Syria : humanitarian aid is essential and irreplaceable [fr]
Statement by Mrs. Anne Gueguen, Deputy Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
Security Council - 14 November 2019
At the outset, I thank Mr. Mark Lowcock for his briefing and, in particular, for sharing with us his assessment of the functioning of the cross-border assistance mechanism.
The first point I would like to make is that we must take every possible action to ensure humanitarian access throughout Syrian territory. I will not repeat the figures cited by Mr. Lowcock because they speak for themselves. Cross-border humanitarian aid is essential and irreplaceable. That point is clearly demonstrated by the ever-growing number of recipients of cross-border aid, at a time when hostilities continue in north-eastern and north-western Syria. France calls on the members of the Council to show unity and responsibility in preserving this essential asset by adopting another technical rollover of resolution 2165 (2014). There is no alternative to helping the millions of people in need while the regime of Bashar Al-Assad continues to use humanitarian aid for political purposes.
The Syrian population is preparing to face the rigours of a new winter of war. As in previous years, it is imperative to have access to the whole Syrian territory by the most direct roads and the fastest means. The survival of men, women and children depend upon it. It also means maintaining the whole-of-Syria aid architecture and maintaining the role of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Amman, which is crucial. The development of a first instalment of the Syria Cross-border Humanitarian Fund for north-east Syria should be encouraged in that regard and represents a major step in addressing the needs of more than 700,000 displaced people in the region. We call once again on actors with influence over Damascus to ensure safe, full and unhindered humanitarian access throughout Syrian territory, including in areas where the regime has recently regained control and where access remains particularly inadequate, in accordance with the relevant Security Council resolutions and international humanitarian law.
The second point I would like to highlight, which we tirelessly repeat, is that respect for international humanitarian law by all is essential and not negotiable. The protection of civilians must be an absolute priority. We strongly condemn attacks, specifically by the regime, against civilians and civilian infrastructure, especially against humanitarian and medical infrastructure. We are very concerned about reports of new strikes on four medical facilities in Idlib last week. The intensification of fighting in the north-west in recent weeks is unacceptable. The board of inquiry set up by the Secretary-General on those attacks, to which we give our full support, should make it possible to shed light on those incidents. Everything must be done to restore the ceasefire in Idlib.
It is essential to make progress in three directions in the north-east — the continued fight against terrorism, the protection of the civilian population and the full implementation of the humanitarian response. The continuation of hostilities also serves to underline that conditions are not in place to allow the return of refugees in conditions that respect international law. The fight against terrorism is an indisputable crucial issue for all of us, but it cannot be used to justify the flagrant violations of international humanitarian law that we are witnessing. Those who commit such acts will have to be held accountable before the courts. We call for the cooperation of all parties with the board of inquiry and with the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Persons Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes under International Law Committed in the Syrian Arab Republic.
The third point I would like to reiterate is our support for the Syrian political process, which is the only way out of war. Outside of the humanitarian response, only an inclusive political solution can put an end to the suffering of the Syrian people. Resolution 2254 (2015) remains our road map and must be implemented in all its components. The launch of the Constitutional Committee is a starting point, but progress must be made parallel to other aspects of the political process. That means creating a safe and neutral environment. It means that weapons must be silent throughout the entire territory. It also requires confidence-building measures, specifically the release of detained and abducted persons. In addition, there must be complete clarity on the fate of victims of forced disappearances. Such an environment is crucial for the holding of free and fair elections, under United Nations observation, in which all Syrians participate, including those who have fled the war.
All of those elements are fundamental to a credible political solution. Until such a solution is firmly in place, France, like its partners in the European Union, will not participate in financing reconstruction.