21 November 2016 - Syria: Aleppo is the victim of a barrage of fire [fr]
Syria/Humanitarian affairs - Speech of Mr. François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations - Security Council - 21 November 2016
I thank Mr. Stephen O’Brien and Ms. Elizabeth Hoff for their briefings, which once again give cause for indignation. I would like to pay tribute to the work that they and their teams are carrying out. Their briefings depict a relentless spiral of violence that makes it impossible for humanitarian actors to carry out their work and condemns hundreds of thousands of people to hunger and death. I would like to underscore three points today.
First, simple words cannot describe the seriousness of the humanitarian situation in Aleppo today. Eastern Aleppo is the double victim of a barrage of fire and a siege that is fitting of the Middle Ages. Both target civilians and constitute war crimes. According to the information available to us, hundreds of people, including many children, have been killed since last Tuesday as a result of bombings and uninterrupted shelling, which means that rescue teams are unable to intervene to rescue the wounded from the rubble. Those conditions make it impossible for humanitarian workers to carry out their work by delivering humanitarian aid and carrying out medical evacuations. No convoy has been able to reach eastern Aleppo since July. The humanitarian aid reserves in warehouses in western Aleppo have now been exhausted. Today, more than 275,000 civilians in eastern Aleppo are besieged as a result of the incessant bombing of the regime and its supporters. They have no food, medical equipment or access to essential services. The Special Envoy unequivocally stated that the fall of eastern Aleppo will trigger an unprecedented humanitarian crisis and could force more than 200,000 people to flee to Turkey.
Secondly, the people of Aleppo are not the only population suffering in Syria. The regime is besieging civilians across the country and is refusing to abide by the necessary monthly humanitarian aid convoy authorizations, as part of a deliberate obstructive policy to force the population to flee and its opponents to submit. In November, the United Nations submitted 18 requests to access 900,000 people in 25 besieged or hard-to-reach areas. One third of those requests were rejected without any valid justification citing humanitarian aid principles. In Duma, as Mr. O’Brien pointed out to us, a major convoy that was to deliver humanitarian aid to 70,000 people has been held up at the last check point maintained by the regime. Syrian authorities have demanded convoys to unload their cargo, despite the fact that they are affixed with the necessary clearance. Medical and health supplies are still deliberately removed from convoys, and 45,000 medical supplies were removed and destroyed in October. Aid continues to be hindered and destroyed and the population continues to go hungry and untreated; and all the while the regime continues to impose its demands on the United Nations and its partners. I recall that the Syrian authorities are expressly bound to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law, an obligation that includes ensuring swift, safe and unhindered access to the entire population in Syria, in line with Security Council resolutions.
Thirdly, the regime and its allies continue their illegal deliberate attacks on hospitals and medical staff, actions that constitute war crimes. Five hospitals were attacked between 3 to 15 November, leading to at least two deaths and 19 injuries, including six medical staff. As the Secretary-General pointed out yesterday, there is no longer a single hospital functioning in eastern Aleppo today. The WHO has reported 126 attacks of that nature in Syria since the beginning of the year. Daily action of that kind in Syria cannot go unpunished, and full light must be shed on all violations of human rights and international humanitarian law that undermine the claims of the regime that it is seeking to provide for the Syrian people and the future of country.
Over the past two months, France has unceasingly sought to hammer home a message that I repeat again today. The regime and its supporters must immediately and definitively cease their bombings of Aleppo and allow humanitarian actors to swiftly deliver emergency aid to the entire population that stands in need today. That call is shared by a very large majority of members of this Council.
France calls once again on those members of the Council that are involved in the combat and have influence on the regime to break the ongoing downward course in that devasted land, which will only usher in decades instability, violence and terrorism. Let us not deceive ourselves. It is not just a total war-strategy that has been triggered in Aleppo. It is not only a humanitarian catastrophe, but also a strategic error. That strategy will mechanically lead to the partition of Syria. It will exacerbate the pace towards radicalization and it will strengthen Da’esh and terrorism in general. In Aleppo, horror and terror are two sides of the same coin.
On behalf of France, I would like to underscore once more the absolute urgency of immediately ending the bombardments and the war, to seek together a political solution. That is the only possible way out of the tragedy, and it is the responsibility of the Security Council, whose credibility is heavily involved.