Syria : the situation on the ground is dramatic [fr]
Syria -Statement by Mr. François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations - Security Council - 28 February 2018
First of all, I want to thank Mark Lowcock and Jeffrey Feltman for their very clear briefings.
I would like today to focus my remarks on our shared road map, namely, the full implementation of resolution 2401 (2018), which we adopted unanimously last Saturday (see S/PV. 8188). On behalf of France, I would like to express three main messages today.
My first message is that we must not pay lip service. The situation on the ground remains dramatic and has not improved in recent days. Since the adoption of resolution 2401 (2018), the offensive against the eastern Ghouta has continued relentlessly. France, of course, strongly condemns these indiscriminate bombings, which affect inhabited areas and civil infrastructure. In this context, the disastrous humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate. No United Nations convoy has been able to reach the eastern Ghouta or any of the other besieged areas, no emergency medical evacuation has been carried out, no siege has been lifted. The Syrian regime is maintaining its stranglehold on the civilian population and is methodically pursuing its policy of destruction. More than 400,000 people remain under siege in eastern Ghouta, including 130,000 children. The demand sent by the United Nations to authorize a priority convoy for Duma, the main city in eastern Ghouta, has not received any response from the Syrian authorities to date.
My second message is this. The resolution adopted by the Security Council on 24 February makes very specific demands on the parties. Hostilities must cease without delay in order to establish a lasting humanitarian truce for at least 30 days, in order to allow both the delivery of humanitarian aid and the evacuation of the wounded and sick. Let me stress this point. These demands are perfectly clear and cannot be distorted or reinterpreted. Contrary to what some would have us believe, the demands made by the resolution are absolutely clear. Our responsibility today is to implement, fully and in their totality, the provisions that we have unanimously adopted. If we do not that, what credibility can be given to our commitments? What credibility can be given to Security Council resolutions?
The United Nations and its partners tell us that they are ready to deliver aid to the people of eastern Ghouta and other priority areas. There is therefore not a minute to lose because every minute that passes can turn lives upside down.
At the conclusion of difficult negotiations, the Council managed to unite in the face of the gravity of the humanitarian situation and the escalation of the Syrian conflict in recent months. We must now work together, in the same spirit of unity, to effectively implement on the ground the resolution we unanimously adopted. This is my third message.
Following yesterday’s meeting in Moscow with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, France is putting forward four concrete proposals for making progress and for doing so without delay.
The first is to ensure that all parties implement the cessation of hostilities that resolution 2401 (2018) demands. I note that the three main opposition groups present in eastern Ghouta as well as Nassar Al Hariri, head of the High Negotiations Committee of the Syrian opposition, have written to the Secretary-General and to the President of the Council to state that they would respect the truce. It is therefore urgent in the extreme — if I can put it that way — that the Damascus regime also unambiguously express its willingness to respect the Council resolution and to formalize it in writing.
We have taken note of the Russian proposal of a daily five-hour humanitarian truce. It is a positive first step, but it is insufficient. We must go further. Resolution 2401 (2018) demands of the parties a minimum period of 30 consecutive days of cessation of hostilities. Respecting that demand is non-negotiable. That goal requires more than just symbolic declarations or political posturing. At a minimum, it requires that humanitarian personnel be allowed to do their work.
These workers are used to taking risks on a daily basis, but the parties must allow them to do their work. Given that the opposition groups have formally committed to doing just that, the regime must do so as well, and without delay. To that end, supporters of the regime, beginning with Russia, must bring the necessary pressure to bear.
Our second proposal, by way of a demand, pertains to the need to immediately open the relevant, clearly identified checkpoints — beginning with Wafideen — in order to allow the access of priority convoys of the United Nations. We therefore demand that the Syrian authorities submit without delay the necessary letter to facilitate the deployment of humanitarian convoys.
Thirdly, it is extremely urgent to allow medical evacuations for the most critical cases, giving priority to children. The Syrian Arab Red Crescent indicates that 1,065 people need emergency medical evacuations. We have not a minute to lose.
Finally, France considers it essential to create a monitoring mechanism to ensure the implementation of resolution 2401 (2018) and compliance with the resolution by the parties. We are working diligently to establishing that mechanism now.
Those are the French proposals to address the urgent need to put an end to the bombing and protect civilians, who beyond resolution 2401 (2018), are protected under international humanitarian law. It is also crucial to intensify our efforts to reach a political solution in the framework of the Geneva process and resolution 2254 (2015). It is the only way out of the conflict and the only way to prevent a looming escalation of tensions. France will not deviate from that path. The overall credibility of the Security Council and the responsibility of each of its members are crucially at stake today in the context of the Syrian tragedy.