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Statement of H.E. Ambassador Bassam Sabbagh at the Security Council on the "Political & Humanitarian Situation" in Syria

Monday, 20 December 2021
Ambassador Bassam Sabbagh
Security Council

My country’s delegation has taken note of the report of the Secretary-General (S/2021/1030), submitted pursuant to resolution 2585 (2021), and listened closely to the briefing by Mr. Martin Griffiths.

I would like to make the following remarks.

First, with regard to cross-line access, the Syrian Government continues to spare no effort to facilitate the operations of the United Nations and its specialized agencies in implementation of the mandate set out in resolution 2585 (2021), while the Turkish regime and its affiliated terrorist groups continue to obstruct them in Idlib. Cooperation between the Syrian Government and the United Nations in late August enabled the crossline delivery of a World Food Programme convoy from Aleppo to Sarmada in north-western Syria. In response, a hysterical, aggressive campaign was carried out by the Turkish regime and its terrorist affiliates. The contents of the convoy were unable to be distributed for months. The same campaign obstructed another convoy scheduled to arrive in Sarmada on 9 November, during the visit to Aleppo by Mr. David Beasley, Executive Director of the World Food Programme.Terrorist groups targeted the routes to be taken by the convoy with missiles. Another convoy scheduled on 28 November was also blocked.

The Syrian Government, based on its commitment to stepping up access to all parts of the country, approved the United Nations six-month plan and responded positively and in record time to all requests. That resulted in the delivery of a food and non-food aid convoy by the World Food Programme, the United Nations Children’s Fund and the United Nations Population Fund to Sarmada on 9 December. The Syrian State’s achievements in enhancing cross-line access in the north-west should be commended by the Security Council. We regret that the report fails to explicitly and unequivocally attribute responsibility to the Turkish regime and its terrorist affiliates for obstructing the duly implementation of the mandate.

With regard to the north-east, the report confirms that access for most of the deliveries was made possible and that 625 truckloads and seven airlifts were delivered. The report also notes that the Syrian Government authorized a UNICEF and World Health Organization cross-line convoy containing vaccines against the coronavirus disease to Ras Al-Ayn and Tal Abyad. My country’s Government also authorized a United Nations humanitarian assessment mission in that area. That was the sixth such authorization granted by the Syrian Government, pursuant to resolution 2585 (2021), also coincided with the publication of the Secretary-General’s report, confirming that all access requests have been granted by the Syrian Government.

With regard to the Rukban camp, the report confirms that humanitarian access to the camp remains beyond reach. We had hoped that the report would clarify the reasons that have prevented such access, which we have already laid out before the Council. They are directly linked to the illegitimate presence of United States forces in the area and their sponsorship of the Jaysh Maghawir Al-Thawra terrorist organization. We emphasize the need for that shameful camp to be closed, as it continues to only exacerbate the suffering of Syrian citizens and support armed groups.

Secondly, with regard to promoting the transparency and efficiency of the cross-border mechanism, my country reiterates our principled position rejecting that politicized mechanism, as it constitutes a stark violation of the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Syria. We also reject the mechanism because of the grave shortcomings undermining its actions, foremost of which is its failure to guarantee that assistance reaches its intended beneficiaries, not terrorist organizations.

The Secretary-General’s report states that cross border humanitarian operations are fraught with risks, thereby demonstrating the validity of our position with regard to the mechanism. The report notes that the operation is managed remotely and that part of the area covered is under the control of a local authority that is generally believed to have close ties with non-State armed group designated by the Security Council as a terrorist organization, allowing it control aid. My delegation is astonished by the report’s exaggeration of the number of people in need in the north-west. The report’s description that activities inside the country complements and cannot replace cross-border action is not objective and based on unrealistic assessments. The facts demonstrate that serious and sincere cooperation with the Syrian Government and stepping up action along the lines ensure the achievement the desired goals and avert the risks and shortcomings inherent to the crossborder mechanism.

