More than 7,000 Children Killed or Maimed Since Outbreak of Syria Crisis in 2011, Secretary-General’s Special Representative Tells Security Council

Briefings, Secretary-General’s Report Based on False Information from Questionable Sources, Damascus Representative Retorts

The United Nations has verified that more than 7,000 children lost their lives or were maimed since the crisis in Syria erupted in 2011, the Secretary General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict told the Security Council today, noting that unverified reports escalate that figure way beyond 20,000.

Virginia Gamba said that 1,200 violations were verified in 2018 alone, reflecting enormous increases over previous reporting periods. Sharp increases have also been seen in the recruitment and use of child soldiers; in the killing and maiming, rape and other forms of sexual violence against children; and in targeted attacks against hospitals and schools, abductions and denial of humanitarian access. It is essential that the Security Council does all that is in its power to put pressure on parties to conflict to comply with their obligations under international law, she emphasized.

Her presentation dovetailed with a briefing by Mark Lowcock, Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, on the overall humanitarian situation in Syria. Describing the suffering wrought on children as unimaginable, he said that although the United Nations has reached tens of thousands of people across south-western Syria, an estimated 110,000 newly displaced people remain in Quneitra Governorate, where pre positioned supplies have run out.

He said that, since November 2017, the number of people needing assistance in Aleppo and Idlib Governorates has increased by 600,000 to 4.2 million, half of whom are in acute need. Needs also remain high in eastern Ghouta, while, in the north east, there are concerns about civilians trapped in areas held by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) within Deir-ez-Zor Governorate.

In the ensuing debate, delegates decried the deadly toll that indiscriminate attacks by all parties had wrought on children, with the United Kingdom’s representative recalling that the fighting in Syria was sparked in 2011 by the arrest of children for drawing anti-regime graffiti on a wall. Half of the people fleeing the hostilities in the south-west are children, who must be protected against reprisals by the regime and have access to essential supplies and services, he said.

Sweden’s delegate said that, while the rules of international law are being systematically violated and Council resolutions ignored, the international community must nonetheless push forward to alleviate the suffering. Time is running out for a generation of Syrian children, he warned, urging respect for their right to education and support for their mental health.

France’s representative added that such conditions pose the risk of children becoming radicalized, ready for recruitment by ISIL/Da’esh. France was also alarmed that not a single aid convoy from Jordan has crossed that country’s border Syria since 25 June. He said that, under an agreement reached by the Presidents of France and the Russian Federation, Russian aircraft delivered 44 tons of medical goods and basic items to Syria from 20 to 21 July. We need to do more, he stressed.

The Russian Federation’s delegate said that specialists from his country have also provided for the conduct of 300 humanitarian convoys, sometimes under extremely difficult circumstances. By contrast, he noted, there has been no significant progress in deliveries to residents of the Rukban camp, near the United States military base, nor signs that the camp’s operations are helping to restore peace or eradicate terrorism.

However, the representative of the United States emphasized that United Nations humanitarian convoys are welcome any time in Rukban, adding that the United States will facilitate them. The regime continues to weaponize aid and withhold access as a way to force reconciliation, he said, urging Syria and its Russian Federation allies to allow the resumption of cross-border convoys from Jordan, in accordance with previous resolutions.

Offering a national perspective, Syria’s delegate said that his country’s Government and its partners are making great achievements, gaining control over areas held by terrorist groups that have been recruiting children and seizing humanitarian aid. The United Nations should step up its support and deal with national authorities, rather than local councils, he said, describing the latter as makeshift bodies often affiliated with terrorist organizations. He asserted that today’s briefings, as well as the Secretary-General’s latest report (document S/2018/724) are based on false information provided by questionable sources.

Also speaking today were representatives of Kuwait, Netherlands, Peru, Equatorial Guinea, Poland, Bolivia, Kazakhstan, China, CAte d’Ivoire and Ethiopia.

The meeting began at 10:08 a.m. and ended at 12:29 p.m.

Briefings

MARK LOWCOCK, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said the United Nations and its partners have mobilized a response to hostilities in south-west Syria, reaching tens of thousands of people across the area. Current efforts are building on previous proposals to pre position supplies for cross-border delivery, and are now drawing on programming from inside Syria and implemented through the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, in agreement with the Government. That included deliveries from the World Food Programme (WFP) for some 200,000 people across Dar’a Governorate in recent weeks, he said. United Nations personnel delivered food to Sahwa and Kahil on 12 July, and three days later, participated in a high-level mission to Nassib and Um Elmahatehn.

Yet, an estimated 110,000 newly displaced people remain in Quneitra Governorate, where pre positioned supplies of shelter materials and basic household items have run out, leaving displaced people exposed to soaring temperatures and desert winds. Access to water and sanitation is a growing concern and the response must be urgently scaled up. Since November 2017, the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance in Aleppo and Idlib governorates has increased by 600,000 to a total 4.2 million, half of whom are in acute need. The recent arrival of thousands of evacuees from the south-west follows a pattern seen elsewhere and has resulted in the displacement of 120,000 people into the north-west between March and May.

On 16 July, an agreement was reportedly reached to evacuate Foah and Kefraya, which have been besieged by armed groups for years, he said, adding that 120 buses transported people to the Mahalej shelter in Aleppo. The United Nations is not a party to that accord nor has it had access to the evacuees, he said, while emphasizing, however, that the Organization continues to respond to the needs of people displaced from Afrin District into Tall Refaat subdistrict, as well as Nabul and Zahraa towns, where protection remains a concern. Humanitarian needs also remain high in eastern Ghouta, while in the north-east, returns to Raqqa City have continued despite the risks of explosive-hazard contamination, he continued. There are also serious concerns about civilians trapped in areas held by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) in the eastern part of Deir-ez-Zor Governorate.

He went on to say that there are reports of civilian casualties in air strikes carried out in Al Sousa and Baghour Fukhani earlier this month, and hundreds of cases of diarrheal diseases, in which 12 people died from consuming contaminated water. The humanitarian picture in Rukban, on the Jordan-Syria border, also remains dire, he added. Efforts to keep pace with the rapidly evolving situation depend on support from Member States, he emphasized, pointing out that the United Nations appeal for Syria remains substantially underfunded. Raising the confidence of donors depends on the Organization’s ability, and that of its partners, to assess needs, prioritize responses and provide awareness. In turn, this requires safe, unimpeded and sustained access, he said, underscoring the Organization’s full commitment to working with Syrian authorities and others in that regard, to demonstrate the principled nature of collective efforts to reach the most vulnerable.

