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Syria Humanitarian Co-Penholder-Statement delivered by Amb. Heusgen: Situation in Idlib - February 6, 2020

06.02.2020 - Speech

(check against delivery)

Thank you Mr. President,

I deliver this statement on the humanitarian situation in northwest Syria on behalf of the co-penholders Belgium and Germany. First of all let me thank our briefers, Special Envoy Geir Pedersen, USG Marc Lowcock (and SNC Vice-President Ms Dima Moussa) for their insight into unbelievable human suffering.

Idlib more and more becomes a synonym for carnage.

Marc, just one week ago, you described the humanitarian catastrophe in facts and figures. We do not see any improvement. Instead, numbers increase day by day, the suffering is compounding and we are still just standing by.

From February 1st to the 4th alone, 34 civilians were killed, 9 women and 7 children.

83 civilians were killed in airstrikes and ground-based strikes between 20th and 30th of January. Among them were 20 women and 33 children.

More than 586.000 people have been displaced by the recent offensive around Idlib.

6.500 children are forced to flee every single day - adding up to 300.000 in total since the beginning of December.

In Idlib at least 53 medical facilities are currently out of order.

Dear colleagues, these are recent, truly shocking numbers from different UN sources. Official sources. No Internet, no fake news. They are reliable and trustworthy.

The President of the ICRC, Peter Maurer, recently said: “Public interest in the war in Syria has decreased significantly although violence once more is on the rise”.

Dear colleagues, as co-penholders we will do everything to shed light on the humanitarian consequences of the war in Syria. As Council we must fulfill our responsibility to protect human life. Not less but more engagement is needed.

We remain deeply concerned about the safety of the 4 million civilians in northwest Syria. The ongoing military offensive causes immense human suffering, death, displacement and destruction in the midst of winter time.

Families are left out in the cold, literally, without protection, without proper healthcare, without shelter. Children are forced to leave school, to spend their precious childhood fleeing from one uncertainty to the next.

People are fleeing with nothing more than the clothes on their back. And where to go?

The density of the population at the Turkish border is increasing every day because people are moving northwards to escape the fighting. Humanitarian assistance - for example temporary housing - is urgently needed.

Dear colleagues,

Civilians have the right to be protected from the horror of war, and warring parties have the obligation to ensure their protection! Once again, we recall that there are humanitarian obligations that need to be observed, that there are rules to warfare. And we should not forget: More than 80% of the people in need in the northwest are women and children.

Mr. President,

As the World Health Organization stated on Monday, at least 53 medical facilities are currently out of order. Providing help for the 2.9 million people in medical need gets more difficult every day, one of the central reasons being the ongoing bombardment of civilian infrastructure, such as hospitals and schools. These attacks are totally unacceptable.

We, the co-penholders, condemn this violence and call for accountability for those responsible.

We also condemn the attacks perpetrated by Security Council designated terrorist groups, but counter-terrorism efforts can never absolve the parties from respecting their obligations under International Humanitarian Law.

Over the dire situation in the northwest we should not forget the northeast. 2.5 out of 4.1 million inhabitants rely on humanitarian assistance. Safe, durable and unhindered humanitarian access is essential.

Words –as we heard in this council last week- have to be followed by deeds.

We call on the Syrian regime and Russia to ensure the protection of civilians and to comply with International Humanitarian Law. We call for an immediate and fully observed ceasefire and full humanitarian access to all people in need.

A sustainable solution can only be achieved by political process as agreed upon in resolution 2254. There is no sustainable military solution.

The current offensive in Idlib must stop.

I thank you.

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