7433rd Meeting (AM)
United Nations Humanitarian Chief, Citing ‘Atrocity after Atrocity’, Warns Time Running Out
Expressing alarm that the Syrian crisis had become the largest humanitarian emergency in the world, threatening regional stability, the Security Council this morning called for stepped-up, coordinated international support to neighbouring countries hosting refugees from the conflict.
Through a statement read out by the Foreign Minister of Jordan, which holds the April presidency of the body, the Council recognized the “immense costs and multifaceted challenges” faced by Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt in accommodating the refugees and reiterated its deep appreciation to them at a meeting that heard briefings from Valerie Amos, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs; António Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees; Angelina Jolie Pitt, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Special Envoy for Refugee Issues; and Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP).
Through the statement, the Council noted with deep concern the social, demographic, environmental and economic effects of the prolonged crisis on the neighbouring countries, including the strain on educational systems. Stating that the international response had so far fallen short of meeting the needs, it stressed the importance of funding both humanitarian and developmental responses to the crisis and providing support to national response plans and the resilience of host countries.
It urged donors, international financial institutions and United Nations agencies to consider financing instruments what it called the “massive structural impact” of the conflict in a manner that met the unique needs of the middle-income countries affected. Emphasizing that the humanitarian situation would continue to deteriorate in the absence of peace, it reiterated its demand for an immediate end to the fighting and its full support to the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Syria in efforts to foster a Syrian-led political solution.
Ahead of the reading of that statement, Ms. Amos, Mr. Guterres, Ms. Jolie Pitt and Ms. Cousin underlined the depth of the humanitarian crisis in the region as the conflict continued in its fifth year, with more than 220,000 killed, 7.6 million displaced, over a million injured and nearly 4 million people seeking refuge in neighbouring countries, which were bearing staggering burdens. Ms. Amos noted that, each month that she came to the Council, “I speak of atrocity after atrocity, violation after violation, misery after misery”. Time was running out for Syria, she said, asking the Council to match the scale of the crisis with an “equally bold and courageous response”.
Expressing deep regret that the international community was not able to take unified action to bring about a political solution and end the crisis, the briefers stressed the necessity, in the absence of such a solution, for adequate humanitarian aid, which had so far not been forthcoming in the magnitude required. “If the conflict cannot be ended, there is a moral duty to help refugees and provide legal avenues to safety,” Ms. Jolie Pitt said, relaying the personal tragedies of the refugees she had met in her 11 visits to the region since the onset of the conflict.
Also calling for an increased international response to the crisis, Mr. Guterres said that the regional spillover effects of the Syrian conflict were already taking on dramatic proportions. “The conflict and the resulting refugee influx, in the absence of sufficient international solidarity, have had such an enormous impact on neighbouring countries that we are now seeing a growing fatigue on the part of hosts.”
Ms. Cousin stressed that food and education created hope and stability and must be maintained, given the rising danger of extremism and other threats in the region. “Failure to do so will haunt us for decades to come,” she said, describing the harrowing situation faced by parents in the region, where “picking up a gun is easier than picking up a book”. “We must do better,” she said.
Following those briefings, representatives of Council members and other concerned countries spoke on the humanitarian crisis in Syria and its region, beginning with Jordan’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister who affirmed that, in his country, limited resources were leading to friction between the refugees and the host population, and called on the Council to focus on the situation with a long-term view, taking into account the development needs of the host countries. “All of humanity is responsible to meet the needs of the refugees,” he stated.
Many speakers welcomed the results of last month’s pledging conference for Syria, calling for monies pledged there to be disbursed as quickly as possible. Paying tribute to Governments and organizations meeting humanitarian needs and noting his country’s contributions in the billions of pounds, the United Kingdom’s representative stressed that more must be done to aid the displaced and the Governments that were hosting them.
The British representative added that the suffering had at root the violence fomented by the Syrian Government and multiplied greatly by the barbarity of extremist groups. The violence must end, he said, along with most speakers, through a political solution. In their statements, the representatives of Syria and the Russian Federation criticized inadequate consideration of terrorism in the discussion today and the consequent ascription of blame on the Syrian Government.
