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Transcript of Remarks at Security Council Press Stakeout - the Humanitarian Situation in Syria

Thematic issues

  • Accountability
  • Humanitarian
  • Peace and Security
  • Syria


Remarks to the press by the Australian Ambassador to the United Nations, Mr Gary Quinlan, Luxembourg Ambassador to the United Nations, Ms Sylvie Lucas, and Jordanian Ambassador to the United Nations, Ms Dina Kawar, on the UN Security Council adoption of Resolution 2191 on the humanitarian situation in Syria.

Transcript, E&OE

AMBASSADOR QUINLAN: Good morning everybody. I see quite a
few faces are missing. I guess they're still at Cipriani's, dancing away, at
the annual Correspondents' Ball. Good morning on behalf of the three of us –
Ambassador Sylvie Lucas, as you know, and Ambassador Dina Kawar of Jordan.

We've just in the Council adopted Resolution 2191 on humanitarian access in Syria. As you know, this is the third resolution this year that the Council has adopted on Syria. Each of them have been co-authored and negotiated by the three of us: Jordan, Luxembourg, and Australia. And this is a measure of the absolute desperation in which the humanitarian situation in Syria is. This is the biggest humanitarian crisis – single crisis – that the world faces at the moment. I think, as you know, there are more displaced people in the world at the moment – well over 50 million – than at any time since World War II. Over one-fifth of those displaced people are in Syria – well over one-fifth.

When we adopted our Presidential Statement on Syria last October, which is now more than a year ago, almost one-third of Syria's population were in need of urgent humanitarian assistance. The figure then was just below seven million. By February when we adopted the first of the three resolutions this year – 2139 – that figure had increased by 40% up to 9.3 million. In July when we adopted Resolution 2165 – quite an historic resolution in terms of cross-border access for humanitarian assistance – the figure was 10.8 million; that's 60% higher than last October and now we face a situation with well over 12 million, 12.3 million at least people are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance. That's an 80% increase since our first effort through the Council last October.

The reality is, of course, that Resolution 2139 – adopted in February – has not been complied with and that's why we moved to adopt in July Resolution 2165, which was very specific and practical in terms of cross-border access. Now that resolution was only for six months and it runs out, the mandate runs out, in January which is why it was necessary to come back and adopt another resolution and we have done that today.

The reality is that although Resolution 2165 has delivered assistance to hundreds of thousands of people in desperate need it is nowhere near enough. The potential range of people who should be able to be accessed by the cross-border convoys that are coming across into Syria should be somewhere between 2.5, even 3 million. But because of the security situation, the continuing impediments and constraints imposed by the Government, the authorities in Damascus, and because of the time it takes for humanitarian agencies to scale up [for increased deliveries], we've not been able to reach anywhere near that number. But the trajectory is improving, subject to all of those other constraints.

One thing I'll flag – I'll leave it to Ambassador Lucas to go through the details and Ambassador Kawar as well – but flag that one particular problem remains the denial of access to besieged areas and to hard-to-reach areas. Now, there are over five million people in these areas and we must improve access to those areas.

The other comment I would make is that the situation in terms of 2139 which was adopted in February and which is a far more comprehensive resolution and which lays down a series of demands from the Council about the cessation of violence, the stopping of sieges – the lifting of sieges – the stopping of aerial bombardment and use of barrel bombs – none of that has been complied with. In fact, the situation is worse than it was in February and so the Council needs to continue to monitor [compliance with Resolution 2139] closely and see what we can do to overcome that situation.

Today's Resolution 2191 again focuses on the very practical aspects of getting the convoys across the borders. But also we need to ensure the aid's getting across conflict lines within Syria itself.

Enough from me, I think, by way of introduction. Ambassador Lucas will speak next.

AMBASSADOR LUCAS: Thank you very much. Ambassador Quinlan
just gave you the context in which we have been working, why we have, the three
co-authors, found that we needed to come forward with this new resolution. And
as it was just pointed out and let me perhaps briefly go into more details of
the various provisions of Resolution 2191 which we unanimously adopted. As was
pointed out by Ambassador Quinlan, the Council in this resolution expresses
its grave concern at the lack of effective implementation of Resolution 2139
and Resolution 2165 and also the PRST and determines – and I think this point
is important also – that the humanitarian situation in Syria continues to constitute
a threat to peace and security in the region.

The Council decides in this resolution to renew its decisions contained in paragraphs 2 and 3 of Resolution 2165 – in other words, the Council renews its decisions that the UN humanitarian agencies and the implementing partners are authorised to use routes across conflict lines and across borders and specifically pointing out the four borders crossings – I think you know them: Bab al-Salam, Bab al-Hawa, Al Yarubiyah and Al-Ramtha. And they are authorized to use these border crossings, in addition to those already used before without asking further authorisation for the Syrian Government. The resolution foresees again that all that is needed is a notification. We also renewed the decision to have the Monitoring Mechanism that was created by Resolution 2165. Also renewed for 12 months. And I think this is very important also.