VIRGINIA GAMBA, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, said the monitoring and reporting mechanism on grave violations against children, created by Security Council resolution 1612 (2005), was established in Syria in 2013 following the listing of that country’s Government for the killing and maiming of children and attacks against schools and hospitals. Yet, every year since has seen a tremendous increase in all grave violations committed by all parties to the conflict, with documented cases representing just a small fraction of incidents, she said, recalling that since the start of the Syria crisis in 2011, the United Nations has verified that more than 7,000 children have lost their lives or been maimed. Unverified reports escalate that figure far beyond 20,000, and 1,200 violations were verified in 2018 alone, reflecting enormous increases compared with previous reporting periods.

Citing examples of the six grave violations under the purview of the monitoring and reporting mechanism, she said sharp increases have been seen in the recruitment and use, killing and maiming, rape and other forms of sexual violence against children, as well as in targeted attacks against hospitals and schools, abductions and denial of humanitarian access. All parties involved in the conflict must comply with applicable obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, she stressed, also calling on them to take immediate measures to ensure their military operations are conducted in full compliance with international law, including by respecting the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution. Children continue to be disproportionately affected by the armed conflict in Syria, she said.

She continued: It is essential that the Security Council does all that is in its power to put pressure on parties to conflict to comply with their obligations under international law, and ensure that children are no longer subject to grave violations of their rights. In addition, all parties must take immediate, concrete and effective actions to prevent child casualties during the conduct of hostilities, including by immediately ceasing the use of indiscriminate and disproportionate means and methods of warfare. There clearly is no alternative other than peace to stop the increasing violations against children in Syria, she said, emphasizing that there will be hundreds of thousands of children needing assistance and we must prepare to meet their needs. Recalling the recently adopted resolution 2427 (2018), she said children affected by the conflict must be able to access protection programmes. It is time for them to stop being victims and become game changers in the restoration of normality in peace and justice, she said. They have been used and abused by, in and for armed conflict for far too long.

Statements

MANSOUR AYYAH SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) said that his country’s Government follows with great concern the military escalation in south-west Syria, which has resulted in the displacement of nearly 300,000 people and a deterioration in the humanitarian situation of civilians. Kuwait shared the concerns expressed over the halting of cross-border humanitarian deliveries in the south-west as a result of the escalation, he said, stressing that aid must reach all those in need as soon as possible, and that restrictions on international humanitarian organizations must be lifted. Noting that millions of children know only war, he declared: We must not let them down. They are the future of this world and of Syria. He recalled that 67 schools and more than 108 medical facilities were targeted in 2017, and strongly condemned such targeting as a red line, forbidden under resolution 2427 (2018), which cautions against thwarting children’s access to education and health access.

JONATHAN R. COHEN (United States) described the latest military campaign in south-west Syria as yet another dark chapter in the ongoing conflict. Noting that the number of areas under siege has been reduced to zero as the regime continues its surrender-or-starve campaign, he said more than 13 million people still require humanitarian assistance, at least 6 million of them children. Nothing about the regime’s failure to facilitate humanitarian access has changed, he said, adding that it continues to weaponize aid and to withhold access as a way to force reconciliation. Calling upon the regime and its Russian Federation allies to resume cross-border convoys from Jordan, in accordance with previous resolutions, he stressed that United Nations operations must continue for the 800,000 people depending on assistance.

He went on to state that, in Idlib, the regime and its supporters are building up their military forces, while United Nations warnings have been clear that such moves will result in a humanitarian crisis. The Council must put measures in place to protect civilians and ensure access to that area, he said, stressing that United Nations humanitarian convoys are welcome any time in Rukban and that the United States will facilitate them. In Raqqa, removing unexploded ordinance is a priority and coalition-funded teams have cleared 20,000 such hazards and trained more than 300 Syrian nationals on mine action standards. Recalling the determination by the United Nations that conditions are not safe for large-scale returns in Syria, he said the Russian Federation is not upholding its commitments in the south-western de-escalation zone, and should allow unhindered humanitarian access for civilians in need.

FRANCOIS DELATTRE (France) recalling President Bashar al Assad’s public announcement threatening a regime offensive in Idlib, said that such a move would carry grave destabilization risks not merely for northern Syria and Turkey, but also for the wider region, most likely giving rise to the dispersal of terrorists. Emphasizing that protection is essential for all vulnerable people, he said an entire generation of children has been out of school and pose a potential risk of radicalization and recruitment by Da’esh. He urged all parties to refrain from targeting schools, safeguard the conduct of operations and protect civilian areas, while ensuring the safety of humanitarian workers, including through safety guarantees for the White Helmets and measures to protect both families and journalists.

He went on to stress that the conditions for the safe, dignified and voluntary return of refugees have not been met, and nor has their safety been provided for, as the regime continues to break ceasefires. Law 10, meanwhile, renders population displacement permanent, part of a demographic engineering strategy that must be abolished. More broadly, aid must be delivered everywhere, an obligation incumbent upon all parties, he said, expressing alarm that no cross-border convoy from Jordan has passed since 25 June. He called on those with influence over the regime to ensure that such convoys can be restored and security provided for them.

The Presidents of France and the Russian Federation agreed to deliver aid to Douma and eastern Ghouta, he recalled, noting that 44 tons of medical goods and basic necessities were delivered from France to Syria via Russian aircraft from 20 to 21 July. Non-food item delivery took place on 26 July, with coordination by the United Nations, while medical goods and medicine were delivered to health centres in Douma, he said, while insisting: We need to do more. Urging a breakthrough in the United Nations-led political process, he also called for donor financing of reconstruction, and for reconciliation efforts to help in ending terrorism. Noting that the regime’s continued military strategy undermines United Nations efforts to bring the parties together in a constitutional committee, he urged its supporters to bring pressure to bear so that the Special Envoy could launch consultations. France would not take part in rebuilding Syria unless a political transition was carried out, including a meaningful electoral process, he stressed.

