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Remarks by Ambassador Jürgen Schulz during the Security Council VTC Meeting on Syria - March 30, 2020

31.03.2020 - Speech

Check Against Delivery

Dear colleagues, we just heard about the serious problems for humanitarian access in parts of Syria. We also heard about the growing need – which might even increase exponentially, depending on how the Corona-outbreak will affect Syria.

We also continue to be concerned about the wellbeing and safety of humanitarian personnel.

Restrictions to principled humanitarian assistance and to medical assistance has become all the more unacceptable with COVID-19 looming. We need more access to the North of Syria, and we need border-crossings to ensure the continued flow of help. We definitely cannot accept the end of cross-border-modalities in July – on the contrary: they need to be extended to allow aid to reach all those in need. Against the background of COVID-19, we urge member states to reconsider previous positions in the name of humanity.

We need make the best use of the time we still have to take preventive measures.

Let me remind everyone that sanctions are not directed at the population. They are directed at the leadership in Damascus, a leadership who are culpable of the worst human rights violations one could imagine. The humanitarian situation in Syria is the result of Damascus’ policies and of these policies alone.

Germany and the EU are among the largest humanitarian donors in Syria. The German government has provided humanitarian aid worth more than 150 Million Euros for the current crisis in Idlib since the beginning of the year. And Marc as you already know your appeal last week was well heard in Berlin. We have to protect the most vulnerable in Idlib and elsewhere in Syria. Even more solidarity is mandatory these days.

What is more, Germany fully supports the appeal by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres and by Special Envoy Pedersen for a complete, immediate nationwide ceasefire throughout Syria. As Foreign Minister Maas said last week: “We have a shared responsibility to avert the fatal consequences that COVID-19 would mean for people weakened by war, displacement and hunger.” We need an extended humanitarian ceasefire throughout the country to be able to tackle the COVID-19 challenges.

The EU also stressed its strong support for the UN special envoy’s appeal. A lasting, nationwide ceasefire has become even more urgent in light of the looming crisis caused by Covid-19.

If nothing else has taught us before, this common threat, our shared vulnerability should finally teach us the value of human life.

We stress the importance of the United Nations’ central role in reaching a genuine and sustainable nationwide ceasefire. There can be no military solution to the Syrian conflict. Sustainable peace, stability and security in Syria can only be achieved through a political settlement under the auspices of the UN, in line with Security Council resolution 2254 and the Geneva Communique of 2012.

We call for a swift return to the political process mandated by Security Council resolution 2254 and reiterate our full support for the efforts of Special Envoy Pedersen in this regard. The United Nations’ central role in reaching a genuine and sustainable nationwide ceasefire is also clearly stated in this resolution.

The Syrian regime must stop obstructing and finally seriously commit to the Constitutional Committee. We call upon Russia to use its influence over Damascus in this regard.

We support the appeal by Special Envoy Pedersen for large scale releases of detainees and abductees on humanitarian grounds and have taken note of the regime’s announcement to release at least a certain group of prisoners (i.e. people older than 70). If that was to be the case, it would be a first and overdue step in the right direction. However those announcements must now be followed up with concrete deeds, for once. We’ve too often seen empty promises in the past that were never lived up to. And let’s be very clear: arbitrary arrests and forced disappearances for which the Syrian regime is responsible are still ongoing. It’s cynical to announce a prisoner release while arrests continue on a daily basis. These arrests must stop.

We also call on the Syrian regime to allow immediate and unconditional access for relevant humanitarian organizations to all detention facilities under its control, and to ensure adequate medical care and protective measures for all persons in detention. The Syrian regime must also finally inform the families of the tens of thousands of missing persons about the fate of their loved ones.

As long as the Syrian regime does not change its brutal behavior and end its grave violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, there will be no lifting of sanctions. And Germany and the European Union will only assist in any reconstruction of Syria when a comprehensive, genuine and inclusive political transition is firmly under way.

We will also continue to support all efforts, in particular those of the IIIM and the Commission of Inquiry, to ensure that none of the crimes and atrocities committed during the Syrian conflict go unpunished, that all perpetrators are held accountable, and that victims receive real justice.

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