France calls for immediate lifting of all sieges in Syria [fr]
Humanitarian situation in Syria - Speech by François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations - Security Council - 15th January, 2016
I should like to convey my gratitude to Ms. Kang for her briefing. The situation that she has just described illustrates, if there were need for it, the scale of the disaster that we have been witnessing for nearly five years now in Syria. This is the greatest tragedy of the century.
France asked the Security Council for an emergency meeting today with three complementary objectives :
To ensure that everyone faces up to their responsibilities in connection with the human tragedy that is unfolding before our eyes in Madaya and other besieged cities in Syria.
To maximize the pressure that the Council can exert to bring about the immediate lifting of the sieges and the provision of emergency humanitarian assistance to all concerned areas.
And, finally, to create the conditions necessary for the launch in a few days of the intra-Syrian dialogue, because there can be no credible political process without serious and tangible progress on the humanitarian track.
Close to 400,000 individuals are trapped in besieged cities in Syria, without any means of subsistence or any access by humanitarian workers. In addition to the cities of Madaya, Fu’ah and Kafraya, tens of thousands of individuals are besieged on the outskirts of Damascus, in eastern Ghutah, in Mouadamiya, in the rural area of Damascus, near Madaya, in Darayya, in Zabadani and in other localities.
Four and a half million people are living in hard-to-reach locations: 147 such cities and villages have been identified by the United Nations, of which only 32 per cent received aid in late 2015, according to the most recent report of the Secretary-General (S/2015/962). The most vulnerable individuals, namely, women and children, are by definition the first victims. Humanitarian actors have these past few days described horrendous scenes: women and children dying of hunger in Madaya and other locations, because starvation is being used, just as it was in the Middle Ages, as a weapon of war and terror, and no one can say that they did not know.
Over and beyond the immediate lifting of all sieges, permanent, immediate and unrestricted access must be granted to humanitarian workers so as to ensure that they can assist all those in need. France wishes once again to underscore the primary responsibility borne by the regime. The most recent report of the Secretary-General states that although there were 91 requests for inter-agency convoys, only 13 were completed.
Following long months of negotiations, the United Nations and its partners were able to distribute emergency assistance only twice to the people of Madaya, Fu’ah and Kafraya, on 11 and 15 January. This is completely insufficient.
Access of emergency assistance to the civilian population is not, as Ms. Kang stated so eloquently, a favour or a concession granted by the Syrian regime. It is an absolute obligation under the Geneva Conventions. The Council has repeatedly and in multiple resolutions asked the regime and the other parties to the conflict to put an end to their use of starvation as a weapon of war, which is clearly prohibited under international humanitarian law. The Secretary-General underscored yesterday that this constituted a war crime. The Council has also asked that attacks that directly or indiscriminately target the civilian population in Syria come to an immediate end.In extension of France’s ongoing initiatives, we renew our calls for an immediate end to attacks against the civilian population, including through the use of barrel bombs and against civilian infrastructure, especially hospitals and schools. We call upon Syria to stop bombing the civilian population and call on Russia to act responsibly in the context of its military operations in Syria and to target only Council-designated terrorist groups.
Humanitarian workers also fall victim to such attacks; 81 have died in Syria since the beginning of the conflict, and 27 have either disappeared or are being detained.
Finally, at a time when intra-Syrian negotiations, which are necessary to achieve peace in Syria, are about to be launched, I wish to reiterate that there will be no credible political process without an immediate improvement in the situation on the ground for the Syrian people.
In order to be able to believe in a genuine relaunching of the political process and the implementation of a ceasefire, the Syrians must no longer be the victims of deadly, indiscriminate attacks or subjected to arbitrary detention, and they must receive the humanitarian assistance and treatment that they urgently require. France will be very careful with respect to the options proposed by the Secretary-General in his report on the implementation of confidence-building and ceasefire measures, in conformity with resolution 2254 (2015), which clearly shows that when the Council wants to present a united front, it can.
A few days before the launch of a decisive cycle of intra-Syrian discussions, the Council must shoulder its responsibilities both to put an end to the humanitarian tragedy that we see reflected in the unbearable images of the concerned locations, and thus contribute to the creation of a credible political process that could finally lead to the peace to which we all aspire.