The situation in the Middle East - Security Council, 9022nd Meeting

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25-Apr-2022 02:14:19
Warning 'future looks bleak' for Syrians living through twelfth year of crisis, top United Nations officials urge more resources, focus on conflict.

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Delegates Diverge over Suitable Methods for Providing Life-saving Aid

Senior United Nations officials today urged the Security Council not to forget about the dire humanitarian situation in Syria in light of other conflicts, as members discussed the recent conclusion of the seventh session of the Constitutional Committee and diverged over appropriate modalities for providing life-saving aid.

Geir Pedersen, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria, briefed the Council that “Syria is a hot conflict, not a frozen one”. Airstrikes and clashes are intensifying, five foreign armies are operating in the country and terrorism remains a significant threat. Further, Syria is one of the greatest humanitarian crises of the era, and civilians continue to die, suffer and be displaced by the millions both inside and outside of the country.

“Therefore, my message today is simple: focus on Syria,” he urged, stressing that the current strategic stalemate on the ground should not mislead anyone into thinking that the conflict needs less attention or fewer resources. This situation requires a comprehensive political solution, and he recalled that the seventh session of the Constitutional Committee concluded on 25 March amid limited attempts to narrow differences. He appealed to delegations, therefore, to prepare texts for discussion at the eighth session, to be held from 28 May to 3 June, that focus on matters on which most Syrians could agree.

Turning to the humanitarian front, he urged all concerned to expand cross-line and cross-border assistance, to enhance early-recovery efforts and to be generous with the resources needed for humanitarian work. However, many of the things from which Syrians suffer most are inherently political in nature, and will require political actors to take difficult steps, involving negotiations and give-and-take. “We can always do more to alleviate the worst effects of this crisis with humanitarian assistance,” he stressed, but also called for the identification of concrete, reciprocal and verifiable measures that could begin to shift the dynamics of the conflict.

Joyce Msuya, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, next briefed the Council, pointing out that — as the eyes of the world turn to other conflicts — Syria is on the verge of becoming yet another forgotten crisis despite millions of Syrians struggling each month to survive. Fighting in many areas continues, civilians are being injured and killed, and the economic crisis continues unabated. The basic necessities for a healthy, dignified life are even further out of reach for millions of people due to escalating food and fuel prices, and unprecedented water shortages in 2021 are already taking their toll on farmers and livestock producers.

“For Syrians living through the twelfth year of this crisis, the future looks bleak,” she said. Noting that in 2021 the United Nations dispatched some 800 trucks of cross-border aid each month — consistently reaching 2.4 million people — she stressed that current cross-line missions cannot at this time substitute the size and scope of the cross-border operations they complement. All channels for delivering life-saving aid to those in need should remain open and available, and she urged the renewal of the United Nations cross-border authorization in July.

Nirvana Shawky, Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa of CARE International, then told the Council that the gap between humanitarian needs and the resources required to meet them was already growing into a chasm before Syrians and their neighbours began to feel the impacts of the crisis in Ukraine. She urged the Council to, at a minimum, reauthorize resolution 2585 (2021) for at least one year, as the cross-border operation cannot be ended without a long-term and concerted commitment to address the challenges Syrians are facing. The size and scale of the current, massive cross-border operation cannot be replicated by any other modality, she stressed.

In the ensuing debate, many Council members echoed the point that the cross-border mechanism remains essential, as there is no alternative to its size and scope. Others emphasized the importance of cross-line operations and called for increased international support for early-recovery initiatives. Members also stressed the importance of continued dialogue in the Constitutional Committee, while also noting that progress towards a political solution requires addressing security concerns within the country.

The representative of the United States, expressing support for all modalities for aid to reach those in need, stressed the irreplaceability of the cross-border aid mechanism and called on the Council to authorize and expand its mandate in the coming months. “We all need to do better for the Syrian people,” he said, while noting that humanitarian aid is only a stopgap. A nationwide ceasefire and a political solution are ultimately required to end the crisis.

The Russian Federation’s representative also underscored the importance of a political solution through the work of the Constitutional Committee, which provides Syrians the opportunity to engage in direct dialogue relating to the future foundations of their country. He went on to say, however, that over the past nine months, only three cross-line convoys have reached Idlib, apparently justified by a lack of necessary agreements and indications of unsafe working conditions. In light of this reluctance, arguments for extending cross-border aid have practically run out.

India’s delegate similarly noted that ongoing cross-border operations continue to negatively impact Syria’s sovereignty and encouraged United Nations agencies to expand efforts to enhance cross-line operations. He also stressed the urgent need for serious attempts towards a nationwide ceasefire, pointing out that the withdrawal of foreign forces is essential in that regard and reiterating that the global fight against terrorism should not be compromised for narrow political gains.

The representative of Gabon, also speaking for Ghana and Kenya, echoed concerns over the presence of foreign military forces in Syria, emphasizing that the country should not be used as a ground for other States to settle accounts. Encouraging efforts to achieve political stability, he called on the Council to build on the unity shown through the unanimous adoption of the resolution on the cross-border mechanism in July 2021 to make necessary progress on the political path.

Syria’s delegate underscored that ending the illegal foreign presence of the United States, Turkey and Israel in his country will help eliminate the terrorist presence, end all forms of displacement, restore Syrian national economic resources and improve the humanitarian and living situation in the country. He went on to say that the United States and its Western allies continue to obstruct the delivery of cross-line aid within Syrian territory to justify their continued violation of Syria’s sovereignty through the so-called cross-border aid mechanism that serves as a lifeline for terrorists. However, Syria looks forward to the next round of the Constitutional Committee, without external interference or the imposition of predetermined results or timetables.

Also speaking were representatives of Ireland, United Arab Emirates, Albania, Norway, France, China, Brazil, Mexico, United Kingdom, Turkey and Iran.

The meeting began at 3:02 p.m. and ended at 5:16 p.m.

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