The situation in the Middle East- Security Council, 8958th Meeting

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27-Jan-2022 01:26:21
Prison attack in Syria’s north-east proof that ISIL/Da’esh a resurgent threat to regional stability, counter-terrorism chief tells Security Council.

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Russian Federation, United States Trade Blame over Origins of Chaos, as Turkey, Iraq Highlight Progress in Expelling Foreign Fighters

The recent prison attack in north-east Syria serves as a reminder that Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) still poses a grave threat in the region, across Africa and beyond, the Head of the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism told the Security Council today in a late-breaking meeting called by the Russian Federation.

“We need consistent, coordinated and comprehensive efforts across countries, sectors and disciplines, anchored in human rights and the rule of law, to address terrorism in all its forms and manifestations,” Under-Secretary-General Vladimir Voronkov told representatives of 20 nations who gathered in the Chamber for an update on recent events.

The attack — launched on 20 January and raging for several days — requires a swift, concerted response, he said. ISIL/Da’esh attempts to break its fighters free from the prison in Al-Hasakah underlines the need to bring them to justice as soon as possible, and ensure accountability.

“This incident was predictable; Da’esh has been highlighting and calling for jail breaks,” he said, citing warnings from the ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida Sanctions Monitoring Team of the precarious holding arrangements in Syria’s north‑east. One key lesson from the Council’s decades-long fight against terrorism is that military responses are necessary — but insufficient for addressing terrorism.

Against that backdrop, he underlined the importance of quickly resolving chronic problems such as the lengthy detention of individuals, including children, without charges and the pressing need for repatriation to their countries of origin. He urged the Council to address dire conditions in Al-Hol, Al-Roj and other detention centres in the north-east, stressing that over 56,000 people are being held in Al-Hol alone, most of them women and children. The prison attack, alongside another launched 11 hours later in Iraq that killed 11 soldiers, highlight two pressing concerns, he said: the attacks are not isolated incidents; and civilians pay the highest price for the degraded security situation.

In the ensuing debate, Council members roundly condemned the ongoing violence in Syria’s north-east, with many supporting the call to speed the repatriation of foreign fighters and advance the wheels of justice. Some provided examples of how their countries are affected by terrorism and highlighted their contributions to the fight against terrorist groups.

The representative of the Russian Federation said ISIL/Da’esh fighters stormed Al-Sina’a prison — the largest target in the area not controlled by the Government — in a carefully planned raid. The event triggered local armed groups to partner with the United States, who deployed intensive air strikes in the area, severely impacting civilian infrastructure, killing an unknown number of Syrians and causing 45,000 civilians to flee. United States forces ignored measures to protect civilians, he said.

Pressing the United Nations and its humanitarian partners to demand a full report from Washington, D.C., on the number of civilian casualties during the incident, he said those responsible for crimes against innocent Syrians must be brought to justice. Syrian forces with support from the Moscow will continue to seek out and target terrorist groups in Syria.

Countering those claims, the United States’ delegate said his country is steadfast and committed to the protection of civilians. While enormous progress has been made by the global coalition in the fight against ISIL/Da’esh, the group continues to pose a threat, which is why the global coalition has remained vigilant and engaged. The United States Armed Forces are present in Syria as part of the global coalition and he encouraged all nations to act alongside it in the fight against ISIL/Da’esh. Specifically, he called for supporting the Global Framework for United Nations Support on Syria/Iraq Third Country National Returnees, launched in 2021.

“The Council and relevant United Nations agencies must act with resolve,” said Kenya's representative, echoing a common call for counter-terrorism measures to be strengthened to ensure these groups are held accountable for their acts and denied the opportunity and resources to perpetuate them.

Syria’s representative attributed recent attacks in Al-Hasakah to ISIL/Da’esh and United States occupation forces, adding that members of the global coalition enrolled terrorist fighters to spread chaos and destabilize his country. The United States used terrorism to target schools and hospitals. Security Council resolutions must not be used selectively, he warned, calling on the United States and Turkey to withdraw their forces from his country.

Turkey’s representative pointed out that Turkish forces have eliminated thousands of ISIL/Da’esh members from Syria. He called for a three-pronged approach to defeat the terrorist group: genuine intelligence‑sharing, repatriating foreign terrorist fighters; and addressing the root cause of the problem while promoting constitutional rule, democracy and human rights. These actions will go a long way to stabilize Syria, he said, adding that there are no good terrorists.

Iraq’s representative welcomed international efforts to combat terrorist activities, whether through the United Nations, the coalition to combat ISIL/Da’esh or through bilateral avenues. Outlining Iraq’s progress in repatriating foreign fighters, he said 450 families have been repatriated since May 2021. He called on those supervising camps of detained fighters to hand over all Iraqi nationals for prosecution, noting that reluctance to do so elevates the risk of prison breaks that could help ISIL/Da’esh further regroup.

Some agreed that foreign fighters and uninvited forces should leave Syria, including Iran’s delegate, who said “what we are witnessing today in Al-Hasakah is the result of the continued illegal occupation of parts of Syria by foreign forces, including the United States”. The incident is also a reminder that the presence of foreign terrorist fighters and their families remains a growing source of insecurity in the region. Voicing regret that some countries continually fail to repatriate their own nationals, who remain trapped in deplorable conditions in conflict zones, she urged the Council to address that issue as a matter of priority.

Also delivering statements were representatives of India, Mexico, France, China, Ireland, Albania, United Kingdom, Ghana, Gabon, United Arab Emirates, Brazil and Norway.

The meeting began at 5:17 p.m. and ended at 6:51 p.m.

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