Syria: protectection of vulnerable populations is a priority [fr]
Statement by by Mr. François Delattre, Permanent Representtive of France to the United Nations
Security Council - 27 July 2018
I would like to thank Mr. Mark Lowcock and Ms. Virginia Gamba de Potgieter for their briefings, which are always very enlightening, but unfortunately also bleak, as well as for their tireless efforts and those of their teams.Civilians continue to be the victims and targets of the regime’s military strategy. The retaking of south-west Syria is another episode in the humanitarian disaster that has been unfolding in Syria since 2011. What remains of the de-escalation zone and the commitments undertaken by the guarantors of the ceasefire to reducing violence and ensuring respect for international humanitarian law?
In Idlib, the threat of a regime offensive that has been publicly announced by Bashar A1-Assad is a looming tragedy for the 2.2 million people present there. Such an offensive would also be a source of further destabilization not only for northern Syria and Turkey, but also for the entire region, specifically as a result of the dispersal of terrorist fighters to which it will inevitably give rise. A new, bloody offensive in Idlib will open chapter two of the Syrian tragedy — that of a regional spillover of the conflict.
In that context, I would like to highlight three key priorities that should serve as a guide for our action: the protection of vulnerable people, ensuring humanitarian access, and achieving a lasting political solution in Syria with the support of the United Nations.
The first priority is the protection of all vulnerable populations. I would like to echo Ms. Gamba’s remarks and stress the seriousness of the violations against children in Syria, which has made it the most dangerous country for children in 2018. Tens of thousands of children have been killed or wounded since the outbreak of the conflict as a result of indiscriminate shelling by the regime. An entire generation has been out of school, with consequences in terms of social and professional integration and potential radicalization. The recruitment and use of children, in particular by terrorist groups, such as Da’esh, continue to increase. Currently, 5.3 million children need humanitarian assistance. There are tangible and immediately operational measures and we call on all parties to the conflict to urgently adopt them. It is important to refrain from targeting schools and school infrastructure and to protect civilian and residential areas in the conduct of operations.
I also want to revisit the urgent need to ensure the security of humanitarian workers. It is important to ensure that humanitarian workers in areas that have been retaken by the regime will be protected and that humanitarian services for the people in those areas will continue. We are heartened by the successful rescue operation of a number of White Helmets, who have saved many lives at the risk of their own and have been constantly targeted by the Syrian regime. Not all White Helmets have been evacuated and those remaining in Syria are now under serious threat. We must secure safety guarantees for those individuals and their families and ensure that they are not the target of retaliation by the regime.
I also want to raise the issue of the protection of journalists and their families trapped in Syria. As the Council is aware, this issue is a priority for France. I call for further collective mobilizing to that end.
With regard to refugees, the conditions for a safe, dignified and voluntary return have not been met. Their safety is not ensured because the regime continues to violate all ceasefires. Many of them are exposed to abuses or are forcibly recruited into the regime’s army upon their return. Law No. 10, which makes population displacement irreversible and is part of the regime’s demographic engineering strategy, constitutes a major obstacle to the return of refugees and displaced persons. Like the European Union (EU), we demand its repeal, as well as indemnities and substantive work on property restitution and recruitment. I would like to point out that this question is not limited to a legal text, because Law No. 10 merely formalizes and systematizes the regime’s practices.
Secondly, I would like to highlight the priority of humanitarian access, which continues to deteriorate in Syria. The Syrian regime continues to impose unacceptable obstacles to the delivery of aid, in violation of international humanitarian law. Letting that indispensable aid through everywhere, especially in hard-to-reach areas, is an obligation of all parties. It is intolerable to deprive populations of vital aid of which they are sorely lacking, whether in ldlib, eastern Ghouta or Quneitra.
We are particularly concerned about the situation in the south of the country, where no cross-border convoy from Jordan has been arranged since 25 June. Only aid from Damascus remains, but it is distributed exclusively in areas under the control of the regime. We therefore call on the actors with influence on the regime to ensure that cross-border convoys via Jordan are restored and secured as soon as possible. All convoys must be able to move safely and unhindered throughout the country, in accordance with the relevant Security Council resolutions and international humanitarian law.It is imperative that the entire population in need receive humanitarian aid on the basis of a neutral evaluation conducted by the United Nations. France has fully mobilized to meet that challenge. It is with that objective in mind that President Macron and President Putin decided to undertake a joint project to deliver humanitarian aid to Douma, in eastern Ghouta, where the needs of the population remain considerable several months after the end of the fighting. Forty-four tons of medical equipment and basic necessities were transported from France to Syria via a Russian plane during the night of 20-21 July. The distribution of non-food items to beneficiaries took place yesterday, 26 July, in partnership with the United Nations. Medicine and the medical equipment were received by the Douma health centre.In that context, I commend the work of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the United Nations agencies, which have spared no effort to ensure that the people of Ghouta receive that aid under the best possible conditions. That result remains modest in relation to the magnitude of the needs, but it makes a real difference to the people of a particularly hard-hit area, which that aid would undoubtedly not have reached otherwise. More needs to be done, as Mark Lowcock rightly pointed out.
Thirdly, the humanitarian situation will never be addressed in a sustainable manner without a breakthrough in the United Nations-led political process. Despite its reconquests, the regime has achieved nothing but victories without peace. As resolution 2254 (2015) recalls, without a political transition, Syria will remain a lasting factor of regional destabilization, for want of the voluntary return of refugees and displaced persons, in safe and dignified conditions; the financing of reconstruction by multilateral donors; and national reconciliation that makes it possible to stamp out terrorism, the presence of foreign militias and the persistence of a civil war mindset. On these various points, the deadlock will persist unless we advance the political process.
In that regard, the pursuit of the regime’s military strategy undermines the efforts of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General to bring the actors in the conflict closer together and relaunch the political process around the formation of a constitutional committee. It is imperative that the regime’s supporters exert the pressure necessary to ensure an environment conducive to the continuation of the consultations launched by the Special Envoy.
In the same way, I repeat here clearly before the Council that we will not take part in the reconstruction of Syria without the effective implementation of a political transition, with a genuine constitutional and electoral process. That is sine qua non for the stability of the country and our contribution towards financing reconstruction. Otherwise, there is no reason why France and the EU should commit themselves to financing reconstruction. To ensure the country’s long-term stability through a negotiated political solution, we are sparing no effort to encourage concrete convergence with key players in the conflict, particularly those in Astana and the Small Group.