General Assembly Security Council

 

Security Council Briefing / Consultations on Syria 

[political-humanitarian]

[Wednesday, 20 January 2021; 1000 hrs]

 

Remarks by Ambassador T.S. Tirumurti,

Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations

 

Mr. President, 

 

Let me begin by thanking Special Envoy Gier Pedersen and Under Secretary General Mark Lowcock for their briefings on the recent political developments and the humanitarian situation in Syria. 

 

2. As we are all aware, discussions on the Syrian conflict began in March 2011, during the initial days of our previous stint in the Council. Amidst prevailing sharp differences, the impasse was then broken with the adoption of the first Presidential Statement under India’s Presidency in August 2011.  Subsequently, the first resolution on Syria was adopted in March 2012, despite deep divisions among Council members, endorsing the six-point plan of the Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States, Kofi Annan. 

 

3. By December 2012, three resolutions had already been adopted on Syria, but there had hardly been any progress in terms of their implementation. The politicization and militarization of the conflict brought disastrous consequences. Terrorist groups took advantage of the situation and entrenched themselves. The humanitarian consequences of the conflict rendered more than a million people homeless and nearly 300,000 as refugees in neighbouring countries.  

 

4. As we begin our new Council term eight years later, it is indeed disheartening to note that the ongoing crisis in Syria still has no end in sight and the political process is yet to take off. The conflict has become even more complex with the involvement of regional players. Terrorism emanating from Syria has spread far, even reaching parts of Africa.  Foreign fighters involved in the Syrian conflict have also moved to other places as mercenaries. The humanitarian situation has only worsened due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

 

5. The fact that the conflict has been so long-drawn and intractable, points to the inevitability of a Syrian-led and Syrian-owned political process, preserving the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria, in line with UNSC Resolution 2254, culminating in constitutional reform and free and fair elections. We hope that the conflict in Syria will end and the reconstruction of Syria will begin. Towards this objective, India is ready to play a constructive and meaningful role in the Council. 

 

Mr. President,

 

6. On the political track, the 5th meeting of the drafting body of the Constitutional Committee is scheduled to meet in Geneva on 25 January. As agreed in the 4th meeting held a month back, the Committee would be discussing basic principles of the Constitution. We hope all parties will show the commitment, flexibility and compromise to move forward on the political track and not work at cross-purposes. The international community, including the UN, should continue to assist the parties in this process.

 

7. We note that since the signing of the cease-fire agreement in March last year, the situation has been generally calm in northwest Syria, which is a positive development. We hope the Astana Guarantors will further strengthen interaction with the UN to maintain the sanctity of the ceasefire on the ground.

 

8. However, it is a matter of concern that hostilities in other parts of the country have continued unabated. The presence of foreign terrorist fighters, along with continued terror activities, has worsened the situation on the ground. It is imperative that all parties must adhere to their international obligations to fight terrorism and terrorist organizations in Syria, as designated by the Security Council. 

 

Mr. President,

 

9. Allow me to now address some issues of immediate concern on the humanitarian side. As emphasized by the briefers, the Syrian people are facing poverty, especially women and children, and very harsh conditions only compounded by these cold winter months. 

 

10. In the past two months, the prices of fuel and bread have doubled, the Syrian pound has devalued, people lack fuel to withstand the cold, and households report very poor food consumption. Covid has only made this worse. These are all serious concerns that must be addressed as a priority if we are to alleviate a dire humanitarian situation.

 

11. We call on the international community to provide assistance to Syria in rebuilding its infrastructure, safeguarding people's livelihoods and fighting COVID-19. In this situation, compounded by both economic and humanitarian crises, we should be sensitive to the debilitating impact that sanctions continue to have on the lives of the common people of Syria. 

 

12. India supports the UN continuing its humanitarian relief operations through all possible channels, with the cooperation of the Syrian Government. In this regard, we should fully respect the sovereignty of Syria while providing humanitarian assistance. Further, it is important that countries do not link progress on the political track with extending humanitarian assistance. We believe that the cause of humanitarian assistance should always be bereft of politics and politicisation. 

 

13. Since the conflict broke out in 2011, India has provided USD12 million in humanitarian assistance to the Government of Syria through bilateral and multilateral channels. Furthermore, India has set up a bio-tech park and an IT Centre and extended USD 265 million in soft loans for projects in the steel and power sectors. In July 2020, in order to help Syria fight the COVID-19 pandemic, we sent 10 MT of medicines to Damascus. We also organized an artificial limb fitment camp in Damascus during December 2019 - January 2020, which benefited over 500 Syrians. We have also provided 1000 scholarships for Syrian students to study in India.  As Syria’s reliable and long-lasting friend, India stands ready to continue to render all possible help and support to the Syrian people.

 

I thank you Mr. President.

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