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Thank you Mr. President,
I will deliver this statement on behalf of the Syria humanitarian co-penholders – Belgium, Germany, and Kuwait. At the outset, we would like to express our appreciation for Assistant-Secretary-General Ursula Muller for her comprehensive briefing on the humanitarian situation in Syria. Our thanks also go to ______ of DPPA and ______ of UNMAS for their briefings. We also reiterate our appreciation and support to the humanitarian workers for their efforts to alleviate the human suffering in Syria during these challenging times.
We have all been following the developments in northeast Syria over the past two weeks. The Turkish military operation there is deeply concerning. It has a destabilizing impact on the region. It has led to a deterioration of the already dire humanitarian situation and has negative consequences on the fight against ISIL, including the dispersion of terrorists from UN-designated groups, including ISIL. Since military operations began in the northeast, there have been reports of civilian casualties, and more than 180 thousand civilians have been displaced, including 80 thousand children. Civilian infrastructure has also been impacted. For many of those fleeing, this is not the first time that they have been displaced. Many have been traumatized by previous displacement and living under ISIL rule. We underscore that civilians and civilian infrastructure must always be protected. We echo the Secretary-General’s statement that any military operation must fully respect international law, including the UN Charter and international humanitarian law and we urge for maximum restraint and that all parties resolve their concerns through peaceful and diplomatic means.
The northwest, and specifically Idlib governorate, has seen a decrease of airstrikes. Nevertheless, civilian casualties have continued and seen an uptick in recent days. We once again call for de-escalation, and remind all parties of their obligations to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure, including hospitals, in accordance with international humanitarian law. We stress that counterterrorism operations do not absolve parties of their obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law.
Considering the recent violence in the northern part of Syria, we cannot but condemn attacks impacting civilians and civilian infrastructure. We are also concerned by the threat posed by unexploded ordnance, explosive remnants of war, and landmines, to the civilian population. Any humanitarian mine clearance activities must be based on independent needs-assessments in the field.
We reaffirm the need for all parties to abide by the principles of proportionality, precaution, and distinction. The violence must stop.
There has been an increase in humanitarian needs in Syria as a result of military operations in both areas – North West and North East - in recent weeks and months. We underscore the need for humanitarian assistance to be delivered in a timely, safe, sustained and unimpeded manner to all those in need and for the United Nations and its humanitarian partners to be allowed to continue to carry out its critical work in northern Syria. To this end, cross-border operations renewed under Security Council resolution 2449, have been a lifeline for millions of people in Syria, specifically in the northwest. The cross-border modality contributes to almost 40% of the entire humanitarian assistance to those in Syria. In his latest report, the Secretary-General said this of cross-border operations: “Without this operation, we would see increased death, disease and immense suffering of a population that cannot be reached at this scale, in such a timely and direct manner, through any other means.” As co-penholders, we share the Secretary-General’s assessment that it is all the more critical to ensure that cross-border operations continue through a further renewal of the cross-border operations resolution before the end of this year.
The situation also remains concerning in other parts of Syria. In Al-Hol camp, there are still 68 thousand residents, 94% of whom are women and children. Another staggering statistic is 55% of the camp population is under the age of 12. We call for continued and full humanitarian access to the camp and for the specific protection needs to be addressed, especially for women and children. In Rukban, we welcome the recent joint UN/SARC missions to deliver food and nutrition items. We continue to call for a durable and lasting solution there. We are also concerned by tensions and the security situation in the south west, as outlined in the Secretary-General’s report.
We cannot but underscore the importance of accountability. The Syrian conflict has seen some of the most egregious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law. That is why we support the IIIM. We also welcome the start of the work of the Board of Inquiry established by the Secretary-General. It is important to accomplish a quick and thorough investigation of the incidents that took place, in particular the attacks on facilities communicated under the deconfliction mechanism.
With regards to the return of refugees, our position remains unchanged. All returns must be safe, voluntary, dignified and well-informed.
To conclude, Mr. President, and as we commemorate UN Day today to mark the adoption of the UN Charter, a document that embodies the hopes, dreams and aspirations of “we the peoples”, let us not forget the hopes, dreams and aspirations of the people of Syria who have suffered far too long from this conflict. We hope that the Constitutional Committee that was agreed upon recently and its expected launch at the end of this month will be a first step towards a comprehensive political process in line with resolution 2254.