Responding to the humanitarian emergency in Syria [fr]
Syria / Humanitarian issues
Statement by Mr. François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
Security Council – 25 June 2019
I would like to speak on a point of order. France has not objected to the participation of the Head of the Russian Reconciliation Centre as a briefer in this meeting. However, we want to point out that the monthly humanitarian briefings are intended to give the Security Council an opportunity to receive objective information about the situation on the ground based on information collected by impartial humanitarian actors and United Nations agencies, as the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs does every month. The participation of civil society helps keep the Council apprised of realities and difficulties that arise.
Despite the fact that it has been invited to speak under rule 39, the Russian Reconciliation Centre is neither a humanitarian actor nor a United Nations agency. It is an entity of the Russian Ministry of Defence, which is an active party to the conflict, and the information it presents should be viewed in that light.
First of all, I would like to thank our briefers, beginning with Mark Lowcock for his very useful briefing. I commend his teams for their outstanding work in responding to the humanitarian emergency in Syria. I would also like to thank the Executive Director of the Syrian American Medical Society for his very enlightening briefing. It is clear — we are indeed witnessing another humanitarian disaster in north-west Syria. We also took note of the information conveyed by the Russian Reconciliation Centre for Syria.
Now more than ever, we must focus our efforts on three priorities, namely, the preservation of the ceasefire in Idlib, respect for international humanitarian law and the quest for a lasting political solution.
1/ First, preserving the ceasefire in Idlib is an absolute imperative.
Given that another tragedy is unfolding in the north-west of the country, we must do everything in our power to prevent Idlib from becoming another Aleppo — the lives of more than 3 million civilians, including 1 million children, are at stake. We strongly condemn the strikes that have indiscriminately targeted the city of Idlib and its population in recent days. The risk of escalation is at its peak, as illustrated by the regime’s attacks on Turkish patrols this month.
We call on the signatories to the ceasefire agreement to honour their commitments and ensure an effective ceasefire in the north-west, the end of hostilities and a nationwide ceasefire, in accordance with resolution 2254 (2015). Russia in particular must exert all the necessary pressure on the regime to return to the front lines agreed in Sochi. Discussions between Turkey and Russia must also continue to allow for an immediate de-escalation of the situation. Iran must also play its part. We hope that upcoming deadlines set by the international community will enable substantial and lasting progress to be made on the situation in Idlib.
In addition, I reiterate that, in the event that chemical weapons are used again, France will be extremely firm and stands ready to act.
2/ Secondly, respect for international humanitarian law is binding on everyone and not negotiable.
I would like to recall two absolute priorities in that regard.
- The first is the need to protect civilians, including humanitarian and medical personnel. The fact that health infrastructure, in particular facilities that have been de-conflicted and schools, remain the targets of attacks in the north-west of the country is unacceptable. We strongly condemn the regime’s attack on an ambulance on 20 June in Maarat Al-Numan. Attacks on hospitals and health workers, which are part of the regime’s military strategy to forcibly reclaim areas beyond its control, constitute war crimes. I echo the remarks made by my German colleague: those crimes will not go unpunished. Furthermore, we take note of the letter from the United Nations to the Russian Federation and await Russia’s response. We must understand what that will mean for the United Nations de-confliction system.
- In addition to the protection of civilians, the other absolute priority is ensuring immediate, safe, secure, comprehensive, sustainable and unhindered humanitarian access throughout Syria. I recall that humanitarian aid must reach those who need it most. In that context, the whole-of-Syria humanitarian architecture — put in place by the United Nations to respond to the needs of the most vulnerable Syrians through the most effective channels — must be maintained.
It is also urgent that a new aid convoy be immediately deployed to the Rukban camp. That is vital. We also call on those with the means to do so to exert the necessary pressure on the regime to ensure unimpeded humanitarian access to all areas under its control, in particular the territories it reclaimed in 2018 in the south-west of the country and in eastern Ghouta. The fact that only 60 per cent of the requests for access made to the Syrian regime during April and May were approved is unacceptable. Lastly, I would mention the Al-Hol camp, where it is essential for the United Nations to have sustainable access that is as direct and effective as possible so as to provide assistance to the 73,000 people living there.
3/ The third priority, which is inextricably linked to the other two, is the launching of a sustainable political process under the auspices of the United Nations.
We will no spare no effort to support the Special Envoy in the implementation of a political solution based on all the provisions of resolution 2254 (2015) and the Geneva communiqué (S/2012/522,annex). It is essential that the Council do the same during our consultations with Geir Pedersen on Thursday.
In that regard, I refer to the key issues of the constitutional committee and elections.
In line with resolution 2254 (2015), we must now ref lect on the conditions that will ensure that election results are not determined in advance, as in the past; that the elections will be free and fair; that all Syrians, including refugees, can speak freely in the process and that the United Nations will be involved in overseeing the process. The Special Envoy has our full support to move forward in that regard.
Only the establishment of a credible political process will make it possible for refugees to return to Syria, which must take place in safe and dignified conditions and under the auspices of the United Nations. Those conditions are clearly not being met now. In any case, it is essential that the United Nations be given free access to Syrian territory to monitor refugee returns in a transparent manner.
Council members know our positions on issues related to reconstruction, the lifting of sanctions and normalization. Our positions, which are also those of the European Union, remain unchanged.