United Nations Security Council Briefing and Consultaion on the Middle East (Politica/Humanitarian)
Ambassador Harold Agyeman
Ghana Permanent Missionto the United Nations
New York City November 28, 2023
STATEMENT ON BEHALF OF THE A3
UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL BRIEFING AND CONSULTATIONS ON THE MIDDLE EAST: THE SITUATION IN SYRIA (POLITICAL/HUMANITARIAN)
I have the honour to deliver this joint statement on behalf of the three African members of the Security Council.
We thank Deputy Special Envoy Najat Rochdi and OCHA Director of Operations Edem Worsonu for their briefings and welcome the participation of the representatives of the Syrian Arab Republic, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and Türkiye in this meeting.
Cognisant of the volatile situation in Syria, the A3 reiterates its concern over the increasing rate of violence in the country which reached a crescendo on 5th October when a military graduation ceremony in Homs was attacked resulting in the deaths of more than a hundred people, including civilians.
Regrettably, Syria has also become a theatre for foreign military actions, with a number of foreign forces repeatedly attacking installations, including civilian infrastructure. One such recent attack on the Damascus International Airport, attributed to Israel, disrupted UN aviation services and impacted the transportation of light humanitarian cargo and personnel. We urge such attacks to stop and renew our call for respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria and for the complete withdrawal of all foreign forces from the country.
Amid the unending violence, fertile ground has been created for terrorism to take root, constituting a great threat to international peace and security. Security Council listed terrorist groups such as Da’esh and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) continue to target innocent civilians. No country is safe from this scourge. We use this opportunity to reiterate our condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, and underscore that no motivation is adequate enough to justify such acts.
Mindful of the ongoing crisis in Gaza, we urge all countries in the region and friends beyond to work in concert to guard against any potential spillover of the conflict into Syria. The consequences would be catastrophic not only for international peace but in particular for the many Syrian civilians already severely affected by a war that has lasted for too long.
We take note of the 4th report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic, which covers the period July 2020 to 30 September, 2022, in accordance with Security Council resolution 1612 (2005). The contents of the report are deeply distressing. Children in Syria are being severely violated as a result of the violence. These violations including their recruitment and use in the conflict, killing, mutilating, and subjecting them to various forms of sexual violence, among other despicable abuses are serious crimes under international law. The rights of children must be respected by all, particularly, the parties to the conflict.
In this regard, we welcome the decision of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), requiring the Syrian Arab Republic to do everything in its power to prevent torture and other cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment or punishment and to ensure that its officials adhere to such standards.
We believe that after several years of conflict, it is important to fully and closely support Syria to emerge from the current political and security impasse which is causing the country to retrogress and blighting the future of its population, especially the youth. The link between conflicts and delayed development is no longer in doubt. We echo in this context the words of the Secretary General of the United Nations who recently said “the closer a country is to conflict, the further it moves away from sustainable and inclusive development”. The advancement of peace and the progression of sustainable and inclusive development go hand in hand.
We call for an immediate nationwide ceasefire to create an enabling environment for the political process. The most effective solution to the conflict remains an inclusive Syrian-led and Syrian-owned political process, undertaken with the support of the international community, under the aegis of the UN as detailed in Resolution 2254. In this regard, we fully support the efforts of the United Nations Special Envoy, Geir Pedersen, and his step-for-step approach.
On the humanitarian situation, the A3 would like to reaffirm the value of human life in all circumstances, including during war. Syrian lives matter! As in all conflicts, civilians in Syria, particularly women and children, are the first victims of hostilities. Parties should constantly take measures to spare civilians and civilian infrastructure during the conduct of hostilities in accordance with international humanitarian law.
The escalation of hostilities results not only in the loss of human lives, but also in serious protection concerns among displaced populations, with women and girls being particularly impacted. At the same time, we remain concerned about the plight of millions of people in Syria who remain food insecure and continue to be deprived of basic necessities such as water and electricity and whose situation would be exacerbated by the coming winter.
Facilitating access to humanitarian aid for as many people in need as possible therefore remains a priority for the A3. For this reason, we welcome the Syrian government’s decision to extend the authorization for the use of Bab al-Salama and Al-Rai border crossings by the UN to deliver aid to people in need in northwest Syria for an additional three months until 13th February, 2024. While welcoming the broader scope of the cross-border mechanism, the A3 also encourages the delivery of aid across the front lines, which is equally essential and complementary to the cross-border deliveries.
Furthermore, given current funding challenges, we call for greater financial mobilization to support the humanitarian response plan in Syria. We note with interest the announcement by the European Union of humanitarian aid of 15 million euros for the most vulnerable people in Syria and Lebanon, including 11.5 million euros intended for Syria. This will provide food assistance and water, sanitation and hygiene support to those who need it most.
In conclusion, Mr. President, the A3 reiterates its call for a nationwide ceasefire and the immediate resumption of negotiations between the parties with a view to a political settlement that will bring comprehensive peace, stability and sustainable development to Syria, in accordance with resolution 2254 (2015).
I Thank you.