Statement by Russian Permanent Representative to UN Vasily Nebenzya regarding voting on the UN Security Council resolution on the cross-border mechanism for humanitarian aid delivery into Syria, New York, July 11, 2020
The Russian delegation has abstained during the voting on the UN Security Council Resolution Extending Authorisation of Cross-Border Mechanism for Humanitarian Aid Delivery into Syria (CBM).
Our vote reflects our principled approach regarding the CBM. The mechanism was established in 2014, when external aid could not be delivered to some regions within the country. The circumstances have greatly changed since then because the legitimate Syrian Government has regained control over the bulk of its territory. This means that humanitarian aid can and should be provided in accordance with Resolution 46/182 and the fundamental principles of international law. On the other hand, we were guided by a desire to help people in Syria, where the humanitarian situation was dramatic because of the years-long conflict.
Thanks to our principled approach, one more important step has been made towards curtailing the CBM stage by stage. The Bab Al-Salam crossing, which accounted only for 14 percent of overall humanitarian deliveries from outside the country, has been removed from the CBM. At the same time, the UN Security Council has extended the operation of the Bab Al-Hawa crossing into Idlib for 12 months to ensure regular and uninterrupted humanitarian deliveries into this region.
We have already pointed out more than once that the CBM in Syria fails to meet the minimum requirements of the international humanitarian law. The UN has to this very day not established its presence in the Idlib de-escalation zone, which is controlled by international terrorists and fighters. So, as a result, it is impossible to reliably monitor the distribution of aid or know the ultimate recipient. It is an open secret that terrorist organisations from the UN Security Council list of terrorist organisations, which continue to control parts of the Idlib de-escalation zone, are using humanitarian aid for influencing civilians and are openly thriving on these deliveries, as shown by an increasing number of direct and indirect evidence.
In addition to this, some external players have used the CBM to preserve the dividing lines in Syria, which could result in the insulation of some regions of Syria. This runs contrary to the principle of sovereignty and respect for the territorial integrity of Syria, which has been reaffirmed in many UNSC resolutions, including this document. We remember the eagerness with which some of our colleagues attempted to prevent the closing of the Al Yarubiyah crossing through which humanitarian aid was being delivered within the CBM framework into north-eastern regions of Syria, in January this year. The international community was consistently led on to believe that aid could not be delivered to ordinary Syrians in any other way. This turned out to be nothing more than a political game. When Al Yarubiyah was closed, the Syrian Government expressed readiness to promptly coordinate UN humanitarian deliveries via Damascus. After lengthy prevarication by humanitarian aid agents, the WHO delivered aid to Al Hasakah Governorate on July 4.
Since early 2020, when Al Yarubiyah was closed, more humanitarian aid has been delivered to the north-eastern regions of Syria than in the preceding years when this crossing was open. This is a self-explanatory fact. At the same time, humanitarian aid is being delivered, in coordination with the Syrian Government, both to the Government controlled regions and medical facilities and to the regions controlled by the Kurdish authorities. This shows that the Syrian Government has ensured a non-discrimination principle of humanitarian deliveries.
The Syrian Government has reaffirmed its readiness to deliver humanitarian aid to the Idlib de-escalation zone through the contact lines. However, this process is being hampered. We urge the UN, working together with Damascus, to launch and increase deliveries into all the regions within the country, including Idlib.
Regarding the text of the adopted resolution, we have to point out that our Western colleagues did their best to prevent any mention of the negative consequences of their illegal unilateral sanctions against Syria. These restrictions are seriously undermining the socioeconomic situation in Syria and are also hindering the operations of many humanitarian NGOs, which are willing to help the Syrians in the Government controlled regions. The so-called humanitarian exemptions from the sanctions are not effective, as the humanitarian organisations themselves have stated. They have a shackling effect in the form of the NGOs and counties’ fear of being placed under sanctions for coordinating their efforts with the Damascus authorities.
We have proposed that instructions be included in the resolution for the UN Secretary-General to prepare a report on the impact of the sanctions on the Syrian economy, the Syrians and humanitarian aid. Our Western colleagues were ready to jeopardise the CBM to prevent this amendment. But their hypocrisy will not help them gloss over what is really going on in the country. Their efforts to block our amendment have once again revealed their double standards.
We would like to note that the co-authors of the resolution from the very start ignored our fundamental concerns. This is why we blocked the Belgian-German draft of the resolution twice and presented alternative drafts. If not for this, we would have adopted the resolution much sooner rather than at the last possible moment when the CBM almost expired. We would like to remind the authors of this resolution, as well as the curators of other subjects at the UNSC, that so-called pen-holding is not a privilege but a special responsibility to the other Security Council members and the entire international community.
Anyway, the desired result has been achieved, and Russia intends to comply with the provisions of this resolution consistently and in a transparent manner. We hope that our Western colleagues will stop turning a blind eye to the evolution of the situation in Syria and will encourage the international humanitarian agencies’ cooperation with the Damascus Government. Although a part of the Syrian civilians still needs the humanitarian aid delivered via the CBM, it is time to start delivering aid in accordance with the norms of the international humanitarian law.