8454th Security Council Meeting: Situation in Middle East

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30-Jan-2019 01:36:21
Harsh winter conditions, ongoing hostilities have forced even greater displacement of civilians in Syria, Emergency Relief Coordinator tells Security Council at 8454th meeting.

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Harsh winter conditions and ongoing hostilities in some parts of Syria have resulted in the forced displacement of tens of thousands more civilians across the war-ravaged country, exacerbating the already dire humanitarian situation, the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator warned during his briefing to the Security Council today.

“The people of Syria are suffering a cold, hard winter,” said Mark Lowcock, who is also Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs. Updating the 15-member Council on the humanitarian community’s ongoing deliveries of assistance, as well as those planned for the coming months, he said that Syria’s severe winter has resulted in millions living under tents and tarpaulins, or in damaged buildings without power or heating. Meanwhile, there are severe shortages of basic items, ranging from blankets to baby milk to bandages, he added.

Noting that the United Nations and its partners have raised $81 million in recent months to support more than a million Syrians with vital winter items, he called attention to the plight of 3 million people living in Idlib Governorate — where the risk of military escalation still looms despite the agreement reached in September between the Russian Federation and Turkey. Meanwhile, he outlined plans to deploy a second convoy to camps for internally displaced persons in Rukban, where some 42,000 people remain stranded in deteriorating conditions after receiving their first aid delivery in November.

Citing additional sources of concern, he said ongoing military operations in parts of Deir-ez-Zor — where tens of thousands have been displaced — also pose a threat, while an unknown number of people remain trapped under the control of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh). Those displaced are exposed to hostilities, explosive hazards and intense cold, while receiving minimal assistance. While the United Nations is scaling up its assistance, the parties must do their utmost to protect civilians and allow them to move freely and seek safety and basic services, he said, calling for increased international support.

As delegates took the floor, many voiced concerns about the fate of millions of civilians facing harsh winter conditions. While several speakers underscored the need to boost funding for humanitarian assistance at an upcoming donor’s conference in Brussels, others emphasized that the delivery of aid would be most effective against the backdrop of an accelerated political process, led and owned by Syria and facilitated by the United Nations.

Kuwait’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Council’s co-penholders on the Syria humanitarian file — Belgium, Germany and his own country — said that behind the alarming statistics are countless stories of immense human suffering. Security and bureaucratic obstacles have exacerbated the dire living conditions of many in need, leading to civilian deaths in the past few weeks, and to escalating violence that has destroyed civilian infrastructure. Strongly condemning reports of arbitrary detention, torture, frequent kidnappings, abductions, hostage-taking and forced disappearances, he described the recent abduction and killing of a humanitarian worker in Idlib as a “shameful act” and a reminder of the daily risks that such personnel face.

The Dominican Republic’s representative called upon all sides to protect civilians and allow their free movement under international law, urging the international community to support communities who wish to rebuild their lives. Indeed, greater efforts are needed to build up national capacity and render Syrians “agents of their own recovery”, he stressed, calling for a political solution through inclusive political dialogue “for and with the Syrians”.

The representative of the United States welcomed the approval by the Government of Syria of requests for humanitarian access, urging it to clear all outstanding requests for aid delivery. The Government should also allow the United Nations to conduct a survey in Rukban relating to the intention of internally displaced persons to leave their camps, he said. The United States will continue working to establish stability in north-eastern Syria while closely monitoring the situation in Idlib, he emphasized, urging the Council to ensure that the Russian-Turkish ceasefire agreed in September 2018 holds.

The Russian Federation’s representative echoed concerns about the situation in Idlib, saying it has fallen under the control of armed groups, and recalled that 65 people have been killed and more than 200 injured there since the signing of the Russian-Turkish memorandum. He pointed out that his delegation has always stressed that the agreement is not a sustainable solution, he said, adding that talks about counter-terrorism operations in the area are under way. He went on to condemn as unethical any selective or politicized approach to the delivery of humanitarian assistance, saying that another meeting of the Astana guarantor States, planned for February, will give further impetus to the quest for a peaceful political solution.

Syria’s representative outlined the many measures undertaken by his country’s Government during its unprecedented, eight-year-long war against terrorists with the aim of enabling the United Nations to deliver assistance within its territory. However, no solution can be achieved without addressing the root causes of suffering, he emphasized. Some partners — including the Council’s own co-penholders — have failed to commit to the humanitarian principles of impartiality, non-interference and cooperation with the Syrian Government, he noted. Expressing hope that both development and humanitarian gains will be achieved “without political interference”, he reiterated core demands, including: full respect for Syria’s sovereignty; ending support for terrorist groups; the lifting of sanctions; and the removal of foreign forces from Syrian territory.

Also speaking today were representatives of Indonesia, France, Peru, China, Côte d’Ivoire, South Africa, Poland, United Kingdom and Equatorial Guinea.

The meeting began at 10:29 a.m. and ended at 12:04 p.m.

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