Thirdly, with respect to rapid recovery projects, my country’s delegation expresses its extreme disappointment that certain Western countries, within the framework of the so-called donors community, are impeding the implementation and quantitatively and qualitatively upgrading of many such projects. Those countries raise unjustified questions regarding the definition of early recovery projects and obstruct the adoption of a strategic framework for cooperation between the Syrian Government and the United Nations in the humanitarian field, despite the significant flexibility that has been demonstrated by the Syrian Government.

Moreover, those countries continue to politicize humanitarian and development work and to attempt to impose conditions on the provision and delivery of aid. How else can we explain the fact that financing for the humanitarian response plan was reduced by more than $200 million, despite increased humanitarian needs?

My delegation would like to make it clear that some of the early recovery projects referred to in the report (S/2021/1030) have been implemented for years, even before the adoption of resolution 2585 (2021). We had hoped to see a list of new vital projects that would contribute to strengthening resilience, improving the humanitarian situation and facilitating the dignified and safe return of displaced persons. It comes as no surprise that some members of the Security Council have not tried to hide their hostility towards resolution 2585 (2021) or their rejection of its provisions. We will have to announce the names of those countries.

My delegation also regrets that the report disregards the catastrophic consequences of the illegitimate, immoral and inhumane siege imposed by the United States of America and the European Union against the Syrian people. We call for the immediate and unconditional lifting of the illegal coercive measures in place, which have caused the suffering of each and every individual Syrian.

For the sake of truth and to be clear, any objective assessment of the complexities of the humanitarian situation in Syria lead to one conclusion, namely, that the root cause is the Turkish regime, with its practices, crimes and sponsorship of terrorist organizations and entities affiliated to it in the north and north-west of my country. We have submitted to the Council a number of letters describing in detailed the Turkish regime’s practices and crimes against the Syrian people, including by depriving them of access to water and imposing its policy of Turkification. All of this should prompt the Security Council to undertake urgent and decisive deterrence. My delegation also demands that the Turkish regime be held accountable for its crimes and desperate attempts to impede stability in Syria, including its obstruction of humanitarian cross-line convoys and the implementation of the six-month plan.

In this regard, we cannot but note the practices of the United States forces illegitimately present in north-eastern Syria. Those forces support separatist militias and facilitate the efforts of non-governmental organizations as they seek to lead illegal cross-border piracy operations through the crossing point at Fish Khabur, in stark contravention of Security Council resolutions. They also use humanitarian assistance as a pretext to violate our sovereignty. Their most recent practice involves importing large shipments of wheat riddled with dangerous diseases through the Semalka crossing point, with the aim of inflicting damage on the Syrian people and the Syrian economy. We listened to the statement made by Special Envoy Pedersen, who a few days ago held talks in Damascus with the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, as well as with the co-Chair of the national delegation to the Constitutional Committee meetings. The Syrian Arab Republic remains committed to a political solution based on a Syrian-led and Syrian-owned dialogue that meets the aspirations of the Syrian people and ensures full commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and integrity of Syria.

Syria awaits the seventh session of the Constitutional Committee. We applaud the positive contribution of the national delegation to its work; however, we emphasize that external parties should refrain from meddling in the work of the Committee and creating further obstacles by imposing artificial timelines or prejudging its conclusions.

The need for a comprehensive ceasefire has been mentioned in a number of statements today. We underscore that, if such a ceasefire is to be achieved, there is a need to abolish the terrorist organizations active in certain parts of the country, specifically Da’esh and Al-Nusra Front, as well as their affiliates. There is also a need to end the Turkish occupation and the illegitimate presence of United States forces in Syria, leading to the restoration of the authority of the Syrian State throughout its entire territories, the re-establishment of security and stability and an end to any irregular and unacceptable situations. We consider a step forward those national and local reconciliations, as we have recently seen in Dara’a and Deir ez-Zor. We note that the cooperation of the Syrian State in the efforts of our Russian friends has resulted in the release of a number of detainees and abductees, despite all attempts by the Turkish side and its agents to block that humanitarian initiative.

In conclusion, I wish to take this opportunity to thank your delegation, Mr. President, as well as those of Tunisia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Viet Nam for their efforts and objectivity as members of the Security Council.