KAREL JAN GUSTAAF VAN OOSTEROM (Netherlands) called upon Syria to respect international humanitarian law and provide sustained access for aid workers and protection for those in need. Calling on all parties to provide security guarantees for cross-border humanitarian convoys, he said that his delegation is currently looking into a contribution to resettlement plans for the recently evacuated group of White Helmets and their families. Expressing deep concern over the fate of 2.3 million civilians in Idlib, he said the Astana guarantors have a responsibility to work on arrangements to prevent further human suffering, protect civilians and provide a non-violent exit from this growing tragedy. He called upon the Syrian regime, the Russian Federation and Iran to immediately allow unimpeded access to all humanitarian actors, while emphasizing that all perpetrators of ongoing crimes must be held accountable.

FRANCISCO TENYA (Peru) expressed serious concern about the vulnerability of the civilian population, including 5 million children, and emphasized that it is the responsibility of Syrian authorities and other actors with influence on the ground to facilitate full access for humanitarian assistance. Equally important is ensuring the safe return of displaced persons, in accordance with international agreements. The international community and the United Nations must play their role, he said, pointing to the alarming escalation of violence in Idlib and the critical need to avoid yet another tragic tale of hell on Earth. The Council has a particular responsibility to ensure implementation of resolution 2427 (2018) with regard to children and armed conflict, he stressed.

JON OBIANG ESONO MBENGONO (Equatorial Guinea), condemning the recent Da’esh led suicide attacks, said those heinous actions should not deter efforts to achieve lasting peace. However, the situation in the south-west region and the general lack of humanitarian access are of grave concern, he said, emphasizing the need to ensure access and calling for efforts to protect children, as outlined in resolution 2427 (2018). Already at greater risk of dying from preventable causes, children are particularly vulnerable in times of conflict, he said, stressing that, since the conflict will never be resolved militarily, the parties must abide by international law to protect children. As such, Equatorial Guinea supports all efforts helping to meet urgent humanitarian needs, he said.

PAWEL RADOMSKI (Poland), expressing support for a Syrian-owned, Syrian-led inclusive political process under United Nations auspices, said that military logic unfortunately continues to drive unceasing and widespread violence and violations of international law. Condemning the intensified military operations, he called for an immediate end to violence in the Syria’s south-west region, expressing grave concern about the situation there and in the north-west region, where military operations by Russian Federation-supported Government forces have displaced thousands against a backdrop of ever-shrinking humanitarian access. The humanitarian imperative should be our primary priority, he said, reiterating a call on all parties with influence on the ground to take necessary measures to achieve a full cessation of hostilities to prevent scenarios seen in eastern Ghouta and Aleppo. Mine action programmes are also needed, he said, underlining the equal need to fund targeted efforts to protect children. Condemning continued attacks against schools and their use for military purposes, he emphasized that the Council must maintain unity on the implementation of resolution 2427 (2018).

STEPHEN HICKEY (United Kingdom) recalled that the recent fighting was sparked by the arrest of school children for their participation in anti-regime graffiti on a wall. Most of the killing and maiming of children has been attributed to Government and pro-Government forces, he said, urging the parties to respect international humanitarian law, comply with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and grant child protection experts access. Condemning the 25 July ISIL terrorist attack in Suwayda Province, he reaffirmed the United Kingdom’s commitment to eradicating that group, citing resolution 2401 (2018), which demands a cessation of hostilities and unimpeded humanitarian access. He expressed regret that the Syrian authorities have made no effort to abide by that text or by the de-escalation agreement between the United States and the Russian Federation.

He went on to state that the Russian Federation-backed Syrian offensive into the south-west has displaced one quarter of the civilians there, with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reporting that around half of those who have fled are children. They must be protected against regime reprisals and gain access to essential supplies and services, he said. He asked those parties to ensure the safety of humanitarian actors and civil society representatives, urging the Russian Federation and pro-regime forces in Idlib to remove obstacles to aid delivery. The Russian Federation in particular should ensure sustained access to areas recently under regime control, not simply one-off convoys. On cross border aid, he pressed the Russian Federation and Syria to grant the United Nations the requisite security assurances to use Ar Ramtha crossing from Jordan.

PEDRO LUIS INCHAUSTE JORDA�N (Bolivia) called for a cessation of hostilities in the south west and compliance with resolution 2401 (2018). Measures must also be taken to avoid the resurgence of terrorist groups, he said, condemning the attack on Suwayda, which resulted in 200 deaths. He urged the parties to protect civilians, hospitals and educational facilities, while deploring the absence of 2.7 million children from school since the start of the conflict. Measures are also needed to protect children from sexual violence or recruitment, he said, urging Syria’s Government to coordinate with the United Nations in ensuring an increase in aid, notably by authorizing visas and entry for convoys, including cross-border convoys. Citing the technical assessments needed to guarantee the removal of explosive remnants of war in Raqqa, he said that such an effort is essential, as are efforts to allow the safe, dignified, voluntary and informed return of refugees and displaced persons.

KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan) expressed concern over the humanitarian situation in south-western Syria and the increasing scale, frequency and severity of grave violations committed against children across the country. Calling on all parties to fulfil their obligations under international law, he stressed that they must protect the civilian population and avoid attacking civilian infrastructure and personnel. Ensuring safe, sustained and unimpeded humanitarian access for all civilian in need is crucial to averting a further deterioration, and is especially critical across conflict lines when control over territory changed. He added that civilians wishing to flee the fighting should be allowed to do so without hindrance, with full dignity and in safety, while those wishing to stay must be protected.

DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation) said that, following the evacuation of residents from Foah and Kefrayah, there are no more besieged areas in Syria, and the stage is being set to expand humanitarian deliveries. By contrast, there are issues in a number of areas not under Syria’s control, he said, explaining that there has been no significant progress in deliveries to residents of the Rukban camp, near the United States military base, nor signs that the camp’s operations are helping to restore peace and eradicate terrorism. Conditions are being set for the closure of the United Nations cross-border monitoring mechanism, he said, noting that it was created as an extraordinary measure. Today, the situation is fundamentally different, he emphasized, adding: This is a relic of the past. It undermines Syrian sovereignty and is discriminatory, serving areas under the control of armed groups.

