Statement by H.E. Ambassador YAMAZAKI Kazuyuki, Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations, at the United Nations Security Council Briefing on “Syria’s Political & Humanitarian Situation”

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December 21, 2023

Thank you, Mr. President.

First, I thank Special Envoy Pedersen and OCHA Director Ms. Doughten for their valuable briefings.

Mr. President,

We remain deeply concerned about the risk that the conflict in Gaza could escalate and expand across the region. The security situation in Syria is already fragile with sporadic clashes between Israel and Syria in the Golan Heights, Israeli airstrikes including on Syria’s international airports, ongoing hostilities in the north, and various military clashes involving ISIL and other Islamic resistance groups.

OCHA notes that the humanitarian impact of recent hostilities in the northwest is the highest since 2019. Any misjudgment could lead to a new large-scale military conflict. All parties concerned must exercise maximum restraint to avoid this.

Clearly, there is a need to refocus the political process to address the root causes of the Syrian crisis, which have long been ignored.

In this vein, we highly appreciate Special Envoy Pedersen’s active diplomacy based on a step-by-step approach, but unfortunately the prospects for reconvening the Constitutional Committee, which remains an important aspect of the political process based on Resolution 2254, remain dim.

Even as the international community focuses on the Gaza conflict, the importance of supporting Syrian-led and Syrian-owned dialogue should not diminish. All parties must overcome their differences as soon as possible, including on the issue of the venue of the Committee.

Mr. President,

The humanitarian situation remains alarming and is worsening. Based on the Syrian government’s decision, cross-border aid through three border crossings has become a lifeline for more than 4 million people in the northwest. In particular, the Bab Al-Hawa border crossing is vital and must remain open. We also note that the 12th round of crossline assistance is being planned by the end of the year.

Yet OCHA warns that the low level of funding is unprecedented for a humanitarian crisis of this scale. With this in mind, Japan has recently decided to provide approximately $32.6 million in additional humanitarian assistance to Syria, which includes the aids for Syrian-neighboring countries, and we call on other donors to do the same.

Mr. President,

Regarding refugees and internally displaced persons in Syria, we are deeply concerned that the conditions for safe, dignified, and voluntary returns do not currently exist.

Furthermore, it is urgent to address the issue of missing persons. In this regard, we welcome the recent report of the Secretary-General on progress towards the full functioning of the Independent Institution on Missing Persons authorized by the UN General Assembly in June. Japan will support this institution as it moves to begin substantive work in the near future.

As the year end is approaching, we express our sincere gratitude to Brazil for its role as the Syria humanitarian co-penholder together with Switzerland. We would like to stress Japan’s commitment to continue addressing the Syrian crisis together with the Council, including its five new members.

I thank you, Mr. President.

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