27 April 2017 - Syria humanitarian: the population is directly targeted [fr]
Syria Humanitarian - Statement by Mr François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations - Security Council - 27 April 2017
I wish to sincerely thank Mr. Stephen O’Brien for his briefing and his commitment. He has once again reminded us of our responsibilities with regard to the Syrian tragedy.
Since our last humanitarian consultations, one more step has been taken into the horror.
The chemical-weapons attack at Khan Shaykhun on 4 April killed more than 80 people and injured more than 500. We expect the Secretary-General’s next report to address very precisely the humanitarian consequences of this tragedy. Information that France has obtained, which the French Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Jean-Marc Ayrault, made public yesterday, provides evidence of the use of sarin gas and the responsibility of the regime, which will have to answer for these crimes. Syria undertook in 2013 to never again use chemical weapons and to destroy all of its chemical-weapons capabilities. More than ever now, we must remind the regime of its obligations. More broadly, the prohibition of the use of chemical weapons must remain an absolute and universal obligation, as it is one of the pillars of our collective security.
Ten days after 4 April, a convoy of civilians was attacked by a vehicle bomb in the Al-Rashidin transit zone, killing at least 130 people, including 67 children. Once again the Syrian population has been directly targeted. The price it is paying is unbearable. This tragedy took place in a very particular context, namely, that of the cross-displacement of populations. So far, more than 11,000 people have been evacuated from the so-called four towns of Fo’ah, Kafraya, Zabadani and Madaya. I would like to remind the Security Council that civilian evacuations must be undertaken on a voluntary basis. The Secretary-General has clearly pointed out that the forced displacement of populations may constitute war crimes, and the populations concerned must be allowed to choose their destination.
In that context, we appeal again to those who support the Syrian regime to exert all the pressure needed for it to comply with its international obligations and allow for full, secure, unconditional and unhindered access by the United Nations and its humanitarian partners to people in need throughout Syria.
The lives of hundreds of thousands of people hang in the balance, but United Nations access to the population is still as hampered as ever, especially for besieged cities. We recall that the use of hunger as a weapon of war and obstacles to relief are war crimes, and we reiterate with force our call for the immediate lifting of all sieges.
The gap between the aid reaching the zones controlled by the regime and the aid granted to areas held by the opposition can only grow. Throughout March, United Nations agencies submitted new requests for access, but the Government’s refusals deprived more than 68,000 people of food assistance in Homs, Dar’a and rural Damascus.
We are particularly concerned about the humanitarian situation in eastern Ghouta. Humanitarian convoys were planned by the United Nations in this area. However, the facilitation letters for the loading of the convoy have not yet been issued by the regime, whereas the opposition has given sufficient guarantees in terms of security for the letting the convoys through. We therefore call on the parties to take all necessary measures to enable aid workers to proceed without delay and in complete safety with the delivery of aid.
Moreover, the Syrian authorities persist in refusing to authorize medicines and medical supplies in humanitarian convoys. This is unacceptable. The World Health Organization’s requests for access to five areas of the country have remained unanswered. This is simply not acceptable. France recalls the right of the Syrian population to humanitarian assistance and protection, in accordance with international humanitarian law and Security Council resolutions. The attacks on the hospitals and schools, in particular, to which Stephen O’Brien has referred, also calls for our strongest condemnation.
The situation we are describing no longer has anything to do with a cessation of hostilities. The regime has consistently violated its commitments methodically — systematically — while claiming to carry out actions against Da’esh. Violence intensifies, especially in the provinces of Hama, Damascus and Dar’a. The air strikes of the regime against civilians continue east of Qalamoun. Indiscriminate attacks against civilians are taking place incessantly. The guarantors of the truce concluded on 29 December took responsibility for overseeing its implementation. We therefore appeal to the States guarantors of the Astana process, and in particular to Russia and Iran, to impose on the Syrian regime a complete cessation of hostilities.
In that context, the establishment of an efficient international mechanism for monitoring the ceasefire is a necessity that France has regularly called for and for which it has made concrete proposals. The improvement of the situation on the ground is essential for the resumption of the negotiations in Geneva during the month of May with a view to a political transition, and this, of course, under the auspices of the United Nations. That is the only way to save Syria from the abyss of violence, that of Da’esh and that of the regime, which are feeding each other.
We all know that a tangible and lasting improvement in the situation in Syria is possible only in the context of a political settlement of the crisis based on a political transition in the country, as provided for in resolution 2254 and the Geneva communiqué .
To put it bluntly, any credible revival of political negotiations presupposes much stronger pressure from Russia on the Damascus regime, as well as on the continuation of the recent American strikes, which we have approved, and a real political re-engagement of the United States in Syria in parallel with the efforts of Europeans and other stakeholders.
Rest assured, Madam President, of the France’s determined commitment in this direction.