He went on to state that 2,800 tons of humanitarian cargo have been delivered, pointing out that Russian specialists have provided for the conduct of 300 humanitarian convoys, sometimes under extremely difficult circumstances. The Russian Federation provided transport for the recent delivery of aid to eastern Ghouta, as per its agreement with France. Furthermore, in recent weeks, it has taken measures to eradicate terrorist hotbeds in southern Syria, thereby advancing the interests of both that country and its neighbours. Emphasizing that his country focuses on the priorities of regional players, engaging in robust contact with them, he said the Russian Federation condemns the terrorist attacks in Suwayda Province and calls for the perpetrators to be punished.

In Dar’a and Qunaytirah, he continued, local ceasefire agreements are being carried out with assistance from Russian specialists, allowing fighters to leverage a State amnesty to settle their status and join efforts to establish a civilian life, while hard-line fighters are sent to northern Syria. Stressing that doctors, teachers and journalists have nothing to fear, he said the only people concerned about safety are those who carry out activities to subvert Syria’s statehood. The Russian Federation is receiving requests from activists in the south-west, which it is considering through a humanitarian lens, he said. The White Helmets, however, cloaking themselves in the guise of Syrian civil servants, are taking part in acts involving toxic substances, he said.

The Russian Federation advocates the prompt return of internally displaced persons and refugees, which will reduce the burden on Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt and some European countries, he said. Noting that Syrian civilians are returning home in the thousands, he said the national authorities stand ready to ensure their safe homecoming. Meanwhile, claims around Law 10 are unfounded, he said, emphasizing that its sole purpose is to determine the situation concerning the right to movable property. Syria is not hastily implementing that law and is willing to discuss it with United Nations experts, he said.

Noting that the Astana guarantors will meet in Sochi on 30-31 July, he advocated joining Syria’s recovery efforts and eschewing artificial links with other issues. On mine clearance, he said that he expects the memorandum of understanding between Syria and the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS)to be followed up by political measures. Pointing out that the so-called coalition has failed to make Raqqa suitable for life, he said that, thanks to Russian specialists, the Palmyra monuments destroyed by the terrorists are being rebuilt. Unblocking border crossings should be a pre-requisite for strengthening Syria’s ties with other countries, he noted, underling that his country would spare no effort in that regard.

YAO SHAOJUN (China) applauded United Nations efforts to ease the humanitarian situation in some parts of Syria, encouraging the parties to coordinate with the Organization and expressing hope that they will enhance the protection of children. While emphasizing the imperative of adherence to the principles of neutrality and impartiality, as well as sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity, he said greater international support is needed to help neighbours accommodate Syrian refugees, citing also the progress made in facilitating their return home. The international community must support Syria’s reconstruction and mine clearance efforts, work to minimize accidental casualties among civilians and help displaced civilians return home. Condemning the recent terrorist attack in Suwayda, he advocated support for the United Nations as the main channel for mediation, announcing that China will contribute $600 million in aid to Syria, Jordan and other countries.

DESIRE WULFRAN G. IPO (CAte d’Ivoire), recalling that cross-border assistance is authorized under resolution 2398 (2018), among others, said it is a critical facet of United Nations operations. He also condemned the military escalation in the south-west, urging compliance with resolution 2401 (2018), which demands the immediate cessation of hostilities. Welcoming the cessation of hostilities agreements between the Government and armed groups � at the prompting of the Russian Federation � as well as the joint humanitarian operation to eastern Ghouta carried out by the Russian Federation and France, he also applauded the granting of access to 40 Syrian Arab Red Crescent trucks which were allowed access to formerly besieged areas. China thanked neighbouring countries for the assistance delivered to 5.6 million refugees, he said, noting that his delegation is aware of the potential impact on their economies. He went on to stress that the return of Syrians must be undertaken in accordance with international standards, to welcome efforts to relaunch the inter-Syrian dialogue process, and to urge that the Special Envoy set up a constitutional committee.

MAHLET HAILU GUADEY (Ethiopia), underlining the current dire humanitarian situation, reiterated calls to end hostilities and provide assistance to those in need. Restrictions on access must be addressed to ensure safe and sustained humanitarian access enabling aid workers to reach those who need urgent assistance. While all Syrians have been suffering in the conflict, children have been the most affected and should be protected from all violence and provided with the necessary assistance. Expressing support for efforts to provide targeted assistance to children, she emphasized that only a negotiated settlement will end the violence so horribly affecting the youngest generation.

OLOF SKOOG (Sweden), Council President for July, spoke in his national capacity. The Secretary-General’s report demonstrates that the rules of international law are being systematically violated, he said, adding that calls to end the violence are ignored and the Council’s resolutions disregarded. Nevertheless, the international community must push ahead with its efforts to find a political solution and alleviate suffering because time is running out for a generation of Syrian children. Calling upon the Council, the parties to the conflict and all Member States to improve the situation of children trapped in the nightmare of Syria’s war, he spotlighted five priority areas: safe and unimpeded humanitarian access; respect for Syrian children’s right to education; attention to and support for the mental health of children impacted by the conflict; and immediate protection for children, and accountability for violations against them. Together we must shoulder the responsibility entrusted to us, he stressed.

ABDULLAH HALLAK (Syria) said he was surprised by the logic of some delegates who qualified the liberation of Syrian territory as the Government continuing to seize land held by armed terrorist groups. Noting that they are the same groups that for years used women and children as human shields, he said the day will come when they will be chased from Syrian territory and no one will raise weapons against the Syrian Government again. Furthermore, Syria would have liked the Council to have a unified voice regarding the recent Da’esh attacks, he added. On aid deliveries, he referred to a General Assembly resolution that clearly outlines the related role of States, pointing out that Syrian authorities have made such efforts and have also led campaigns to drive terrorists from the national territory.

Turning to the Secretary-General’s latest report, he said Syria and its partners on the ground are making great achievements, continually increasing control over areas held by terrorist groups that have been recruiting and using children and seizing humanitarian assistance. Combating terrorism is a part of Syria’s constitutional prerogative, he emphasized, adding that the United Nations should step up the support it provides to Syria and deal with the national authorities, not the local councils, which are makeshift bodies often affiliated with terrorist organizations.