Until the conflict was ended, meanwhile, the situation in neighbouring countries was not sustainable, said Lebanon’s representative, noting that one of three persons in his country was now a Syrian refugee. Turkey’s representative called for a genuine partnership between the international community, including civil society and the private sector, and the countries in the region that were shouldering the humanitarian burden. The partnership, in addition to addressing basic needs, had to deal with the development dimensions of the crisis and building resilience, as well as with wider resettlement efforts. “Syrians and Syria’s neighbours should not be left alone in coping with this humanitarian tragedy,” he said.
Also speaking today were the representatives of the United States, Spain, Malaysia, New Zealand, France, China, Lithuania, Chile, Chad, Nigeria, Angola and Venezuela.
The meeting began at 10:14 a.m. and ended at 1:50 p.m.
VALERIE AMOS, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said that, each time she spoke to the Council about the Syrian conflict, “I speak of atrocity after atrocity, violation after violation, misery after misery.” However, “despite the Council’s unity on the appalling humanitarian consequences of the conflict and three Security Council resolutions demanding protection for civilians and humanitarian access, the Government and armed and terrorist groups continued to kill, maim, rape, torture and take Syria to new lows that seemed unimaginable a few years ago.” More than 220,000 people had been killed, over one million injured, and more than 7.6 million people were displaced within Syria, while nearly 4 million had sought refuge in neighbouring countries. Despite the Council’s concerted action on the removal and destruction of chemical weapons, there were fresh allegations that such weapons had been used in Idlib, killing and injuring civilians. The Council had also been briefed on the situation in Yarmouk, once a symbol of Syrian hospitality.
Hundreds of thousands of people elsewhere in the country also remained besieged, she said. The Government had finally approved a number of inter-agency convoys and critical food and education assessments, but there continued to be restrictions in aid delivery that limited the ability to deliver. In its resolution 2139 (2014), the Council had expressed its intent to take further steps in the case of non-compliance with the resolution. However, 14 months later, there continued to be a “shocking” lack of respect for the most basic rules of international law and a total absence of accountability. “The failure to stop the violence has undermined the credibility of the Council and eroded confidence in the international community to take its responsibility seriously,” she said. Billions of dollars had been pledged in assistance, but the people of Syria rightly wanted more. They wanted an end to the war which had ravaged their country and destroyed their lives and livelihoods.
She went on to call on the Council to demand that attacks on education and health facilities cease and that schools and hospitals become zones of peace; to mandate a fact-finding mission to look specifically at the situation in besieged communities; to mandate the negotiation of humanitarian pauses and days of tranquillity; to send perpetrators a clear message that their crimes would not go unpunished; and to enforce an arms embargo and targeted sanctions for violations of international humanitarian law and non-respect for humanitarian imperatives. Time was running out for Syria, she said, and this was a crisis with global repercussions. “I ask this Council to match its scale with an equally bold and courageous response,” she concluded.
ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said that the regional spill-over effects of the Syrian conflict were taking on dramatic proportions. Some 14 million people were now displaced due to the interlinked crises in Syria and Iraq. Security threats to neighbouring countries were growing. “It is my duty as High Commissioner to ask Governments to continue letting civilians seek protection,” he said. However, “the conflict and the resulting refugee influx, in the absence of sufficient international solidarity, have had such an enormous impact on neighbouring countries that we are now seeing a growing fatigue on the part of hosts.” Living conditions across the region were deteriorating and there was insufficient international support to cover even the most basic humanitarian necessities.
The World Food Programme (WFP) had been forced to reduce its food voucher programme by 30 per cent, with far-reaching consequences for refugee families, he said. Dangerous consequences were on the rise. Refugees were getting increasingly desperate, and more and more were attempting the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, with twice as many people having drowned this month than all of 2013. Overall, the situation in the region had become utterly unsustainable. The only way to stop it from worsening was a political solution to the conflict. It was high time that all those with influence on actors in Syria put aside their differences and come together to stop the fighting. In the meantime, neighbouring countries would require adequate help to manage the vast economic, demographic and fiscal impacts of the refugee influx. “The situation in the Middle East is a cancer that risks spreading and metastasizing,” he said, adding that, if things continued, “we could see future developments spin out of control, independently of our will and with dangerous global consequences.”
ANGELINA JOLIE PITT, Special Envoy for Refugee Issues of UNHCR, said that, since the Syria conflict began, she had made 11 visits to refugees in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Malta. Relaying some of their tragic stories, she said, “I am here for them because this is their United Nations.” She said, however, that the international community was failing to end their suffering. Their hopes, which had been expressed to her on her first visit, were turning into anger and then resignation, misery and the bitter question: “Why are we, the Syrian people, not worth saving?”
