UN Security Council Meeting on the Situation in the Middle East
The Situation in the Middle East
By Laura Agosto
On July 27th, the UNSC gathered receiving briefings from Mr. Mark Lowock, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, and Ms. Virginia Gamba, Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict. After receiving these briefings on the ongoing conflicts in Syria, member-states discussed the situation in Syria.
Mr. Mark Lowcock, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator discussed the humanitarian situation in Syria. He described that while the UN had reached tens of thousands of people across south-western Syria, an estimated 110,000 newly displaced people remain in the Quenitra Governorate.
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appointed Virginia Gamba or Argentina as his Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict at the level of Under-Secretary-General. Ms. Gamba came before the UNSC and reported that more than 7000 children were lost or were maimed since the Syrian crisis began in 2011. She reported that 1200 violations were verified in 2018 alone, showing a significant increase in previous reporting period.
Statements from Permanent UNSC Members
United States noted the “surrender-or-starve” campaign being undertaken by the Syrian government as a means to weaponized aid while further endangering the lives of the Syrian people. The United States stated its willingness to counter the Syrain government’s tactics and facilitate humanitarian aid in places like Rukban. He also condemned the terrorist attacks carried out by Daesh, and called upon the Russian Federation, in particular, to carry out its commitments in the southern de-escalation zone.
Uk joined the US in condemning terrorist attacks carried out by Daesh on July 25th. The UK called for assurances to guarantee safe access to humanitarian partners. The UK further argued that there should be ensured access to UN priority accesses, reaffirming the notion that humanitarian workers must be protected and allowed to provide services.
France condemned President Bashar al-Assad’s public announcement threatening an offensive movement in Syria, emphasizing the destabilizing risks that would entail for the region. France stressed the conditions for the safe and voluntary return of refugees have not yet been met. France briefed other UNSC members on a joint humanitarian efforts spearheaded by the Presidents of France and the Russian Federation to deliver medical goods and basic necessities to Syria.
The Russian Federation emphasized Syrian sovereignty as being the key to stability the region in and the means to which humanitarian relief can most broadly be made available to the Syrian people. Russia called upon member states to lift economic sanctions against the Syrian Arab Republic, arguing these sanctions hurt the civilians that humanitarian groups were trying to aide.
The Russian Federation also dismissed critiques made by other UNSC members and forcefully defended humanitarian efforts made by itself and the Syrian Arab Republic. Russia then addressed the controversial Law #10, arguing that the insinuations being made against the Syrian government were unfounded. The Russian Federation concluded with the notion that Syrian reintegration into international economic and political systems will help end the conflict.
China stated that reconstruction of Syrian infrastructure was a top priority. China was in support of helping regional powers to deal with the refugee crisis. The People’s Republic of China urged fellow UNSC members to put more resources into helping displaced peoples and refugees return to their homes. Finally, China cited its own recent efforts to provide aid towards Syrians through providing $91 million towards humanitarian relief efforts.
Statements from Other UNSC Members
The Netherlands called for assurances so that humanitarian workers would be protected. They emphasized that humanitarian services be made available, and that the international community must cooperate to make those services available.
Sweden addressed mental health issues facing displaced Syrian children by calling to attention the high level of children suffering from PTSD due to exposure to violence, forced participation in the conflict, and sexual assault.
Poland noted military logic as the source of continued, widespread violence and violation of international law. Poland called for the end of violence in Syria’s south-west region. He condemned the continuing violence and called for member-states to reaffirm their commitment to a humanitarian solution.
Latin American and Caribbean Group
Peru stressed the safe and voluntary return of Syrian citizens as swiftly as possible. It noted the restrictions placed upon the humanitarian relief systems and called upon all parties to work together to make the jobs of humanitarian aid workers easier to do.
Bolivia cited egregious figures that contextualized the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Syria – 13.1 million Syrians require humanitarian assistance, where 5.3 million are children. 6.1 million people are internally displaced, where 2.6 million are children. Bolivia called upon the Syrian government in particular to do more to protect the Syrian people.
Central Asia Group
Kazakhstan called for a holistic and comprehensive response to the crisis by member states and stated its support for political negotiations among all participants in the conflict.
Kuwait expressed its great concern with the military escalation in south-west Syria. It expressed concerns over difficulties other member-states have faced in delivering humanitarian aid, and called upon other member-states to do their part to facilitate peaceful delivery of humanitarian aid.
Cote d’Ivoire condemned ongoing violence in Syria and welcomed the cessation-of-hostilities agreement between the Government and armed groups. Cote d’Ivoire further stressed the return of Syrians in accordance to international law, and welcome efforts in a political solution for ending the conflict.
Equatorial New Guinea condemned continued military operations in Syria, arguing that they have resulted in unnecessary deaths and lack of security in Syria. Equatorial New Guinea called upon parties to the conflict to assume a greater level of commitment to the protection of children, and commended joint Franco-Russian cooperation in the region.
Ethiopia reiterated calls to end persisting violence in Syria, and urged for a negotiated-settlement to end the conflict and its disproportionate effect on Syrian children.
Statements from Other Parties
Syrian Arab Republic
The Syrian Arab Republic countered criticism from other delegates by noting that military operations against armed terrorist groups in besieged or hard-to-reach areas have alleviated civilian suffering and delivering of humanitarian aid. Syria stated that harsh economic sanctions imposed by other countries in fact worsened the already unimaginable hardships facing the Syrian people. Syria called upon the UN to adopt a more objective approach to Syria and recognize the work being done by the Government to reclaim its territory and aid its people.