Contrary to what certain people believe, he said, military operations against armed terrorist groups in besieged or hard-to-reach areas have allowed the alleviation of civilian suffering and the delivery of aid. However, unilateral economically coercive measures imposed by the European Union and the United States are obstructing Syrian efforts to provide assistance to its citizens. Its operations to liberate the southern region have faced the White Helmets, who continue to work with terrorist groups in fabricating misinformation to manipulate public perceptions with a view to attacking Syria, he said.

The United Nations should adopt an objective, impartial approach to Syria, but this would be impossible if the Syrian Government’s efforts to help its people are never known nor mentioned in reports, he said. Today’s briefings and the Secretary-General’s report are based on false information provided by questionable sources, some of whom are controlled by terrorist groups. Noting that the Syrian Government has sent documented information on the recruitment of children by armed terrorist groups, he asked why, if the Government is recruiting children, the United Nations has not received information about it. He said that his delegation sent a letter to the United Nations and the Security Council about Law 10, explaining its legal nature and that its aim is to protect property. He refuted all allegations that the law is meant to confiscate or seize property from the Syrian people.

Source: United Nations

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More than 7,000 Children Killed or Maimed Since Outbreak of Syria Crisis in 2011, Secretary-General’s Special Representative Tells Security Council

Briefings, Secretary-General’s Report Based on False Information from Questionable Sources, Damascus Representative Retorts

The United Nations has verified that more than 7,000 children lost their lives or were maimed since the crisis in Syria erupted in 2011, the Secretary General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict told the Security Council today, noting that unverified reports escalate that figure way beyond 20,000.

Virginia Gamba said that 1,200 violations were verified in 2018 alone, reflecting enormous increases over previous reporting periods. Sharp increases have also been seen in the recruitment and use of child soldiers; in the killing and maiming, rape and other forms of sexual violence against children; and in targeted attacks against hospitals and schools, abductions and denial of humanitarian access. It is essential that the Security Council does all that is in its power to put pressure on parties to conflict to comply with their obligations under international law, she emphasized.

Her presentation dovetailed with a briefing by Mark Lowcock, Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, on the overall humanitarian situation in Syria. Describing the suffering wrought on children as unimaginable, he said that although the United Nations has reached tens of thousands of people across south-western Syria, an estimated 110,000 newly displaced people remain in Quneitra Governorate, where pre positioned supplies have run out.

He said that, since November 2017, the number of people needing assistance in Aleppo and Idlib Governorates has increased by 600,000 to 4.2 million, half of whom are in acute need. Needs also remain high in eastern Ghouta, while, in the north east, there are concerns about civilians trapped in areas held by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) within Deir-ez-Zor Governorate.

In the ensuing debate, delegates decried the deadly toll that indiscriminate attacks by all parties had wrought on children, with the United Kingdom’s representative recalling that the fighting in Syria was sparked in 2011 by the arrest of children for drawing anti-regime graffiti on a wall. Half of the people fleeing the hostilities in the south-west are children, who must be protected against reprisals by the regime and have access to essential supplies and services, he said.

Sweden’s delegate said that, while the rules of international law are being systematically violated and Council resolutions ignored, the international community must nonetheless push forward to alleviate the suffering. Time is running out for a generation of Syrian children, he warned, urging respect for their right to education and support for their mental health.

France’s representative added that such conditions pose the risk of children becoming radicalized, ready for recruitment by ISIL/Da’esh. France was also alarmed that not a single aid convoy from Jordan has crossed that country’s border Syria since 25 June. He said that, under an agreement reached by the Presidents of France and the Russian Federation, Russian aircraft delivered 44 tons of medical goods and basic items to Syria from 20 to 21 July. We need to do more, he stressed.

The Russian Federation’s delegate said that specialists from his country have also provided for the conduct of 300 humanitarian convoys, sometimes under extremely difficult circumstances. By contrast, he noted, there has been no significant progress in deliveries to residents of the Rukban camp, near the United States military base, nor signs that the camp’s operations are helping to restore peace or eradicate terrorism.

However, the representative of the United States emphasized that United Nations humanitarian convoys are welcome any time in Rukban, adding that the United States will facilitate them. The regime continues to weaponize aid and withhold access as a way to force reconciliation, he said, urging Syria and its Russian Federation allies to allow the resumption of cross-border convoys from Jordan, in accordance with previous resolutions.

Offering a national perspective, Syria’s delegate said that his country’s Government and its partners are making great achievements, gaining control over areas held by terrorist groups that have been recruiting children and seizing humanitarian aid. The United Nations should step up its support and deal with national authorities, rather than local councils, he said, describing the latter as makeshift bodies often affiliated with terrorist organizations. He asserted that today’s briefings, as well as the Secretary-General’s latest report (document S/2018/724) are based on false information provided by questionable sources.

Also speaking today were representatives of Kuwait, Netherlands, Peru, Equatorial Guinea, Poland, Bolivia, Kazakhstan, China, CAte d’Ivoire and Ethiopia.

The meeting began at 10:08 a.m. and ended at 12:29 p.m.

Briefings

MARK LOWCOCK, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said the United Nations and its partners have mobilized a response to hostilities in south-west Syria, reaching tens of thousands of people across the area. Current efforts are building on previous proposals to pre position supplies for cross-border delivery, and are now drawing on programming from inside Syria and implemented through the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, in agreement with the Government. That included deliveries from the World Food Programme (WFP) for some 200,000 people across Dar’a Governorate in recent weeks, he said. United Nations personnel delivered food to Sahwa and Kahil on 12 July, and three days later, participated in a high-level mission to Nassib and Um Elmahatehn.

Yet, an estimated 110,000 newly displaced people remain in Quneitra Governorate, where pre positioned supplies of shelter materials and basic household items have run out, leaving displaced people exposed to soaring temperatures and desert winds. Access to water and sanitation is a growing concern and the response must be urgently scaled up. Since November 2017, the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance in Aleppo and Idlib governorates has increased by 600,000 to a total 4.2 million, half of whom are in acute need. The recent arrival of thousands of evacuees from the south-west follows a pattern seen elsewhere and has resulted in the displacement of 120,000 people into the north-west between March and May.

