Comment by the Information and Press Department on the mechanism for the cross-border delivery of humanitarian aid to the Syrian Arab Republic
On December 20, the UN Security Council held a vote on two draft resolutions on extending the authorisation for the mechanism that allows cross-border delivery of humanitarian aid to the Syrian Arab Republic without agreeing it with the Syrian government. The first draft, tabled by Belgium, Kuwait and Germany, was supported by 13 members of the Security Council, while Russia and China voted against it. The second draft, prepared by Russia, was voted for by five council members (Russia, China, South Africa, Equatorial Guinea and Cote d'Ivoire), while four members abstained (Belgium, Kuwait, Germany and Indonesia) and six voted against (the United Kingdom, France, the United States, the Dominican Republic, Peru and Poland). As a result, the mechanism of cross-border humanitarian access has not been renewed and will be shut down on January 10, 2020.
While discussing draft resolutions and during the vote, Russia’s representatives adhered to a clear and consistent position: they did not speak against the mechanism itself, but contended that it must be brought into line with the current developments in Syria and with the provisions of international humanitarian law. Cross-border humanitarian aid deliveries to the Syrian Arab Republic began in 2014, when the country was faced with a grave humanitarian situation against the backdrop of terrorist mayhem, while the Syrian government could not control a large part of its territory.
However, in the past five years, the situation has changed radically: the terrorists have been almost completely eliminated and the Syrian authorities have been restoring the unity and territorial integrity of the country, as well as working on providing urgent humanitarian aid, including with the support of the UN. It is noteworthy that it is Damascus through which humanitarian aid is delivered to the infamous camp of Rukban, located in the area occupied by the US, around Al-Tanf on the border with Jordan, and to the Al-Hawl camp east of the Euphrates River, on the border with Iraq. Only two border crossings, in the Idlib de-escalation zone, are operating out of the four crossings outlined by UN Security Council Resolution No. 2165 of 2014. The Jordan border crossing has been closed since 2018, and the Iraqi crossing only let through seven humanitarian aid convoys out of 2,000 this year, and even those seven crossed the border before the Syrian troops regained control over the Qamishli District.
At the same time, in accordance with international humanitarian law, humanitarian aid must be delivered upon an agreement with the government of the recipient country. The Syrian government has officially requested that the UN stop cross-border humanitarian assistance. In the framework of their commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Syria, the international community should take into account and respect the Syrian government’s request.
Based on the above, the Russian party prepared and submitted a draft resolution that seeks to extend the delivery of humanitarian aid via two border crossings in Idlib by six months.
However, our Western partners, apparently guided by political considerations and not the needs of the civilians in Syria, voted against our draft. It is obvious that to them, the cross-border mechanism was important only as a tool to undermine the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic, and not as a way to help those in need. For the same reasons, harmful economic sanctions were imposed against Syria, prohibiting imports of medical supplies, construction materials and equipment that Syria’s population of 22 million needs so badly after the nine-year-long crisis. In addition, the Western countries are blocking the allocation of funds for the humanitarian recreation of the country (including the construction of houses, schools, hospitals and water and electricity supply facilities), which is crucial for facilitating the voluntary, safe and dignified return of refugees and IDPs, in accordance with the UNHCR standards. But it is still not enough: the US and its allies in the “anti-ISIS coalition” before the eyes of international community are illegally trading Syrian oil and are keeping their illegal military presence in the country’s northeast to do so.
Such actions are not only a blatant violation of all provisions of international law, international humanitarian law and the UN Charter. They are a glaring example of disregard for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of other countries, the politisation of purely humanitarian issues and the use of civilians’ needs to shamelessly loot a country’s natural resources.