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Security Council – Briefing on the humanitarian situation in Syria

Statement by Ambassador Sebastiano Cardi, Permanent Representative of Italy to the United Nations, at the Security Council briefing concerning the humanitarian situation in Syria—

Mr. President,

I thank USG O’Brien for his briefing.

Once again we have heard a sobering briefing, the bottom line of which is that the humanitarian situation in Syria has in no way improved. While there are indications of a reduction in violence since the adoption of the Astana agreement, fighting continues in key areas and there is still no meaningful humanitarian access for civilians living in besieged and hard-to-reach communities.

Much humanitarian assistance in Syria is given through regular programming and cross-border assistance, the latter being provided without need of regime’s approval, thanks to an authorization of this Council. But where the needs are greatest – that is in areas besieged by the Syrian regime – month on month we see no improvement. On the contrary, when compared to last year’s levels, the number of cross-line interagency convoys for besieged or hard-to-reach locations has in fact significantly decreased.
And where convoys are allowed to go in, medical and surgical items are still removed by the regime, in what amounts to a practice contrary to International Humanitarian Law, as well as to SC resolutions and ISSG Ministers’ agreements.

Besieged Eastern Ghouta remains an area of deep concern, in particular for the health of the population. Besieged civilians in Eastern Ghouta need to be reached by the UN and other humanitarian partners. One single convoy for a limited number of beneficiaries is not the change of policy which is needed.

In Al Waer and Barzeh (Eastern Ghouta) , we call for the Syrian government to allow the UN to carry out assessment missions and monitor the ongoing so-called “evacuations”, that may amount to forced population transfers to opposition held areas. Access should be guaranteed to the UN also in the so-called liberated areas, like Wadi Barada where after the evacuations of rebels, no monitoring or humanitarian mission have been possible.

We are also worried about reports of increasing restrictions for the UN and other humanitarian partners and organizations operating in Idlib and North Eastern Syria, where assistance is being curtailed, leaving many in need.

We remain concerned at the possibility that chemical arms are used again. In this respect, accountability for their use, including at Khan Sheikun, must remain an objective of this Council.

Mr President,

The general decrease in violence that has followed the Astana agreement is a step forward. Yet some areas, such as Idlib, Eastern Ghouta and Deraa, have actually seen an increase in fighting as parties jockey for positions and as the regime tries to strengthen its presence in key strategic territory.

The reduction in violence should have prompted an increase in humanitarian access. As we have seen, this has not been the case so far. In this regard we expect that through the implementation of the Astana agreement of 4th of May, substantive and sustainable results can finally be achieved on the humanitarian front.

In this framework the United Nations must have an active role in the implementation of the humanitarian dimension of the Astana agreement, so to ensure the respect of the humanitarian principals,ensuring that assistance can go in according to the UN’s impartial assessment of needs and that people who wish to leave or require medical evacuation can do so respecting humanitarian law and principles. We would not like to see the creation of parallel tracks on humanitarian issues, without UN direct involvement.

Finally, Mr. President, ensuring a real ceasefire and ensuring safe, immediate and unhindered humanitarian access to all people in need remains the priority. Realizing rapid humanitarian dividends for the population will also help create conditions conducive for progress on the political track in Geneva, under the auspices of UNSE De Mistura and in the framework of Resolution 2254.

I thank you.