Noting that she was proud to be part of the United Nations system for 13 years and knew how many people were being assisted by the Organization, she said, however, that the message being sent in Syria was that laws could be flouted, chemical weapons could be used, hospitals could be bombed, aid could be withheld and civilians starved with impunity. The Council’s credibility and its ability to stem conflicts were eroding. She called for unity in the Council on ending the conflict as a matter of urgency. If the conflict could not be ended, there was a moral duty to help refugees and provide legal avenues to safety. And the barbarism of those inflicting systematic sexual violence demanded a much greater response, starting with care for survivors.
ERTHARIN COUSIN, Executive Director of WFP, said that humanitarian solutions that created hope and stability across the region must be put in place until a political solution to the Syrian crisis was delivered. “Failure to do so will haunt us for decades to come,” she stressed, describing the harrowing situation faced by refugees, especially parents, in the region, where “picking up a gun is easier than picking up a book”. “Without your support, there will be no food security. We must do better,” she said.
Since the beginning of the crisis, she said, WFP had worked to address the daily food needs of 4 million people inside Syria and 1.9 million people outside the country. Recalling her encounters with frustrated refugees in Zaatari camp, she stressed the importance and enormous task of providing them with the kind of bread that would allow them to maintain their self-respect. Inside Syria, in the districts with high concentrations of those displaced, people had been living without income for a long time and were unable to meet their basic needs. Critical food aid was needed by 6.8 million people, she said, pointing to severe malnutrition rates in Aleppo, Hama and Deir Ezzor. It was crucial to ensure that those peoples’ basic needs were not provided by extremists.
Describing the logistical obstacles to delivering food in the conflict-beset country, she acknowledged one widely reported incident where a small amount of WFP food was stolen by cadres of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Sham (ISIL/ISIS) and “distributed with much publicity on social media”. Negotiating humanitarian access for distribution and monitoring within besieged areas could involve up to 50 parties. Noting new areas reached after the Council authorized additional border crossings for humanitarian supplies, she said that, not only security, but also adequate financial resources were a consideration on distribution in additional areas.
She said that the 2015 plan was to reach 4 million people inside Syria and 21 million more outside, but funding shortfalls were putting that already limited assistance in jeopardy. Because of funding shortfalls, the family food basket had already been cut inside the country by 30 per cent. Shortfalls had also limited plans, such as those with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to reach pregnant and lactating women and to provide an integrated school feeding programme, which helps attract children and could save them from the negative outlook taught by the conflict. Food access was also threatened across the region. To avoid lack of access to food becoming a political issue, investments in food and nutritional assistance must increase, not be reduced, she stressed. “I must warn this Council: when we reduce food access operations we reduce stability,” she stated.
NASSER JUDEH, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Expatriate Affairs of Jordan, and President of the Council, then delivered remarks in his national capacity. He said that Jordan had been a refuge for its neighbours throughout history. The timing of the present meeting coincided with the entry into the fifth year of the Syrian crisis, and the situation continued to deteriorate. The large number of refugees living in Jordan had many repercussions on the country, in terms of providing basic services and putting high pressure on the country’s limited resources. The only solution to the crisis could be a political one which met the needs and aspirations of the Syrian people. Indeed, the social fabric of Syria must be restored and refugees should be encouraged to return to the country.
In Jordan, limited resources were leading to friction between the refugees and the host population, he said. There could be extended impacts across the board, leading to a threat to global peace and security. The Council should, therefore, take seriously the situation in Syria and the situation of refugee-hosting countries. “All of humanity is responsible to meet the needs of the refugees,” he said in that respect. Jordan had adopted an approach aimed at balancing the needs of the refugees inside Jordan, as well as those of civilians inside Syria. The absence of a political solution after four years of the crisis necessitated that the Council deal with the refugee crisis with a long-term view, taking into account the development needs of refugee-hosting countries.