On 16 July, an agreement was reportedly reached to evacuate Foah and Kefraya, which have been besieged by armed groups for years, he said, adding that 120 buses transported people to the Mahalej shelter in Aleppo. The United Nations is not a party to that accord nor has it had access to the evacuees, he said, while emphasizing, however, that the Organization continues to respond to the needs of people displaced from Afrin District into Tall Refaat subdistrict, as well as Nabul and Zahraa towns, where protection remains a concern. Humanitarian needs also remain high in eastern Ghouta, while in the north-east, returns to Raqqa City have continued despite the risks of explosive-hazard contamination, he continued. There are also serious concerns about civilians trapped in areas held by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) in the eastern part of Deir-ez-Zor Governorate.

He went on to say that there are reports of civilian casualties in air strikes carried out in Al Sousa and Baghour Fukhani earlier this month, and hundreds of cases of diarrheal diseases, in which 12 people died from consuming contaminated water. The humanitarian picture in Rukban, on the Jordan-Syria border, also remains dire, he added. Efforts to keep pace with the rapidly evolving situation depend on support from Member States, he emphasized, pointing out that the United Nations appeal for Syria remains substantially underfunded. Raising the confidence of donors depends on the Organization’s ability, and that of its partners, to assess needs, prioritize responses and provide awareness. In turn, this requires safe, unimpeded and sustained access, he said, underscoring the Organization’s full commitment to working with Syrian authorities and others in that regard, to demonstrate the principled nature of collective efforts to reach the most vulnerable.

VIRGINIA GAMBA, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, said the monitoring and reporting mechanism on grave violations against children, created by Security Council resolution 1612 (2005), was established in Syria in 2013 following the listing of that country’s Government for the killing and maiming of children and attacks against schools and hospitals. Yet, every year since has seen a tremendous increase in all grave violations committed by all parties to the conflict, with documented cases representing just a small fraction of incidents, she said, recalling that since the start of the Syria crisis in 2011, the United Nations has verified that more than 7,000 children have lost their lives or been maimed. Unverified reports escalate that figure far beyond 20,000, and 1,200 violations were verified in 2018 alone, reflecting enormous increases compared with previous reporting periods.

Citing examples of the six grave violations under the purview of the monitoring and reporting mechanism, she said sharp increases have been seen in the recruitment and use, killing and maiming, rape and other forms of sexual violence against children, as well as in targeted attacks against hospitals and schools, abductions and denial of humanitarian access. All parties involved in the conflict must comply with applicable obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, she stressed, also calling on them to take immediate measures to ensure their military operations are conducted in full compliance with international law, including by respecting the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution. Children continue to be disproportionately affected by the armed conflict in Syria, she said.

She continued: It is essential that the Security Council does all that is in its power to put pressure on parties to conflict to comply with their obligations under international law, and ensure that children are no longer subject to grave violations of their rights. In addition, all parties must take immediate, concrete and effective actions to prevent child casualties during the conduct of hostilities, including by immediately ceasing the use of indiscriminate and disproportionate means and methods of warfare. There clearly is no alternative other than peace to stop the increasing violations against children in Syria, she said, emphasizing that there will be hundreds of thousands of children needing assistance and we must prepare to meet their needs. Recalling the recently adopted resolution 2427 (2018), she said children affected by the conflict must be able to access protection programmes. It is time for them to stop being victims and become game changers in the restoration of normality in peace and justice, she said. They have been used and abused by, in and for armed conflict for far too long.

Statements

MANSOUR AYYAH SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) said that his country’s Government follows with great concern the military escalation in south-west Syria, which has resulted in the displacement of nearly 300,000 people and a deterioration in the humanitarian situation of civilians. Kuwait shared the concerns expressed over the halting of cross-border humanitarian deliveries in the south-west as a result of the escalation, he said, stressing that aid must reach all those in need as soon as possible, and that restrictions on international humanitarian organizations must be lifted. Noting that millions of children know only war, he declared: We must not let them down. They are the future of this world and of Syria. He recalled that 67 schools and more than 108 medical facilities were targeted in 2017, and strongly condemned such targeting as a red line, forbidden under resolution 2427 (2018), which cautions against thwarting children’s access to education and health access.

JONATHAN R. COHEN (United States) described the latest military campaign in south-west Syria as yet another dark chapter in the ongoing conflict. Noting that the number of areas under siege has been reduced to zero as the regime continues its surrender-or-starve campaign, he said more than 13 million people still require humanitarian assistance, at least 6 million of them children. Nothing about the regime’s failure to facilitate humanitarian access has changed, he said, adding that it continues to weaponize aid and to withhold access as a way to force reconciliation. Calling upon the regime and its Russian Federation allies to resume cross-border convoys from Jordan, in accordance with previous resolutions, he stressed that United Nations operations must continue for the 800,000 people depending on assistance.

He went on to state that, in Idlib, the regime and its supporters are building up their military forces, while United Nations warnings have been clear that such moves will result in a humanitarian crisis. The Council must put measures in place to protect civilians and ensure access to that area, he said, stressing that United Nations humanitarian convoys are welcome any time in Rukban and that the United States will facilitate them. In Raqqa, removing unexploded ordinance is a priority and coalition-funded teams have cleared 20,000 such hazards and trained more than 300 Syrian nationals on mine action standards. Recalling the determination by the United Nations that conditions are not safe for large-scale returns in Syria, he said the Russian Federation is not upholding its commitments in the south-western de-escalation zone, and should allow unhindered humanitarian access for civilians in need.

FRANCOIS DELATTRE (France) recalling President Bashar al Assad’s public announcement threatening a regime offensive in Idlib, said that such a move would carry grave destabilization risks not merely for northern Syria and Turkey, but also for the wider region, most likely giving rise to the dispersal of terrorists. Emphasizing that protection is essential for all vulnerable people, he said an entire generation of children has been out of school and pose a potential risk of radicalization and recruitment by Da’esh. He urged all parties to refrain from targeting schools, safeguard the conduct of operations and protect civilian areas, while ensuring the safety of humanitarian workers, including through safety guarantees for the White Helmets and measures to protect both families and journalists.

He went on to stress that the conditions for the safe, dignified and voluntary return of refugees have not been met, and nor has their safety been provided for, as the regime continues to break ceasefires. Law 10, meanwhile, renders population displacement permanent, part of a demographic engineering strategy that must be abolished. More broadly, aid must be delivered everywhere, an obligation incumbent upon all parties, he said, expressing alarm that no cross-border convoy from Jordan has passed since 25 June. He called on those with influence over the regime to ensure that such convoys can be restored and security provided for them.

