General Assembly Security Council

UNSC open VTC briefing followed by closed consultations on Syria (Humanitarian Situation)

 

Statement by Ambassador T.S. Tirumurti

Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations

 

25 February 2021

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Thank you Madam President.  Let me begin by thanking USG Mark Lowcock for his briefing on the humanitarian situation in Syria and the United Nations Strategic Framework.

 

2. The 10 year long Syrian conflict has brought much suffering to the Syrian people. Syria is facing a dire situation compounded by a multiplicity of factors like COVID, harsh winter conditions, food insecurity and putting into peril the future of its 17.6 million citizens, including nearly 6.2 million displaced people, the biggest internally displaced population anywhere in the world.  Across the region, 10 million people, including 5.5 million Syrian refugees continue to remain dependent on humanitarian assistance. Children have been particularly badly affected.

 

3. Since we last met in this Council, the dire humanitarian situation has been further worsened by deteriorating economic conditions as well as continuing food insecurity. According to a January 2021 World Food Programme (WFP) report, the price of Syria’s standard basic food items basket in December 2020 was 236 percent higher compared to December 2019, a month-to-month increase of 13 percent that brought the price to its highest record since WFP started monitoring prices in 2013. In addition, the recent increase in the price of bread has added to the vulnerability of the population. The supply of fuel has also been affected by delays in arrival of supplies. Further, the floods in late January have destroyed more than 21,000 tents in IDP camps in Syria, affecting more than 120,000 people.

 

Madam President,

 

4. The scale, severity and complexity of humanitarian needs should provoke the collective conscience of this Council, particularly those who advocate linking of humanitarian assistance to their expected outcomes on the political track. It is difficult to comprehend such an approach. Politicization of the humanitarian track must end. It is not feasible for people in need of urgent and dire humanitarian assistance to wait endlessly till political objectives of all parties to the conflict are met fully.

 

5. Allow me now to address two inter-linked questions of humanitarian access and principles, which are closely inter-related in the context of Syria. India firmly believes that all humanitarian aid delivery to Syria must be consistent with United Nations guiding principles of humanitarian assistance. Humanitarian assistance to Syria, be it cross-border or cross-line, must take into consideration the independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty of Syria. At the same time, concrete steps need to be taken to address hurdles that are obstructing the functioning of both cross-border and cross-line operations, in particular, the delays in granting requisite approvals to humanitarian aid convoys. All parties need to protect health and humanitarian workers.

 

6. The other inter-connected issue is that of comprehensive and objective assessment of unilateral measures imposed by countries on Syria. Such measures only aggravate the prevailing economic, humanitarian and development crisis, with devastating effects for the entire population, particularly the women, children and the elderly.

 

7. We also underscore the importance of active engagement of UN with Syria towards implementation of the UN Strategic Framework to achieve the outcomes that have been set out.

 

8. For its part, India continues to stand shoulder by shoulder with the people of Syria in this grave hour of need. Earlier this month, responding to the request for emergency humanitarian assistance from the Syrian Government, India delivered more than 2000 MT (metric tons) of rice for the people of Syria through the port city of Latakia. We shared more than 10 MT medicines for the people of Syria in July last year to help them through the COVID pandemic. We stand ready to work with the UN and its agencies to ensure that ‘Made in India’ vaccines, in keeping with the clarion call of our Prime Minister of ‘Vaccines for all’, can also be brought to the aid and assistance of the people of Syria.

 

9. As regards our development partnership with Syria, India has extended US $ 265 million in soft loans for projects in the steel and power sector and USD 12 million in humanitarian assistance to the Government of Syria through both bilateral and multilateral channels. India has also set up a bio-tech park and an IT Centre. Keeping the conflict in mind, we also organized an artificial limb fitment camp in Damascus in 2019-20, which benefited over 500 Syrians. Given the education crisis pointed out by the briefer, allow me to mention that India has extended 1000 scholarships for Syrian students for higher education in India. This has been welcomed and is already benefiting Syrian youth.

 

10. In conclusion, Madam President, I reiterate my country’s commitment to support Syria and its people in these challenging times.

 

I thank you Madam President.