Statement by Vassily Nebenzia, Permanent Representative of Russia to the UN, at the Open VTC of UN Security Council Members on the Situation in Syria

Mr. President,

We thank Special Envoy Geir Pedersen for the briefing.

The pandemic had its influence on the political settlement in Syria, like on many other processes around the world. But the Special Envoy is not weakening his efforts, and we support him. The Special Envoy is in constant contact with the Syrians on the issue of the next round of talks of the Constitutional Committee. Some accuse Syrians of avoiding dialogue under the pretext of not being able to meet in person, but they are to discuss the future of their country in all sensitive details. Leaks or provocations out of VTC platforms can undermine these efforts. It would be unacceptable if the settlement process breaks down for confidentiality reasons.

We will continue efforts through contacts with parties concerned both in national capacity and together with Turkey and Iran within the framework of the Astana format.

There are significant differences between how things are on the ground in government territories and in areas outside of Damascus control, especially in the terrorist-held Idlib and the occupied Syrian territories.

In most of Syria people and government are working to restore a normal life. The Coronavirus pandemic is an additional challenge. The authorities are taking necessary measures: they are testing, equipping isolation rooms for patients with Coronavirus, opening laboratories in Aleppo, Latakia, one more is to be opened in Homs. But suffocating sanctions have led to a deterioration in the socio-economic situation in Syria. Sanctions hit ordinary Syrians. Our colleagues will not convince us that exemptions remove all problems. This is not true. It is impossible to make banking transactions from Syria, including for the purchase of medical equipment. International humanitarian NGOs cannot act effectively for fear of being sanctioned; there is plenty of information about this. We again call for lifting of unilateral sanctions.

In Idlib ceasefire is generally maintained, although terrorists frequently attack positions of the Syrian army. The Russian military, together with Turkish colleagues continue to patrol designated areas, although radical groups impede their work – they organize provocations and create blockages. This confirms the need to divorce moderate opposition from terrorists.

Terrorist attacks are carried out in other areas. They are especially notable along the Euphrates river on its east coast. The problem of FTFs and other prisoners in the northeast has not gone away. Militants riot in prisons, escape to other countries and beyond the region. We would like to hear what is being done in this regard. As well as we haven’t heard answers to our questions about what is happening in the north-east of the country where US forces are illegally present, in the Al-Hol camp, as well as in the Al-Tanf area, in the Rukban camp. Stability and security in these areas is possible only if they return under the control of the legitimate government.

Attempts to freeze dividing lines which unfortunately are drawn in today’s Syria, are unacceptable. Those lines should be erased.

Joint efforts of Syrians within the Constitutional Committee as well as common threats to the Syrian nation represented by Coronavirus, terrorism, foreign occupation, call for taking concrete steps to restore the unity and territorial integrity of Syria. This applies to the inside. The external perimeter should come together to provide humanitarian assistance and the post-conflict reconstruction of Syria to facilitate the political process without interfering in it.

Thank you.

Permanent Mission
of the Russian Federation to the United Nations