SAMANTHA POWER (United States) recognized the efforts of humanitarian workers who were risking their lives in Syria, and referred to the situation of the besieged cities of Deir Ezzor and Yarmouk, which were not outliers. Siege was just one tactic to keep life-saving food and supplies from reaching the population. The Syrian Government was currently considering 19 requests for approval of inter-agency convoys, causing “death by bureaucratic delay”. There was an immense gap between the actions by the Council and the situation on the ground, she said, adding that both the Syrian regime and ISIL were ignoring recent resolutions that demanded the delivery of all humanitarian aid. The lives of thousands and the credibility of the Council depended on action. “Our resolutions are currently being ridiculed by the Syrian regime,” she said in that regard.
Citing the goodwill of Syria’s neighbours, which had taken in millions of refugees, she called on them to keep their borders open and said, “we cannot allow them to shoulder this burden alone”. It was crucial that countries make more contributions, and deliver on pledges made. In addition to the billions of dollars pledged by the United States to the needs of Syria, she announced $6 million in aid to United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in the face of the crisis in Yarmouk. The Assad regime’s brutality continued. Indeed, ISIL could disappear tomorrow and the regime would continue to kill and maim civilians. “The only solution to this crisis is one without Assad in power,” she said, calling for a “long overdue” political transition.
IGNACIO YBÁÑEZ, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of Spain, said that challenges faced by Syria’s neighbouring countries affected all States. “We have the greatest refugee crisis of our time before us,” he said, adding that the drama of 3.9 million refugees spilled over borders and affected the entire international community. “It is our failure, and it is our shame,” that the crisis continued, he said. The international community faced, not only a humanitarian crisis, but a situation that threatened the development of neighbouring countries; the Council must consider how best to assist those countries. The generosity of donors in Kuwait had been great, however, the international community was still far from reaching the estimated $8.4 billion requested by the United Nations for the Syrian crisis. The massive figures of refugees had been increasing over the years of the crisis. Debate after debate, the Council noted that its demands were not fully complied with. He was particularly concerned with violations of the principles of medical neutrality and the removal of medical equipment. The Council must take action. On the besieged areas, where some 440,000 people lived under poor conditions, he said that life in Yarmouk had been described as “one of the worst circles of hell”. An assessment mission was needed to look at the humanitarian needs in besieged areas. That mission should be backed by a clear mandate, including a call on all parties not to impede the mission and a clear timeline to report back to the Council.
HAMZAH ZAINUDIN, Deputy Foreign Minister of Malaysia, shared Ms. Jolie’s concerns that too many innocent people were paying the price of the conflict in Syria and that the international community must do more to stop it. He regretted the significant deterioration in the humanitarian situation and was “perplexed” that the parties to the conflict seemed oblivious to the suffering and destruction they were inflicting. “While the humanitarian statistics may speak for themselves, this Council must continue to speak for the victims of this conflict,” he said, and “unequivocally condemned” the besieging of whole cities and starving of populations as a war strategy. He expressed concern over the security and administrative obstacles to humanitarian aid delivery. The prohibition of medical and surgical supplies was unacceptable. The Council must continue monitoring and ensure aid delivery; it could “ill afford to sit back and simply hope” the parties to the conflict would respect international law, international humanitarian law and relevant Council resolutions. In light of the Syrian Government’s continued failure to fulfil its obligations, the Council must ensure the protection of civilians and efforts to enable to humanitarian pauses for aid delivery, to set up humanitarian corridors and to allow the safe passage of civilians out of besieged areas. He remained hopeful the parties to the conflict would agree with Special Representative Staffan de Mistura’s freeze proposal.
CAROLYN SCHWALGER (New Zealand) said it was increasingly apparent that the burden of Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and Iraq of hosting Syrian refugees was unsustainable. Countries in the region could not be expected to absorb the impact of the Syrian conflict indefinitely. As the carnage continued to unfold, the Council must find renewed will to put aside differences, she said, calling on members to “think creatively about the pragmatic things we can do to make a difference”. Her country would continue to work with Jordan and Spain to pursue concrete action on medical neutrality and humanitarian access to besieged areas, and other Council members were encouraged to join them. The situation in Yarmouk had served as a reminder of why greater action on humanitarian access to 440,000 people trapped in besieged areas throughout Syria was so important. It was unacceptable that only 0.3 per cent of those areas had access to medical aid in March, as noted in the Secretary-General’s report. The Council should ask the Secretary-General to conduct a humanitarian assessment mission to besieged areas and report its findings to the Council as soon as possible. Many had deemed “too hard” any Council action on chemical weapons and cross-border humanitarian access. Still, progress was made. “Let’s do the same with other aspects of resolution 2139 (2014),” she said.
FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) said that it had become clear that the Syrian conflict was a sort of black hole allowing free reign to all the worst humanitarian possibilities. Action must be taken to stop such deterioration, he stated, noting financial shortfalls and calling for pledged funds to be provided swiftly. He described France’s aid in a range of areas and noted that many refugees were being hosted in his country, as well. Underlining the necessity for a developmental response to the needs created by the crisis, he stressed, however, that only a political transition that included all parties — excepting the current President, who he said had caused much of the suffering — could end the devastation.
LIU JIEYI (China), also noting the suffering caused by the Syria crisis both within its borders and in the region, as well as the burdens shouldered by the neighbouring countries, called for a political solution that ended the crisis through negotiation and respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country. Stepping up aid was a current priority, he said, however, to prevent further destabilization in the region. Assisting nations should abide by principles of United Nations humanitarian relief, while addressing the concerns of the countries hosting refugees. Ascribing much of the suffering to the activities of terrorist groups in Syria, he called for counter-terrorist measures in line with United Nations principles and described aid being provided by his country. He pledged that his country would continue to work for a sustainable political solution to the conflict.
RAIMONDA MURMOKAITĖ (Lithuania) said that Syrians last year accounted for about one third — the largest percentage — of the world’s 51.2 million people forcibly displaced by conflict or persecution that were attempting to escape. Even more Syrians remained trapped inside the country. Starvation was a reality for many trapped in besieged areas, she said, noting that nine World Health Organization (WHO) requests to deliver aid to locations in Aleppo, Dar’a, rural outskirts of Damascus, Idlib, Hasakeh and Deir Ezzor had gone unanswered. Last month, United Nations agencies were able to deliver food to only 4 per cent of those under siege. Constraints on humanitarian operations and attacks on aid and medical workers were a clear breach of international law and a blatant disregard of Council resolutions. The 15-member body must be firm in demanding full implementation of relevant resolutions and seek accountability for non-compliance. “After four years of lawlessness and impunity, it is time to take a strong stance,” she said. She welcomed adoption of today’s presidential statement, which stressed the importance of comprehensive humanitarian responses, sustainable funding and preventing radicalization, among other things. On Libya, she called for viable political solutions to tackle the crises in that country and elsewhere in the region that were fuelling unprecedented refugee flows. The Council must use all instruments at its disposal, including the International Criminal Court.
MARK LYALL GRANT (United Kingdom) said that at the root of all the suffering in Syria was the brutality of President Assad, multiplied by the barbarity of ISIL and other extremist groups. Paying tribute to Governments and organizations meeting the needs of the displaced and noting his country’s contributions in the billions of pounds, he stressed that more must be done. He called on all Council members to lend their expertise and provide more resources to host Governments as his Government had done in several areas, particularly in necessary services, such as education. To end the suffering, a negotiated political solution must be found and those accountable for atrocities must be brought to account. In addition, all parties must facilitate unhindered humanitarian access. Marking his last appearance as Permanent Representative, he called on Council members to put aside their national interests to find common ground and end the crisis in Syria.
CARLOS OLGUÍN CIGARROA (Chile) said that aid must be increased, but that would not be enough to end the suffering of the Syrian people. Meanwhile, it was a moral obligation to provide humanitarian relief and to assist countries that were hosting refugees, to whom he paid tribute. The situation was no longer sustainable and threatened the stability of those countries, however. The recent tragedies in the Mediterranean showed that the crisis was not limited to the region as the violence intensified. He condemned the targeting of the civilian population and called for bringing those responsible to justice. He underscored the importance, in particular, of providing relief to Palestinian refugees in Syria and the region, increasing humanitarian relief and pursuing with greater determination a political solution to the crisis.
MAHAMAT ZENE CHERIF (Chad) said that total flouting of international law was causing immense suffering in Syria and compromised the future of several generations. The parties must shoulder their responsibilities. Moreover, the Council and the international community must take specific measures to halt attacks on civilians and hold to account parties responsible for them. In that context, primary responsibility devolved upon the Syrian Government. International partners must tackle the increasing needs and transfer funds pledged at the recent conference as quickly as possible. New infrastructure must be built in host countries to provide greater capacity. Most importantly, a political solution must be found to the conflict on the basis of the Geneva communiqué of 2012.
