Statement by Deputy Permanent Representative Vladimir Safronkov at the UN Security Council Meeting on Syria
We thank Assistant Secretary-General Ursula Müller for the briefing. We appreciate the courage and dedication of humanitarians who are active in Syria and other hotspots. We are also grateful to Ms. Nujeen Mustapha for her story, which is both tragic and heroic and which makes us search for a formula to solve the Syrian crisis with renewed vigor.
We take notice of significant stabilization of the situation in Syria. There are real breakthroughs in countering terrorism, decreasing the level of violence, in particular at the government-controlled areas. However, the situation remains complicated. Assistance of the international community is required as never before in order to build upon the existing progress and create conditions for further normalization.
We can achieve success, but only in case we do not politicize the humanitarian dossier and abandon “double standards” when assessing what is happening in the SAR. It is time we reconsidered the long outdated approaches that are ‘overcast’ by the developments in the country, abandon the persistent desire to accuse Damascus of everything and deter normalization within and around Syria, including processes that aim to reintegrate Syria in the Arab family.
Joint efforts to strengthen peace and stability in the country would benefit from soon termination of illegal occupation of a number of Syrian territories, including in the North-East of Syria and near Al-Tanf. It would also be positive to de facto join efforts in countering the remaining terrorist threat that – and this is particularly alarming – starts to spread beyond the region’s borders.
We would like again to draw attention to harmfulness and inadequacy of unilateral sanctions. They only exacerbate the humanitarian situation in Syria and in other States by damaging civil population, undermining functions of Syrian healthcare, social services, sustainable deliveries of fuel and lubricants to the population.
We call to join the efforts to restore the devastated infrastructure and get the stabilized areas back to normal life. Syrian government, with assistance of Russia and other partners, takes active steps on this track. They build houses, repair civil infrastructure facilities, hospitals, roads.
Reportedly, since July 18, 2018, the SAR has restored almost 900 educational and 200 medical facilities, repaired a number of automobile bridges and over 1000 km of roads, built about 1000 km of transmission lines, launched about 140 water facilities, 180 bakeries, 631 power stations, over 14 thousand industrial facilities. Many thousand hectares of land have been cleared of mines.
We welcome the intensifying economic contacts of Syria with the Arab neighbors. To reinstall connections that have been disrupted by conflict is a natural and objective process; good neighborly relations is key for sustaining security and stability in the entire region.
Despite some apparent difficulties, the return of Syrian refugees retains positive momentum. The daily influx of repatriates is about 1000 people. Starting from July 2018 over 190 thousand Syrian refugees have got back to their homeland. There are also positive developments in the process of bringing IDPs back to their homes.
Under partner support, the Syrian authorities take intense efforts to increase efficiency of repatriation and provide the required guarantees. 413 settlements that the military action damaged the least, opened centers to receive and accommodate over 1.5 mln people. Coordination Committee of the SAR on repatriation of refugees holds specialized social and economic events.
Compared to this background, the areas out of control of Damascus show a different dynamics. We share concerns about gravest humanitarian situation in Al-Hol facility that rapidly aggravates despite the efforts of international humanitarian organizations. Designed to accommodate 40 thousand people, this camp houses twice as many. People find themselves in unbearable conditions, given that many of them (mainly women and children) have gone through traumatizing challenges. It has not been long since they were under the power of terrorists and had to escape indiscriminate land- and air-strikes as the coalition was cleansing Hajin and Al-Baghouz.
We believe it necessary to set forth the coordinated work to resettle the Rukban camp. This is the only way out, taking into account that almost all of its inhabitants said they wanted to leave the Al-Tanf zone. Starting from February 2019, approximately 7 thousand people have been transferred from there to the government-controlled areas. If this rate holds on, 60-70% of inhabitants will be able to leave the camp in the course of a fortnight.
The Syrian government observes its guarantees to ensure decent living conditions for those returning from Rukban. All who have left the camp received medical assistance, basic supplies and food. The issues of restoring documents and employment are addressed swiftly.
No one should keep silent about this while looking only at the bright side of things.
The situation in Rukban remains uneasy. Militants from illegal armed group “Mahavir as-Saura” control the camp and use violence against its inhabitants on a daily basis. They do not let people leave and try to dictate their own agenda.
We proceed from the assumption that if the U.S. joined Russia-initiated joint coordination meetings for representatives of Russia, Syria and various UN bodies on Rukban, it would facilitate prompt settlement of the problems related to this provisional camp. This would become a real practical step towards normalization of living conditions of the civilians, including people with disabilities.
The situation in Idlib remains volatile. Militants from ‘Hayat Tahrir al-Sham’ (former ‘Nusra’) do not cease to attack the governmental forces. They strike indiscriminately, including against civil infrastructure. Peaceful people die. Restless pseudo-humanitarians from the ‘White Helmets’ plot new provocations in order to accuse the legitimate authorities of using toxic agents. We see what is happening. We cannot say for how long this status quo in Idlib can last. It is not viable at all, on the contrary: it is dangerous for Syria and the region.
We continue to cooperate with our partners from Turkey to develop a sustainable solution to the problem of Idlib. We discuss our joint steps on the Syrian track during regular Russian-Turkish consultations.
It is vital to set forth the intense activities on the political track that would build up the momentum of the political settlement in Syria and support the efforts of Special Envoy G.Pedersen, particularly regarding the soon launch of the Constitutional Committee.
This is the spirit in which the ‘Astana troika’ operates.
On April 25-26, 2019, the city of Nur-Sultan will host the 12th International Meeting on Syria; the leadership of Kazakhstan provides its organizational and political support for preparations for this meeting. We believe this event will make a valuable contribution to the Syrian settlement. We highlight that this meeting was preceded by intense work. Russian representatives had a number of contacts with all key stakeholders, above all the Syrian government and the opposition.
It is important that on the margins of the Meeting, we will hold the 8th Session of the Working Group on releasing detainees/hostages, transfer of bodies of the dead and search for those who are missing. The efforts of this Group recently resulted in an exchange of hostages between the government and the illegal armed formations that took place in the vicinity of Al-Bab.
We once again call on our colleagues to act in the interests of Syrians rather than of geopolitical projects that have already destabilized States in the Middle East and North Africa and resulted in their ruined statehood. Together we will be able to put an end to destructive trends in Syria and the region. We stand ready for cooperation, open to serious and achievable proposals. The developments in the region make it necessary for us to consolidate and bring together our efforts.