Syrian Representative Claims Turkish Regime Benefits from Cross-Border Mechanism, But Türkiye’s Delegate Insists ‘No Hidden Agenda’ Except to Save Lives
The Secretary-General of the United Nations today urged the Security Council to extend the resolution that allows cross-border deliveries of lifesaving aid into north-west Syria for another 12 months, as speakers diverged over what form future assistance should take amidst unprecedented humanitarian need throughout the country.
António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, highlighting his report on the matter (document S/2022/492), underscored that humanitarian needs in Syria are at their highest since the start of the war over 11 years ago. “People are living on the brink, no longer able to cope,” he stressed, and the current United Nations humanitarian appeal requires $4.4 billion to assist people inside Syria and another $5.6 billion to support refugees in the region. The generous pledges made at the sixth Brussels Conference must be paid, and he appealed to donors to follow through and increase their support.
Turning to the situation in north-west Syria, where 2.8 million people are displaced and more than 90 per cent of the population requires aid, he stressed that all channels to deliver life-saving aid should be made and kept available. “The United Nations cross-border operation in Syria is one of the most heavily scrutinized and monitored aid operations in the world,” he said, underscoring that “there is no doubt that our aid is reaching people in need”. Because crossline assistance is not presently at the scale needed to replace the cross-border response, he urged the Council to maintain consensus on allowing cross-border operations for an additional 12 months.
Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, also underlined the imperative of retaining the ability to deliver assistance from across the Turkish border for an additional 12 months. There are 4.4 million people living in north-west Syria, and 20 per cent more people require aid than did in 2021. Without United Nations cross-border access, hunger will increase, medical cases will go untreated, millions will be at risk of losing shelter assistance and access to water will decrease. “We need to face reality,” he stressed: “There has been progress and there will be more,” but needs are rising and the resolution must be renewed.
Echoing those remarks was Iyad Agha, Non-Governmental Organization Forum Coordinator for NGO Forum Northwest Syria, who underscored that the cross-border operation cannot be replaced by a non-governmental-organization-led response or by crossline operations without resulting in a massive humanitarian impact. Pointing out that the circumstances in north-west Syria that led to the authorization of cross-border support “are still the same if not worse”, he called on the Council to reauthorize the provisions of the cross-border resolution for at least 12 months. “There are more than 4 million reasons to renew the authorization,” he added, as that is the number of people whose lives depend on this humanitarian operation.
In the ensuing discussion, many Council members supported the renewal of the cross-border resolution for an additional 12 months, underscoring that crossline operations cannot currently replace the cross-border mechanism for the delivery of aid. Others stressed that resolution 2585 (2021) has not been fully implemented, pointing out that only five crossline convoys have occurred in the past year and emphasizing that humanitarian relief must respect Syria’s sovereignty and not be politicized.
The representative of Ireland, also speaking for Norway, noting that the futures of Syrian children are being mortgaged away so that families can eat, recalled progress since the Council unanimously adopted resolution 2585 (2021), with almost 320,000 individuals directly supported and 2.9 million indirect beneficiaries across the country since January. While calling on all parties to support crossline deliveries, she said that the cross-border operation at Bab al-Hawa remains indispensable.
Brazil’s representative, however, pointed out that the costs of humanitarian operations are rising due to global increases in the prices of food and fuel. Sustainable solutions to ongoing conflicts are needed. He urged a thorough assessment of the potential consequences of unilateral sanctions on the civilian population during this acute economic crisis and escalating hunger.
The representative of the United Arab Emirates similarly emphasized that the cross-border aid delivery mechanism should not be considered a long-term solution, underlining the need for an increase in the number of crossline convoys in conjunction with additional support for early recovery projects. Noting the ongoing escalation on the Turkish-Syrian border, he stressed that the cross-border mechanism should not be used to justify political interests or interfere in Syria’s affairs.
On that point, Syria’s representative said that the Turkish regime’s threat to establish a so-called safe zone in northern Syria demonstrates its subversive policies to destabilize Syria by supporting terrorism, displacing people and effecting demographic change. Spotlighting Western countries’ refusal to enhance the delivery of humanitarian aid from within Syria, he stressed that the Turkish regime and its terrorist agents are the only beneficiaries of the cross-border mechanism.
The representative of Iran, noting that unilateral sanctions have stymied the implementation of resolution 2585 (2021), said that the Syrian Government’s ability to achieve economic and social stability was undermined by these illegal measures. The provision of humanitarian aid is essential because of the dire situation in Syria, and he stressed that political circumstances should not prevent assistance from reaching people.
However, Türkiye’s representative underscored the moral imperative to extend the cross-border mandate, stressing that such extension should not be politicized. United Nations cross-border operations are among the most sophisticated, scrutinized and transparent humanitarian assistance systems ever established. “There is no hidden agenda at issue here — the aim is nothing but to save lives,” he stressed.
Also speaking were representatives of Ghana (also speaking for Gabon and Kenya), United States, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, Mexico, China, France, India and Albania.
The meeting began at 3:04 p.m. and ended at 5:08 p.m.