8561st Security Council Meeting: Situation in Middle East

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25-Jun-2019 02:12:13
Fighting continues unabated despite efforts for ceasefire in North-West Syria, Emergency Relief Coordinator tells Security Council at 8561st meeting.

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Despite efforts to introduce a ceasefire in north-west Syria, fighting continues unabated, with air strikes reportedly affecting 55 communities in Idlib, Hama and Aleppo Governorates between 21 and 23 June, the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator told the Security Council today, amid questions about whether the system established to protect medical facilities is actually doing so.

The Emergency Relief Coordinator, who is also the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, said that fighting pitting forces of the Government of Syria and its allies against armed opposition forces and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham — a Security Council-listed terrorist organization — led to the deaths of 32 civilians during that period. A further seven people, including a child, were reportedly killed by air strikes and artillery shelling in northern rural Hama Governorate.

Maarat al-Numan, meanwhile, is under regular attack, he continued, emphasizing that the de-confliction system established to identify and protect humanitarian staff is intended to help the belligerent parties fulfil their obligation to protect medical facilities by providing them with the coordinates of hospitals so that they can take precautions. While the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs will continue to run the de-confliction system in Idlib for those wishing to report their coordinates, he said, “I want to make clear that this does not mean that it is our judgement that the de-confliction system in Idlib is, in practice, protecting medical facilities.” He emphasized: “I am sure it is not.” The central question is what those receiving location information are doing with it, he added, urging the Council to ease the suffering. “Save lives,” he stressed.

Also briefing, the Head of the Russian Reconciliation Centre said out‑of‑control members of armed terrorist groups in Idlib — including Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham — are stepping up their attacks against Syrian Government positions. In April, the Centre recorded 169 violations of the cessation-of-hostilities regime alongside several civilian casualties, he added. All Government response operations have been carried out far from civilian areas and in accordance with the 2018 Sochi Agreement, he said, adding that efforts are now under way to identify new measures to stabilize the situation, with additional ceasefire regimes established but violated by terrorist groups.

A third briefer, the Executive Director of the non-governmental organization Syrian American Medical Society, said the group was among those that de-conflicted various facilities in April 2018. For years, non-governmental organizations were encouraged to share their coordinates, but it was only after the 2018 offensive in eastern Ghouta — which saw 13 health facilities targeted in 48 hours — that doctors finally agreed to share the data, he said. Pointing out that more than 30 attacks have been carried out against health-care facilities in north-western Syria since April, he said nine de-conflicted facilities have been targeted during the current offensive in the north-west. “Where is the accountability?”, he demanded, asking also whether the Security Council has lost its capacity for outrage. Noting that not a single investigation has been completed since April 2018, he declared: “Be assured that the civilian population feels completely abandoned.”

In the ensuing discussion, the Russian Federation’s representative said information circulated around the Security Council sometimes conflicts with the situation on the ground, revealing efforts to politicize the situation in Syria. Thousands of people have been killed by coalition air strikes in Deir ez-Zor and elsewhere, while Raqqa was “literally razed to the ground”, he recalled. Urging United Nations agencies to double-check the coordinates of stricken targets, he expressed concern about the methodology used to verify such data.

The representative of the United States urged the Russian Federation to secure Syria’s compliance with requests to grant access to Rukban camp, and to lift the Russian-Syrian blockade on that area. He expressed alarm at the deliberate escalation by Syrian forces in the north-west.

France’s delegate similarly called for upholding the Idlib ceasefire, while the United Kingdom’s representative rejected the notion that members should not trust United Nations information. Information from the Russian Federation — itself a party to the situation at hand — presents a conflict of interest, she pointed out.

Syria’s representative accused the Syrian American Medical Society of cooperating with Al-Nusra Front, which controls 99 per cent of Idlib. He also questioned the Secretary‑General’s sixty-first report, saying it was authored by those who do not have the well-being of Syrians at heart, suggesting also that terrorists who left Al-Hol camp are now in Turkey plotting their return to Syria in order to target civilians. He stressed that Syria’s Government will do its utmost to defend its citizens.

Also speaking today were representatives of Germany, Peru, Côte d’Ivoire, China, Indonesia, South Africa, Dominican Republic, Poland and Equatorial Guinea.

The meeting began at 3 p.m. and ended at 5:14 p.m.

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