Statement by Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia at UNSC briefing on the political and humanitarian situation in Syria

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May 30, 2023


We thank Geir Pedersen, Ghada Mudawi, and Morgane Aveline for the briefings.

Recovery of the ties among Damascus and its neighbors in the region assumes a central role in terms of Syria’s political settlement. We welcome the decision by the Ministerial Council of the Arab League that was adopted on 7 May following the extraordinary meeting in Cairo, according to which the Syrian Arab Republic will resume its participation in the Council and all mechanisms of the League.  In particular, we welcome the participation of the President of Syria Bashar Assad in the LAS summit given the understanding that Syria is one of the founding members of the League.

This was a long-awaited step that appeared a logical result of Syria’s return to the Arab family. This is the scenario that Russia consistently called for. We have engaged a lot with regional stakeholders, encouraging them to recover full-fledged relations with Damascus.

The decision of the LAS Council demonstrated the willingness of the Arab world to consolidate activities with a view to resolving urgent regional and global problems, reconfirmed their commitment to implementing an independent policy at a global scale, proceeding from their fundamental interests.  In this context, we do hope that Arab states will increase their support for Syria so it can resolve tasks related to post-conflict recovery.


There is some positive momentum in the Syrian-Turkish normalization. On 10 May a four-lateral meeting of Foreign Ministers of Russia, Iran, Syria, and Türkiye in the Astana Format took place in Moscow, where the sides reiterated their shared commitment to sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic; combating terrorism in all its forms and manifestations; and also underscored the need to enhance international assistance to Damascus –  i.a. in the interests of ensuring a voluntary, safe, and dignified return of Syrians to their homeland and post-conflict recovery.

Unfortunately, instead of supporting the efforts of the regionals, who prove perfectly capable of addressing the internal problems of the Arab Family by their own efforts, our Western colleagues maintain a course towards exerting pressure (including by force) on the Syrian authorities and countries of the region, trying to dissuade the latter from a dialogue with Damascus.

In this context, we once again point at the destructive stance of the United States. Apparently, it is no longer enough for the US to simply supply weapons to the paramilitary units that it created in the cross-Euphrates area and Al-Tanf. By our data, Washington has started establishing the Free Syrian Army near Raqqa, with the involvement of representatives of local Arab tribes, as well as fighters from ISIL and other terrorist organizations. Their goal is obvious: They want to use these fighters against the legitimate authorities of the Syrian Arab Republic to destabilize the situation in the country.

We note with concern the intensification of Israeli air strikes on Syrian territory, including violations of the airspace of neighboring countries. In April alone there were about 10 attacks, which not only hit civilian infrastructure (the airport in Aleppo and the port in Latakia) but also peaceful population. We condemn such forceful acts that infringe on sovereignty of Syria and neighboring Arab countries. It is regrettable that there has been no reaction to that from the UN leadership.

At the same time, arbitrary “inquiry boards” continue to be replicated to look into the incidents and promote observance of human rights in Syria. Next on line is a mechanism to facilitate the search for missing persons. There is no added value to all these structures that are established by non-consensual decisions that a particular group of states push through the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council. Attempts to collect some compromising data against the Syrian government at the behest of Washington and Brussels and with a view to a prosecution by court do not bring us any nearer the political settlement in Syria.


At the political track, we continue to support the efforts of Geir Pedersen aimed at furthering the Syrian settlement in full compliance with UNSC resolution 2254 and without any external interference. At the same time, we believe it is important that the Special Envoy should abide by his mandate, which is focused on promoting the inter-Syrian dialogue. We think the Constitutional Committee is the best way to arrange such dialogue. Thereby we assume that all major decisions regarding the parameters of future rounds of inter-Syrian talks must be for the Syrians to make.


We share the concern over the continuing humanitarian degradation in Syria, which became even worse after the February earthquake. Now, large-scale devastation and a new surge in IDPs have added to the needs of 15 million people, fuel and water crisis, and an outbreak of cholera that were already there. The United Nations is lacking funds even for very basic operations. Annual humanitarian response plan for Syria for Damascus-controlled territories has been financed only by 9 % over the 5 months since the beginning of 2023. For that exact reason, the WFP will have to reduce coverage by food assistance by 70 %.

Let me now address the supporters of the cross-border humanitarian mechanism (CBM), which has outlived it usefulness. You argue that it needs another 12-month renewal, explaining it by the need to plan Syria’s humanitarian operations in the long run. But how can humanitarians plan anything at all for the government-controlled territories when the response plan for Damascus is so badly underfunded? All your arguments are simple blackmail, violation of every humanitarian principle, and a blatant manifestation of double standards.

The problems related to pillaging by the US of Syrian oil and grain resources and the illegal Western sanctions that suffocate the Syrian economy did not go anywhere. We call on the UN leadership in general and the new Resident Coordinator for Syria, Mr.Adam Abdelmoula in particular, to issue a report without any further delay on the impact of unilateral restrictions on the humanitarian situation in the country. The more so because Mr.Abdelmoula’s predecessor confirmed this obligation at the informal interactive dialogue on Syria in April.


Unfortunately, there has been no due assessment of the unprecedented decision of the Syrian government to open for UN use and then renew for three months, by 13 August, two border crossings on the border with Türkiye (Bab al-Salam and Al-Rai) in addition to Bab al-Hawa crossing that operates under UNSC resolution 2672. On the contrary, it seems as if this decision thwarted the prospects of delivering humanitarian assistance to the rebellious north-west from Damascus. Since July 2021, only 10 crossline convoys arrived in Idlib. The last of them was in January this year, meaning that none has arrived after the devastating February earthquake. In total, 152 truckloads have been dispatched. We are very concerned that things like this are happening despite the urgent humanitarian needs of the people living in the affected areas. None reaction of the UN leadership to that as well. At the same time, when speaking in support of cross-border assistance, both the Secretary-General and USG for humanitarian affairs frequently refer to some sort of a moral imperative that must be followed in order to safeguard the CBM. A strange moral imperative that is if it applies only to terrorists who are entrenched in Idlib, but then disappears when it comes to the country at large.

In parallel to that, from February to April, more than 1700 trucks have entered from Türkiye through the three border crossings. The United Nations has sent more than 100 inter-agency missions. UN emergency humanitarian response for northwestern Syria that is out of Damascus’ control (almost $400 million for 5 million people) has been fully financed.

Colleagues, the UN mandate for the functioning of the CBM expires on 10 July. We see no reason to extend it. The United Nations has proved that given contacts and coordination with the national government, it can work effectively without a Security Council resolution, which should terminate.

Besides, it is high time the issue of return of Syrian refugees received some practical development.

Further to refugees. In June this year, Brussels will host another so-called donor conference for Syria. Syrian authorities are not invited again. In fact, the West commits an offense by freezing this crisis while Syrian refugees remain in neighboring states, bound to live in tents even in winter. Help solve Syria’s domestic problems, create reserves for independent, rebuild at least basic infrastructure – this is what donors are really expected to do. Care for Syria’s humanitarian needs must base, without preconditions, on the interests of the Syrian people.

Thank you.

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