KAYODE LARO (Nigeria), expressing deep concern over the situation of non-combatants in Syria as the obstacles to delivering humanitarian aid, called on all parties to facilitate such aid. Welcoming pledges made at last month’s conference, he called for expedited dispersal of funds, as well as increased assistance to countries hosting refugees. As the long-term situation to the suffering lay in ending the conflict, he encouraged all parties to lay down their arms and come to a political agreement based on the Geneva communiqué.
JULIO HELDER DE MOURA LUCAS (Angola) expressing concern at lack of progress in reaching a settlement to the conflict in Syria, said it was the largest humanitarian emergency in the world. Providing emergency humanitarian assistance to 12 million people was unsustainable. The spill-over effect on the countries in the region must also be addressed. The violence was getting worse, he said, noting that 440,000 remained in besieged areas. The warring parties had complete disregard for the lives of men, women and children. The international community had a responsibility to keep the crisis from dragging on. The Syrian people must be able to freely and democratically choose their future. The political track must involve the Government and the opposition, keeping in mind that the safety of the Syrian people was paramount. It was time to act decisively and coherently. He hoped the Cairo and Moscow initiatives would continue in that regard.
RAFAEL DARÍO RAMÍREZ CARREÑO (Venezuela) said the conflict and its devastating effects had been caused by the support of foreign Powers, in violation of international law, to armed groups bent on overthrowing Syria’s legitimate Government. The actions of such terrorist groups also threatened neighbouring countries. The only way to put an end to the conflict was through negotiations among all parties, including the Government. He supported the efforts of Moscow in that regard, as well as Mr. de Mistura’s efforts to bring about a ceasefire, which would make it possible to address the humanitarian effort. He urged all parties and countries, including all Syrian parties, to support the effort. The Syrian people were being martyred by the massive violations of international humanitarian law. He condemned the actions of ISIS and its efforts to recruit children, noting that, of the 440,000 Syrians under siege, 220,000 were surrounded by ISIS terrorists. The United Nations and the Council had a moral obligation to find a peaceful solution to the war if history “were not to blame us” for the tragedy.
VITALY CHURKIN (Russian Federation) expressed surprise that the briefings heard today had mentioned terrorism only in passing. As his country was providing humanitarian assistance, its Embassy in Damascus was in touch with humanitarian agencies on the ground and knew the difficulties they faced in its delivery. Noting that the donor conference for such assistance had not invited the Syrian Government, which bore responsibility for its provision, he called on all providing assistance to better coordinate with the Government. It was impossible to assess the humanitarian need in areas controlled by terrorists, he said, noting also that those groups were forming alliances to spread their influence. He expressed concern at their takeover of the Palestinian refugee camp in Yarmouk, which underlined the threat that they could become involved in the Palestinian situation. He stressed that there was insufficient sense of urgency to resolve the situation. To those who proposed arming the “moderate opposition”, he said that there was no such opposition, as the terrorist groups were taking over. He supported joint struggle against those organizations. The principal hope now was the Geneva contacts arranged by Mr. de Mistura. He also expressed concern at the conflict in Yemen, which could become a crisis like the one in Syria and asked for an assessment of the humanitarian situation there.
BASHAR JA’AFRI (Syria) said States that turned the world upside down when they discovered a single terrorist on their territory and attacked others in the name of national security were denying his country the right to fight terrorism within its borders. In those States’ eyes, terrorists that Syria targeted from its airspace were innocent civilians exposed to so-called “barrel bombs” and cross-border foreign terrorism — condemned by resolution 2178 (2014) — was a result of the Syrian crisis, not the cause of it. Terrorists, he stressed, came into Syria through international borders from more than 100 countries, facilitated by intelligence services of well-known countries, including members of the Council. That fact had been confirmed by the report of the Council’s Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team. It was impossible to talk about ending the suffering and pain of the Syrian people while ignoring how other countries had aided and abetted terrorists headed to Syria. Equally inconsistent was the keenness of certain countries to improve the humanitarian situation in Syria while they continued to impose illegal coercive measures on the Syrian people.