Ambassador Quinlan alluded to it – we didn't after Resolution 2165 was adopted, we could not yet reach all the people we had hoped to reach at that time. And that is why also in this resolution there is a call to the UN agencies and the partners to scale up, to use the provisions in the most effective way. It is also foreseen a review after six months to see what could be done. Again, I think this is important to mention.

But equally important, the Council also reiterates in this resolution all its demands to the parties, and in particular the Syrian authorities, all the demands included in the PRST of October, in Resolution 2139 and in Resolution 2165. And as you know, Valerie Amos in her latest briefing on Monday very much concentrated also on 2139. She again said, you know, also in wars, there are rules and unfortunately these rules are not respected for the moment. There are barrel bombings, indiscriminate attacks, the widespread violations and abuses committed against children – these are all issues that we have to continue (to) work on. Perhaps, as you will have seen (in) the reports, this resolution calls for the continuation of the monthly reports to the Security Council which we feel is very important that you have this opportunity for the Council to discuss, to see, and to also formulate demands. And it also reiterates a common conviction of the Security Council that the only sustainable solution for the conflict is a political solution, a political transition and we express our support for Staffan de Mistura's efforts and looking forward to when he comes with more details in the future in this respect.

So these are a little bit of the core elements of the resolution and I will leave it, perhaps, to Ambassador Kawar to add a few words. And I stand ready, also, to answer or to say a few words in French later on if there is interest.

AMBASSADOR KAWAR: Thank you very much. I do not wish to add
to the points that were raised by my colleagues. Just to say that the conflict
in Syria is affecting Jordan directly and we're hoping that this resolution
will help us in Jordan in the sense that we can alleviate the suffering of the
Syrians and hopefully have less refugees in Jordan. As you are aware, we have
around 1.4 million Syrians in Jordan, which is almost 20% of our population,
which is an enormous number and is putting a strain on Jordan's political and
economic… The difficulties that they're putting is not negligible. And so we're
hoping that this resolution will help us. I would like to stress that the political
solution is the only solution in Syria. There is no other way and we're hoping
that things will move towards that soon. Jordan wants to stress that we will
continue to help the crossing at al-Ramtha in helping aid move into Syria and
we will cooperate fully with the Monitoring Office in Amman to try and facilitate
things in terms of aid to the Syrian population. Thank you very much.

QUESTION: Ambassador Quinlan, you said that 2139 was not being
complied with in terms of barrel bombs and cessation of hostilities and such.
Do you envision any consequences to the violators of the resolution and has
the Council discussed anything about that?

AMBASSADOR QUINLAN: The issue of accountability comes up all
the time in discussions when we review each month implementation of these resolutions
– that is, the PRST from October, 2139 and 2165. The reality is the Council
has laid down very clear, very strong demands and we've repeated those consistently
about a cessation of the violence, but particularly stopping the indiscriminate
shelling and, of course, the use of barrel bombs, lifting of sieges. There is
very little we've been able to do – it's just obvious that the situation is
getting worse. All parties, but particularly the Government of Syria, the authorities
in Damascus who are responsible for the greater proportion of the violence that
we're seeing and of the humanitarian consequences, are simply not complying.
Ultimately, there will be accountability – the Council is determined about that.
And, of course, there are people out there who are documenting all of this very
carefully, very assiduously, very systematically, so that when the day of account
comes, the accounting can be done.

QUESTION: Sure, thanks a lot. I noticed in OP1 that there's
a reference to the demand is made on all parties to the Syrian domestic conflict.
So I wanted to know who is covered by this? Is, for example, the US-led but
more than US air campaign against ISIL in Syria covered by this in the sense
of whatever civilian casualties there may be?

AMBASSADOR QUINLAN: The answer is no.

QUESTION: The answer is no. And why would that be?

AMBASSADOR QUINLAN: All these resolutions have been talking
about the parties within Syria itself or directly involved in creating the humanitarian
crisis. I know where you're trying to go [with this question], but the thing
is we didn't go that way in the Council and the resolution was unanimously adopted.

QUESTION: And what about freeze zones? Can you characterise
what the discussion of Staffan de Mistura's proposal about free zones? What
was the sense of the Council about that? Thanks.

AMBASSADOR LUCAS: As you can see in the resolution actually,
we express our support for the efforts of the Special Envoy and we also that
we look forward to more details from Staffan de Mistura on this issue because
as you might remember when he was in the Council in October he himself said
that these were first ideas, that he would now have contacts with the various
parties concerned, he would try then to develop those ideas and he sees them
very much as a possibility also strategically to de-escalate violence. And so
that's why the Council also in this text we felt we could not go along further
than he himself but saying that we look forward to hear more from him developing
on this issue and then we will have to see. But you will also see in the resolution
that there is a very clear reference that whatever has to be done also in a
case like we had in 2165, said, you know, local ceasefires and so on have to
be in line with humanitarian principles; they cannot be means to, you know,
starvation or surrender.

Thank you.

Last Updated: 18 June 2015
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