8622nd Security Council Meeting: Situation in Middle East

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19-Sep-2019 01:18:11
Amid funding shortfall, humanitarian official urges Security Council to ensure unimpeded access for millions suffering in Syria, as delegates call for unity at 8622nd meeting.

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With winter fast approaching, funding and supplies will be essential to meet the growing needs of Syria’s people, a top United Nations humanitarian official told the Security Council today, laying out the extensive challenges confronting aid workers working tirelessly to reach civilians with life-saving assistance.

Briefing the Council, the Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator warned that conditions in Syria remain alarming. “It is critical that the much-needed respite for civilians continues, unimpeded humanitarian access be facilitated to all civilians in need and the protected status of civilian infrastructure be respected,” she stressed.

While welcoming the reported decline in fighting following a unilateral ceasefire in the Idlib de-escalation area, she said an estimated 400,000 people in north-western Syria fled their homes between May and August. Host communities are becoming increasingly strained and families are simply unable to afford rent. Compounding matters, $68.4 million is required to address shelter and non‑food needs, and access to those most in need often depends on extensive coordination with community leaders, armed groups and multiple Member States — including Syria, Russian Federation, United States and Jordan.

In Al Hol camp, where 94 per cent of the 68,600 residents are women and children, the reality is extremely challenging, she said. Clean water and sanitation are lacking. Many children have been exposed to extreme violence and trauma under Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), and failure to rehabilitate or prosecute former terrorist fighters risks radicalizing a new generation. In north-east Deir ez-Zor Governorate, the Syrian Democratic Forces reportedly closed all crossing points to areas under Government control, forcing civilians to resort to more dangerous informal crossings.

As food prices rise and the currency plummets, families are struggling to make ends meet, she cautioned, noting as well that 10 million Syrians live in areas contaminated by unexploded ordnance. She welcomed the Secretary-General’s announcement that an independent United Nations Headquarters Board of Inquiry has been established and will begin on 30 September to investigate incidents that have occurred across the north-west.

In the ensuing discussion, the representative of the United States said the unilateral ceasefire announced on 31 August only enables Syria’s forces and their allies to rest, regroup and reorganize before their next attack. She called for the Board of Inquiry’s final report to be made public, as doing so will greatly help in holding responsible parties to account.

China’s representative expressed concern over the Board’s establishment, suggesting instead that the United Nations increase its coordination and communication with Syria’s Government. Reiterating calls from the recent Astana summit that no country has the right to violate Syria’s territorial integrity and independence, he backed efforts by the Russian Federation, Turkey and Iran to fight terrorists.

Some Council members appealed to their colleagues to stand united in efforts to end the suffering of millions of Syrians who have endured years of war. Many voiced support for the ceasefire announced by the Russian Federation on 31 August.

Indonesia’s delegate urged all parties to facilitate immediate, safe, unimpeded and sustained humanitarian access for the United Nations. The Council must act to prevent further suffering, he said, “to ensure that we are not too late”.

“We must preserve the humanity and dignity of this population,” stressed the Dominican Republic’s representative, cautioning against the use of explosive weapons and pressing all parties to recognize that their use risks exposing civilians to indiscriminate damage, particularly children.

Rounding out the discussion, Syria’s representative said some permanent Council members are using the humanitarian situation as a tool in their hostile campaign to tarnish the Government. He called for fully respecting Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and urged the international community to support its efforts to both combat terrorist groups and implement counter-terrorism resolutions.

In the north-west, he said 37 per cent of people being held in one camp wish to leave for areas under Government control, an aspiration that can be met thanks to the ceasefire coordinated by Syria and the Russian Federation. However, occupying United States forces have prevented them from leaving.

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

The meeting began at 10:04 a.m. and ended at 11:22 a.m.

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