Criticism that the Syrian Government had prevented the entry of humanitarian aid to civilians in some areas was both naïve and misleading, he said. Those areas were stable and secure until terrorist groups — including ISIL and Al-Nusra Front — stormed in and besieged them from within. The Government had to fight those groups to prevent them from expanding to new, secure civilian areas, thus preventing them from creating new humanitarian crises. He refuted claims that the Syrian Government had besieged the Yarmouk refugee camp. “How could it be possible that the camp is besieged by the Government, while ISIL has managed to enter it with the help of Al-Nusra Front, which is originally present in the camp?”, he asked, calling on his accusers to answer that question and to explain why civilians displaced from those areas had resorted to safe havens provided by his Government. Prior to being overrun by terrorists, the Yarmouk camp was home to some 500,000 people, including 200,000 Palestinians; the rest were Syrian citizens. His Government had helped them leave safely and had provided them shelter and basic supplies. Only 1,000 people, all men, remained in the camp
Syria hosted millions of refugees from several neighbouring countries, but had never used their plight for political or financial manipulation, nor had it created camps on its border to accommodate them — a fact manifested by UNHCR and UNRWA, he said. Unfortunately, other States sought to create a refugee crisis as a pretext for political pressure and financial manipulation. The Syrian Government was committed to its responsibility to alleviate the humanitarian burden of its people, but such cooperation was not a one-way street. The United Nations must abide by its guiding principles to deliver humanitarian aid and cooperate and coordinate with the Syrian Government.
NAWAF SALAM (Lebanon) said he was disappointed at the Council’s continuing failure to facilitate a political solution that would end the cycle of violence that had engulfed Syria for four years. Lebanon, the smallest country in the region, was hosting 1.2 million Syrian refugees, tenfold the number received by the European Union in a country that was 400 times smaller. The crisis had a devastating impact on Lebanon’s security, development, economic activity, social progress and the environment, overstretching its capacity in social services, health-care and education systems, housing, water and sanitation facilities and the energy infrastructure. He called on the donor community to meet Lebanon’s humanitarian and development needs, clearly identified in the Lebanon Crisis Response Plan 2015-2016. Of the $8.4 billion identified, only $3.6 billion had been pledged, he said, noting that what was pledged was not always delivered. He called on donors, international finance institutions and United Nations agencies to provide neighbouring countries with adequate development assistance to meet their needs, strengthen their resilience, and alleviate the impact of the crisis.
HALIT ÇEVIK (Turkey) affirmed the extent of the suffering in Syria and the burden it was placing on his country, which had maintained an open-border policy and complied with the principle of non-refoulement. More than 1.7 million Syrians were now living in Turkey. Over 256,000 were registered in 25 shelters; all their needs were provided by the Turkish Government. The country was working to provide basic services to those outside the shelters, as well, and regulations had come into effect ensuring rights, such as employment and education, to refugees. In addition, Turkey had helped provide aid to northern Syria. The total cost to the country had exceeded $5.6 billion. Total contributions received from other countries so far only reached $300 million.
Support must be increased, not decreased, he maintained, particularly in the critical areas of nutrition and education, which was needed to save another generation of Syrians from cycles of violence. Stronger action was also needed to ensure humanitarian access and protection of civilians against the crimes of the Syrian regime and of terrorist groups. He called for a genuine partnership between the international community, including civil society and the private sector, and the host countries. The partnership had to include addressing the needs of host communities and increasing resettlement efforts. “Syrians and Syria’s neighbours should not be left along in coping with this humanitarian tragedy,” he said.
Mr. JA’AFARI (Syria), taking the floor a second time, said that the Turkish Government had spared no effort in undermining his Government and had prepared refugee camps even before fighting started in his country. Turkey did not have the right to speak on the future of his country given Turkey’s complicity with the terrorism occurring in Syria. He added that terrorist leaders were even now in Turkey preparing further attacks, and there was evidence that the country allowed the flow of arms into Syria.
Mr. ÇEVIK (Turkey) said that his country’s track record in fighting terrorism was well known. The use of barrel bombs had been denied by the Syrian Government, which also had been documented to harbour terrorists.
The full text of presidential statement S/PRST/2015/10 reads as follows:
“The Security Council recalls its resolutions 2042 (2012), 2043 (2012), 2139 (2014), 2165 (2014), 2175 (2014) and 2191 (2014), and its presidential statements of 3 August 2011 and 2 October 2013.
