Syria : humanitarian aid is unconditional and apolitical [fr]
Syria - Statement by Mr François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations - Security Council - 30 January 2018
I would like to thank Ms. Ursula Mueller for her comprehensive briefing. I reiterate France’s full support for the recommendations of the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Mr. Mark Lowcock, which Ms. Mueller has just referenced.I would also like to express my country’s grave concerns about the latest developments in the humanitarian situation in Syria. Several points are of particular concern.
We note the extremely dire situation of the population in eastern Ghouta — still besieged and denied the humanitarian assistance and medical evacuations that they need — and the escalation of violence, particularly in the Idlib region. In addition, we are concerned about the attacks on hospitals, medical facilities and the provision of health care, as well as the persistent restrictions on humanitarian access in Syria, which are unacceptable and have tightened further in recent weeks — denying the civilian population the access to the essential resources that they so vitally need. Accordingly, I should like to make three main observations.
1/ First, we are particularly concerned about the current escalation of violence in eastern Ghouta and the Idlib region, which adds to the suffering of the affected populations. In eastern Ghouta, 400,000 civilians are victims of almost daily bombings by the regime and its allies. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 750 people in eastern Ghouta are still waiting for emergency medical evacuation. Since 30 December, the wounded have been unable to be transported out of eastern Ghouta to receive care ; 21 others have died from their wounds, unable to wait another day. We note and stress that it is the responsibility of the Syrian regime to allow those medical evacuations to proceed without delay.The situation in the south of Idlib and in the north of Hama is very worrying as well. The continued bombings led to the displacement of about 250,000 civilians last month. More than 33 people were reportedly killed in less than 24 hours. The town of Sarakab was bombed yesterday morning, and the strikes hit the town market, killing more than 11 people and injuring a number of others. One hour later, the only public hospital in the district — a hospital supported by the non-governmental organization Médecins Sans Frontières — was struck, killing five people, including a child, and injuring six others, including medical staff.France very firmly condemns attacks on health-care workers and medical infrastructure, as well as the indiscriminate bombings carried out in recent weeks by the Syrian regime against civilians in eastern Ghouta and in residential areas of Idlib province.France reiterates that indiscriminate bombings and the use of incendiary weapons against civilians represent serious violations of international humanitarian law and could constitute war crimes or even crimes against humanity. It is vital and urgent to bring to an immediate end the bombings in Idlib and the siege in eastern Ghouta. The Astana guarantors have taken upon themselves the responsibility to supervise its implementation, and we therefore urge these States to effectively impose on the Syrian regime a complete cessation of hostilities as well as respect for the basic principles and norms of international humanitarian law and human rights law.
2/ The second observation is particularly worrying : the deterioration of humanitarian access in recent weeks in Syria. We have reiterated this concern on numerous occasions in this Chamber : the humanitarian situation will not improve without comprehensive, unimpeded, safe and ongoing humanitarian access to the aid distributed by the United Nations and its partners.Nonetheless, the regime is continuing to create unacceptable obstacles to the provision of humanitarian aid. The Syrian authorities have not authorized even a single inter-agency convoy in several weeks.
France condemns this unacceptable attitude and reiterates its call for the safe and unhindered access of the United Nations and its humanitarian partners to civilians throughout Syrian territory. The right of the Syrian population both to humanitarian assistance and to protection must be respected unconditionally.The Security Council cannot remain silent given these recurring violations of international humanitarian law, which require a strong response from the Council.
3/ Finally, I would like to touch on the obvious discrepancy between the continuing violence on the ground in Syria and the diplomatic offensives, which are not facing up to the situation.
We know that only an inclusive political solution that is elaborated under the auspices of the United Nations and that sets up a political transition in the context of resolution 2254 (2015) can bring a lasting and credible end to the suffering of the Syrian people.
However, the regime is continuing its policy of methodical and deliberate obstruction, as we saw during the negotiation session held in Vienna on 25 and 26 January. In this context more than ever, we need to support the United Nations and United Nations mediation in Geneva, as well as eschew any temporary solutions agreed without the opposition, which would be unrealistic as they would not meet the aspirations of all Syrians. It is up to those countries that support the regime, primarily Russia and Iran, to bring to bear the pressure necessary to ensure that the regime puts an end to this negative and irresponsible strategy. Make no mistake : there can be no negotiated political transition in Syria without a total ceasefire, humanitarian access throughout the whole of the territory and the creation of a neutral environment that would restore trust and ensure the safety of all Syrians.
How credible is a regime that is stepping up the bombing in Idlib, preventing medical evacuations in eastern Ghouta and refusing to authorize a single humanitarian convoy ? How credible can diplomatic efforts be that are devoid of any specific assurances and that do not lead to any significant and lasting improvement in the humanitarian situation in Idlib and eastern Ghouta ?
We reiterate that humanitarian aid is unconditional and apolitical. We therefore make an urgent request to see proof of this on the ground. That is exactly what France will seek to defend in the weeks to come, in line with the Geneva communiqué (S/2012/522, annex), namely, the establishment of a neutral environment that must include the lifting of sieges, the cessation of hostilities, prisoner exchanges and chemical disarmament, all of this under international supervision so as to ensure genuine constitutional reform and the holding of free elections. That is the only way to bring a lasting end to the suffering of the Syrian people and open the way to an inclusive political process in Syria, in the interests of all the Syrian people. It is for that reason that we will continue to fully support the process stemming from resolution 2254 (2015), and we will make every effort to unite the Council in this respect.