legal qualification for the crimes committed by its coalition.

The delegate of Kuwait, who also spoke on behalf of Sweden, said that he regretted that resolution 2401 (2018) had not been implemented and that acts of violence were preventing the delivery of much‑needed humanitarian aid. The Government of Syria should allow two humanitarian convoys to enter eastern Ghouta and an additional destination each week, he said. In addition, he noted that it was unacceptable that military operations were continuing under the pretext of combating terrorism, particularly as the United Nations had confirmed that the number of combatants in eastern Ghouta associated with terrorist groups was not more than 350.

Several delegates questioned the influence that the Russian Federation had on the Government of Syria, with the representative of France noting that Syria’s ally could not exert sufficient pressure on the regime of Bashar al‑Assad. That regime, with support from the Russian Federation and Iran, sought complete submission by its people, he said. He appealed to those who could make a difference, and stressed that the Government of France had increased its contacts at the highest level to aid the implementation of the resolution.

The representative of the United States said that the negotiations that led to resolution 2401 (2018) had been long and difficult, and that the Russian delegation had stalled and inserted numerous conditions along the way. The Russian Federation had then voted for the resolution, but had not kept its commitments in that regard. It had negotiated the wording of the ceasefire agreement, and then continued its own bombing missions. Syria and the Russian Federation, she noted, had never intended to implement the ceasefire. Rather, they had spent two weeks labelling opposition groups as terrorist groups so that they could exploit a loophole in the ceasefire regarding those groups.

The Russian Federation’s delegate, underscoring that attacking terrorist groups did not contradict the edicts of the resolution, noted that the Government of Syria had every right to remove that threat to the safety of their civilians. Without exercising that right, the suburbs of Damascus would remain a hotbed of terrorism. He also voiced his suspicion that the Nusrah Front was being kept for political purposes, so that resistance could be kept close to Syria’s capital. His delegation had voted in support of resolution 2401 (2018) because it was guided by the priority of improving the humanitarian situation in parts of Syria. Other capitals, meanwhile, felt comfortable doing nothing while blaming what they called the Syrian “regime” as well as placing demands on his country.

Also speaking today were representatives of the United Kingdom, China, Kazakhstan, Peru, Equatorial Guinea, Poland, Côte d'Ivoire, Bolivia, Ethiopia and the Netherlands.

The meeting began at 11:12 a.m. and ended at 1:22 p.m.
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