“The Security Council reaffirms its strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Syria and all other States affected by the Syrian conflict, and to the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
“The Security Council expresses grave alarm at the significant and rapid deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Syria, including at the fact that over 220,000 people have been killed, including well over 10,000 children since the beginning of the conflict; around half of the population has been forced to flee their homes, including over 3.9 million who have sought refuge in neighbouring countries, among which are nearly 2.1 million children; and that more than 12.2 million people in Syria require urgent humanitarian assistance including 440,000 civilians in besieged areas.
“The Security Council demands that all parties to the Syrian domestic conflict immediately put an end to all forms of violence and reiterates that all parties to the Syrian domestic conflict, in particular the Syrian authorities, must comply with their applicable obligations under international humanitarian law and international human rights law and respect human rights, and reiterates its demand that they fully and immediately implement the provisions of its resolutions 2139 (2014), 2165 (2014) and 2191 (2014), particularly through facilitating the expansion of humanitarian relief operations, and the immediate delivery of humanitarian assistance to hard-to-reach and besieged areas across borders and conflict lines.
“The Security Council is alarmed that the Syrian crisis has become the largest humanitarian emergency crisis in the world today, threatening peace and security in the region with diverse implications on the neighbouring countries and the displacement of millions of Syrians into those countries, and calls to address further spill-over of the conflict in Syria into the neighbouring countries.
“The Security Council further calls for coordinated international support to the neighbouring countries hosting Syrian refugees, at their request, in addressing legitimate security concerns and ensuring the safety and security of host communities and refugees, and countering radicalization, through inter alia the provision of support for effective border management and internal security measures.
“The Security Council reiterates its deep appreciation for the significant and admirable efforts that have been made by the countries of the region, notably Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt, to accommodate Syrian refugees and is mindful of the immense costs and multifaceted challenges incurred by these countries as a consequence of the crisis.
“The Security Council notes with deep concern that the crisis in Syria has had social, demographic, environmental and economic effects on neighbouring countries, which have exacerbated vulnerabilities; overstretched limited resources and basic social services such as health, water, sanitation, housing capacities, energy and education; aggravated unemployment; diminished trade and investment; and affected regional stability and security.
“The Security Council emphasizes the strain placed on host country education systems by the inflow of refugees and that additional resources will be required to help the 600,000 children outside the school system access quality education.“The Security Council underlines the risk of further regional destabilization if the conflict, refugee crisis and the needs of the host countries are not adequately addressed. The Security Council stresses the importance of funding the humanitarian and development responses to the refugee crisis, providing support for national response plans, addressing the humanitarian needs of refugees, in particular women and children, both in camps and urban areas and through capacity-building and technical support, strengthening the resilience of host countries and communities as components of stabilizing the region, preventing radicalization and countering the threat of terrorism and foreign terrorist fighters.
“The Security Council notes with concern that the international response to the Syrian and regional crisis continues to fall short of meeting the needs as assessed by host Governments and the United Nations, and urges all Member States, based on burden-sharing principles, to support the United Nations and the countries of the region, including by adopting medium- and long-term responses to alleviate the impact on communities, providing increased, flexible and multi-year predictable funding, as well as increasing resettlement efforts, and taking note in this regard of the Berlin communiqué of 28 October 2014.
“The Security Council urges donors, international financial institutions and United Nations agencies to consider financing instruments that effectively meet the unique needs of middle-income countries impacted by the Syrian conflict and address its massive structural impact on neighbouring countries.
“The Security Council emphasizes the importance of complying with applicable international humanitarian law and refugee law, promoting and protecting the human rights of all people affected by the crisis and respecting the United Nations guiding principles of humanitarian emergency assistance, welcomes efforts by host countries in this regard and urges Member States to continue to help them in this effort.
“The Security Council welcomes the convening of the third International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria generously hosted by Kuwait on 31 March 2015 and the $3.6 billion pledges made and calls on all Member States to ensure the timely disbursement of pledges.
“The Security Council emphasizes that the humanitarian situation will continue to deteriorate in the absence of a political solution, expresses its full support for the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria, Mr. Staffan de Mistura, and reiterates that the only sustainable solution to the current crisis in Syria is through an inclusive and Syrian-led political process that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people, with a view to full implementation of the Geneva communiqué of 30 June 2012 endorsed as annex II of its resolution 2118 (2013).”
For information media. Not an official record.