Syria: no alternative to cross-border aid for effective delivery of assistance [fr]
Statement by Mr. François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United
Security Council – 13 december 2018
First and foremost, on behalf of France, I would like to welcome the adoption of resolution 2449 (2018). This resolution is vital, in the literal sense of the word, as cross-border humanitarian assistance is a matter of life or death for millions of Syrians. We are pleased by the spirit of responsibility within the Security Council, which has served to give priority to the humanitarian imperative over political considerations. On behalf of France as well, I would like to express our profound thanks to the Permanent Missions of Sweden and Kuwait and to my colleagues — the Permanent Representatives of those two delegations — personally for their truly outstanding work.
Allow me to thank Mr. Mark Lowcock for his briefing, which was, as always, meticulous and most enlightening. We reiterate our admiration for his work and the work of his teams in responding to the humanitarian emergency in Syria. I also welcome the presence of the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Mr. Stephanus Blok, among us today.
As Mr. Lowcock has already recalled to us, the situation in Syria continues to be a source of extreme concern. In the Idlib region in particular, ceasefire violations are on the rise and the risk of a humanitarian disaster still cannot be ruled out. We must therefore remain fully mobilized around three key priorities: the need to protect civilians, the need to guarantee humanitarian access and the need for a lasting political solution in Syria.
First, on the need to protect civilians, as highlighted by Mr. Lowcock, the situation in Idlib remains exceedingly fragile. The cessation of hostilities should not be a temporary solution, but should provide for the lasting stabilization of the situation in Idlib in line with the commitments made at the quadripartite summit held in Istanbul for a sustainable ceasefire in north-west Syria. That is the only way to protect civilians, including humanitarian and medical personnel. It must be a top priority for all stakeholders. All parties must respect their obligations as stipulated by international humanitarian law. That imperative is non-negotiable.
The second priority is to ensure humanitarian access. It is imperative that the 13 million people in need receive humanitarian assistance. It is unacceptable for the regime to continue to block convoys to hard-to-reach areas. We reiterate our call to the actors with influence over the regime to ensure safe, full and unhindered humanitarian access throughout Syrian territory, in accordance with the relevant Security Council resolutions and international humanitarian law. In Rukban camp in particular, it is essential that the United Nations be able to quickly dispatch a new convoy to deliver aid to the tens of thousands of people trapped in the camp and living in dire conditions.
While the Council has just adopted resolution 2449 (2018), which renews the mechanism established by resolution 2165 (2014), I would like to recall that there is no alternative to cross-border aid for the effective and impartial delivery of assistance to millions of people in need, including in Idlib, while the regime continues to use humanitarian aid for political purposes. That mechanism provides several hundred thousand people with crucial assistance every day.
Lastly, I would like to reiterate that there will be no lasting humanitarian solution without a credible political process. It is essential for everyone to assume their responsibilities and allow the United Nations to convene the first meeting of the constitutional committee before the end of the year, in accordance with the commitments made in Istanbul on 27 October. Provided that its composition is credible and balanced, the committee would be a positive first step in a political process to be conducted under the supervision of the United Nations, within the framework of resolution 2254 (2015). Such political progress should, in turn, facilitate the improvement of the humanitarian situation, with the goal of kick-starting a virtuous circle.
It is all the more urgent to recall this in a humanitarian briefing: humanitarian aid is an immediate need, subject to the conditions of strict neutrality, impartiality and independence. It is to be differentiated from reconstruction, which will be possible only once a credible, inclusive and irreversible political transition has begun.
Let us not be fooled by the regime’s fable. The reality of the statistics clearly shows that it is not the absence of reconstruction that prevents the voluntary and safe return of refugees; it is the absence of guarantees against arbitrary arrests, forced expropriations, dispossession of identity documents, forced conscription and, more broadly, the lack of credible progress in the political process. The conditions for the return of refugees are freedom and security. We are committed to enabling such a safe and dignified return of refugees to their homes and properties. But that collectively implies creating the conditions for that return to be possible, within the framework guaranteed by international law.
France will continue to spare no effort to respond to the humanitarian situation in Syria and promote a credible political solution.