Outlining the deepening humanitarian crisis in Syria and the threat of escalating violence, the Special Envoy for that country told the Security Council today he regretted that, during two years of frozen front lines, the international community had not seized upon the window provided by that relative calm to build a credible political process.
Geir O. Pedersen, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria, recalling his previous statements to the Council, pointed out that for two years the front lines were frozen — and that this relative calm “provided the window to build a credible political process”. So far, this opportunity has not been seized. “We need to be honest about the mismatch between the scale of our collective political efforts and the scale of the challenge at hand”, he stressed.
Detailing the troubling signs of military escalation, he also said that the degree of fragmentation in Syria, the region and internationally prevents the international community from addressing this conflict in a comprehensive manner. Yet, “this is the only way to avoid another dangerous collapse”, he emphasized.
Highlighting the humanitarian situation, he underscored the need for all Council members to support the implementation of all aspects of resolution 2642 (2022), including the cross-border and cross-line modalities. With plans on hold for the ninth Syrian Constitutional Committee in Geneva, he added that the key challenge facing the Committee “is not the venue, but the lack of progress on substance”. On this, he urged increased support for the political will, faster pace and better working methods that will allow the Committee to “become credible”.
Joyce Msuya, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, gave Council members an overview of the recent increase in violence in northern Syria and the resulting cost of civilian lives. She noted reports detailing preparations for a possible military operation in northern Syria and said displacement is already happening. Violence is impeding the United Nations ability to operate and the cross-line mission to Ras al Ayn was postponed due to increased hostilities, despite all the necessary approvals and preparation.
In addition, Syria was experiencing one of the lowest wheat harvests on record and the second failed wheat harvest in two years, she said, also describing fuel shortages, radically reduced access to electricity and a water crisis across the country. As always, the economic crisis disproportionately affects women, girls, boys and people with disabilities, she pointed out. Yet, funding for the Humanitarian Response Plan currently stands at only 24 per cent of the requested funds. She called for increased humanitarian funding, especially for early recovery and livelihood programmes.
In the ensuing debate, many Council members stressed the need to move the political process forward amid the country’s deteriorating humanitarian situation.
The representative of Albania said the humanitarian crisis continues to deepen because the political transition is paralysed. He deplored the actions of the Syrian regime and its supporters that prevented the Constitutional Committee’s ninth session from being held in Geneva last month. “Those who derail this process must know that they keep the country’s future hostage,” he said.
The United States’ representative said the absence of political progress and deteriorating humanitarian crisis in Syria should obligate the Council to come together to hold the Assad regime accountable. Expressing concern with the delays to advance the Constitutional Committee process, he called for an immediate resumption of the process. While the Russian Federation has repeatedly told the Council the peace process must be Syrian-owned and Syrian-led, a stance with which the United States agrees, the Russian Federation has not practised what it preaches, he observed.
Refuting that, the representative of the Russian Federation said Syria’s long-term stability and security can be established only through the full restoration of its sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity, along with the cessation of the illegal foreign military presence. He condemned the continuing air strikes by the Israeli Air Force against various targets in Syria and noted that the United States’ occupation of parts of Syria and its strikes on them belong in the same category of violations. The Constitutional Committee must meet regularly and in optimal conditions, he added.
Syria’s representative said the Government is making great efforts to promote national reconciliation, rehabilitate its infrastructure and its services, and create conditions for the safe return of refugees. Syria faces great challenges in coping with the humanitarian situation as Western countries politicize the humanitarian work and violate guidelines. However, the United States and its Western allies continue to impose unilateral and coercive measures that cause suffering for the Syrian people, he said.
Also reporting that the Russian Federation and Iran reaffirmed their commitment to Syria at a 19 July summit, he called for an end to illegitimate foreign presences in Syria, systemic Israeli attacks and the economic sanctions imposed by the United States. The sovereignty of Syria must be guaranteed, he emphasized, demanding that States that sponsor armed groups pay reparations to the Syrian people.
The representative of Iran underscored that political circumstances should not prevent humanitarian aid from reaching the Syrian people. As such, the occupation must end, and Syria's full sovereignty restored. The Council must abandon its double standard and condemn unequivocally Israel's aggression and terrorist attacks on Syria’s territory. The United States’ presence in the north‑east of Syria, under the pretext of combating terrorism, is a clear violation of the Charter of the United Nations, international law and Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Türkiye’s delegate pointed out that his country’s longest land border — 911 kilometres — is with Syria. Thus, the protection of its territorial integrity and unity is indispensable to Türkiye. Eliminating the threat posed by terrorist organizations in Syria requires joint efforts, he underscored, pointing out that PKK/YPG [Kurdish Workers’ Party] continues to attack Syrian civilians, as well as Turkish citizens, within his country’s borders, using the very weapons provided to them to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as Da’esh. The real fight against Da’esh can and must be carried out only by legitimate actors, he stressed.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Ireland (also for Norway), Gabon (also for Ghana and Kenya), France, India, Norway, United Arab Emirates, Brazil, Mexico, United Kingdom and China.
The meeting began at 10:04 a.m. and ended at 12:13 p.m.