The Presidents of France and the Russian Federation agreed to deliver aid to Douma and eastern Ghouta, he recalled, noting that 44 tons of medical goods and basic necessities were delivered from France to Syria via Russian aircraft from 20 to 21 July. Non-food item delivery took place on 26 July, with coordination by the United Nations, while medical goods and medicine were delivered to health centres in Douma, he said, while insisting: We need to do more. Urging a breakthrough in the United Nations-led political process, he also called for donor financing of reconstruction, and for reconciliation efforts to help in ending terrorism. Noting that the regime’s continued military strategy undermines United Nations efforts to bring the parties together in a constitutional committee, he urged its supporters to bring pressure to bear so that the Special Envoy could launch consultations. France would not take part in rebuilding Syria unless a political transition was carried out, including a meaningful electoral process, he stressed.

KAREL JAN GUSTAAF VAN OOSTEROM (Netherlands) called upon Syria to respect international humanitarian law and provide sustained access for aid workers and protection for those in need. Calling on all parties to provide security guarantees for cross-border humanitarian convoys, he said that his delegation is currently looking into a contribution to resettlement plans for the recently evacuated group of White Helmets and their families. Expressing deep concern over the fate of 2.3 million civilians in Idlib, he said the Astana guarantors have a responsibility to work on arrangements to prevent further human suffering, protect civilians and provide a non-violent exit from this growing tragedy. He called upon the Syrian regime, the Russian Federation and Iran to immediately allow unimpeded access to all humanitarian actors, while emphasizing that all perpetrators of ongoing crimes must be held accountable.

FRANCISCO TENYA (Peru) expressed serious concern about the vulnerability of the civilian population, including 5 million children, and emphasized that it is the responsibility of Syrian authorities and other actors with influence on the ground to facilitate full access for humanitarian assistance. Equally important is ensuring the safe return of displaced persons, in accordance with international agreements. The international community and the United Nations must play their role, he said, pointing to the alarming escalation of violence in Idlib and the critical need to avoid yet another tragic tale of hell on Earth. The Council has a particular responsibility to ensure implementation of resolution 2427 (2018) with regard to children and armed conflict, he stressed.

JON OBIANG ESONO MBENGONO (Equatorial Guinea), condemning the recent Da’esh led suicide attacks, said those heinous actions should not deter efforts to achieve lasting peace. However, the situation in the south-west region and the general lack of humanitarian access are of grave concern, he said, emphasizing the need to ensure access and calling for efforts to protect children, as outlined in resolution 2427 (2018). Already at greater risk of dying from preventable causes, children are particularly vulnerable in times of conflict, he said, stressing that, since the conflict will never be resolved militarily, the parties must abide by international law to protect children. As such, Equatorial Guinea supports all efforts helping to meet urgent humanitarian needs, he said.

PAWEL RADOMSKI (Poland), expressing support for a Syrian-owned, Syrian-led inclusive political process under United Nations auspices, said that military logic unfortunately continues to drive unceasing and widespread violence and violations of international law. Condemning the intensified military operations, he called for an immediate end to violence in the Syria’s south-west region, expressing grave concern about the situation there and in the north-west region, where military operations by Russian Federation-supported Government forces have displaced thousands against a backdrop of ever-shrinking humanitarian access. The humanitarian imperative should be our primary priority, he said, reiterating a call on all parties with influence on the ground to take necessary measures to achieve a full cessation of hostilities to prevent scenarios seen in eastern Ghouta and Aleppo. Mine action programmes are also needed, he said, underlining the equal need to fund targeted efforts to protect children. Condemning continued attacks against schools and their use for military purposes, he emphasized that the Council must maintain unity on the implementation of resolution 2427 (2018).

STEPHEN HICKEY (United Kingdom) recalled that the recent fighting was sparked by the arrest of school children for their participation in anti-regime graffiti on a wall. Most of the killing and maiming of children has been attributed to Government and pro-Government forces, he said, urging the parties to respect international humanitarian law, comply with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and grant child protection experts access. Condemning the 25 July ISIL terrorist attack in Suwayda Province, he reaffirmed the United Kingdom’s commitment to eradicating that group, citing resolution 2401 (2018), which demands a cessation of hostilities and unimpeded humanitarian access. He expressed regret that the Syrian authorities have made no effort to abide by that text or by the de-escalation agreement between the United States and the Russian Federation.

He went on to state that the Russian Federation-backed Syrian offensive into the south-west has displaced one quarter of the civilians there, with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reporting that around half of those who have fled are children. They must be protected against regime reprisals and gain access to essential supplies and services, he said. He asked those parties to ensure the safety of humanitarian actors and civil society representatives, urging the Russian Federation and pro-regime forces in Idlib to remove obstacles to aid delivery. The Russian Federation in particular should ensure sustained access to areas recently under regime control, not simply one-off convoys. On cross border aid, he pressed the Russian Federation and Syria to grant the United Nations the requisite security assurances to use Ar Ramtha crossing from Jordan.

PEDRO LUIS INCHAUSTE JORDA�N (Bolivia) called for a cessation of hostilities in the south west and compliance with resolution 2401 (2018). Measures must also be taken to avoid the resurgence of terrorist groups, he said, condemning the attack on Suwayda, which resulted in 200 deaths. He urged the parties to protect civilians, hospitals and educational facilities, while deploring the absence of 2.7 million children from school since the start of the conflict. Measures are also needed to protect children from sexual violence or recruitment, he said, urging Syria’s Government to coordinate with the United Nations in ensuring an increase in aid, notably by authorizing visas and entry for convoys, including cross-border convoys. Citing the technical assessments needed to guarantee the removal of explosive remnants of war in Raqqa, he said that such an effort is essential, as are efforts to allow the safe, dignified, voluntary and informed return of refugees and displaced persons.

KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan) expressed concern over the humanitarian situation in south-western Syria and the increasing scale, frequency and severity of grave violations committed against children across the country. Calling on all parties to fulfil their obligations under international law, he stressed that they must protect the civilian population and avoid attacking civilian infrastructure and personnel. Ensuring safe, sustained and unimpeded humanitarian access for all civilian in need is crucial to averting a further deterioration, and is especially critical across conflict lines when control over territory changed. He added that civilians wishing to flee the fighting should be allowed to do so without hindrance, with full dignity and in safety, while those wishing to stay must be protected.

DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation) said that, following the evacuation of residents from Foah and Kefrayah, there are no more besieged areas in Syria, and the stage is being set to expand humanitarian deliveries. By contrast, there are issues in a number of areas not under Syria’s control, he said, explaining that there has been no significant progress in deliveries to residents of the Rukban camp, near the United States military base, nor signs that the camp’s operations are helping to restore peace and eradicate terrorism. Conditions are being set for the closure of the United Nations cross-border monitoring mechanism, he said, noting that it was created as an extraordinary measure. Today, the situation is fundamentally different, he emphasized, adding: This is a relic of the past. It undermines Syrian sovereignty and is discriminatory, serving areas under the control of armed groups.

He went on to state that 2,800 tons of humanitarian cargo have been delivered, pointing out that Russian specialists have provided for the conduct of 300 humanitarian convoys, sometimes under extremely difficult circumstances. The Russian Federation provided transport for the recent delivery of aid to eastern Ghouta, as per its agreement with France. Furthermore, in recent weeks, it has taken measures to eradicate terrorist hotbeds in southern Syria, thereby advancing the interests of both that country and its neighbours. Emphasizing that his country focuses on the priorities of regional players, engaging in robust contact with them, he said the Russian Federation condemns the terrorist attacks in Suwayda Province and calls for the perpetrators to be punished.

In Dar’a and Qunaytirah, he continued, local ceasefire agreements are being carried out with assistance from Russian specialists, allowing fighters to leverage a State amnesty to settle their status and join efforts to establish a civilian life, while hard-line fighters are sent to northern Syria. Stressing that doctors, teachers and journalists have nothing to fear, he said the only people concerned about safety are those who carry out activities to subvert Syria’s statehood. The Russian Federation is receiving requests from activists in the south-west, which it is considering through a humanitarian lens, he said. The White Helmets, however, cloaking themselves in the guise of Syrian civil servants, are taking part in acts involving toxic substances, he said.

The Russian Federation advocates the prompt return of internally displaced persons and refugees, which will reduce the burden on Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt and some European countries, he said. Noting that Syrian civilians are returning home in the thousands, he said the national authorities stand ready to ensure their safe homecoming. Meanwhile, claims around Law 10 are unfounded, he said, emphasizing that its sole purpose is to determine the situation concerning the right to movable property. Syria is not hastily implementing that law and is willing to discuss it with United Nations experts, he said.

Noting that the Astana guarantors will meet in Sochi on 30-31 July, he advocated joining Syria’s recovery efforts and eschewing artificial links with other issues. On mine clearance, he said that he expects the memorandum of understanding between Syria and the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS)to be followed up by political measures. Pointing out that the so-called coalition has failed to make Raqqa suitable for life, he said that, thanks to Russian specialists, the Palmyra monuments destroyed by the terrorists are being rebuilt. Unblocking border crossings should be a pre-requisite for strengthening Syria’s ties with other countries, he noted, underling that his country would spare no effort in that regard.

YAO SHAOJUN (China) applauded United Nations efforts to ease the humanitarian situation in some parts of Syria, encouraging the parties to coordinate with the Organization and expressing hope that they will enhance the protection of children. While emphasizing the imperative of adherence to the principles of neutrality and impartiality, as well as sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity, he said greater international support is needed to help neighbours accommodate Syrian refugees, citing also the progress made in facilitating their return home. The international community must support Syria’s reconstruction and mine clearance efforts, work to minimize accidental casualties among civilians and help displaced civilians return home. Condemning the recent terrorist attack in Suwayda, he advocated support for the United Nations as the main channel for mediation, announcing that China will contribute $600 million in aid to Syria, Jordan and other countries.

DESIRE WULFRAN G. IPO (CAte d’Ivoire), recalling that cross-border assistance is authorized under resolution 2398 (2018), among others, said it is a critical facet of United Nations operations. He also condemned the military escalation in the south-west, urging compliance with resolution 2401 (2018), which demands the immediate cessation of hostilities. Welcoming the cessation of hostilities agreements between the Government and armed groups � at the prompting of the Russian Federation � as well as the joint humanitarian operation to eastern Ghouta carried out by the Russian Federation and France, he also applauded the granting of access to 40 Syrian Arab Red Crescent trucks which were allowed access to formerly besieged areas. China thanked neighbouring countries for the assistance delivered to 5.6 million refugees, he said, noting that his delegation is aware of the potential impact on their economies. He went on to stress that the return of Syrians must be undertaken in accordance with international standards, to welcome efforts to relaunch the inter-Syrian dialogue process, and to urge that the Special Envoy set up a constitutional committee.

MAHLET HAILU GUADEY (Ethiopia), underlining the current dire humanitarian situation, reiterated calls to end hostilities and provide assistance to those in need. Restrictions on access must be addressed to ensure safe and sustained humanitarian access enabling aid workers to reach those who need urgent assistance. While all Syrians have been suffering in the conflict, children have been the most affected and should be protected from all violence and provided with the necessary assistance. Expressing support for efforts to provide targeted assistance to children, she emphasized that only a negotiated settlement will end the violence so horribly affecting the youngest generation.

OLOF SKOOG (Sweden), Council President for July, spoke in his national capacity. The Secretary-General’s report demonstrates that the rules of international law are being systematically violated, he said, adding that calls to end the violence are ignored and the Council’s resolutions disregarded. Nevertheless, the international community must push ahead with its efforts to find a political solution and alleviate suffering because time is running out for a generation of Syrian children. Calling upon the Council, the parties to the conflict and all Member States to improve the situation of children trapped in the nightmare of Syria’s war, he spotlighted five priority areas: safe and unimpeded humanitarian access; respect for Syrian children’s right to education; attention to and support for the mental health of children impacted by the conflict; and immediate protection for children, and accountability for violations against them. Together we must shoulder the responsibility entrusted to us, he stressed.

ABDULLAH HALLAK (Syria) said he was surprised by the logic of some delegates who qualified the liberation of Syrian territory as the Government continuing to seize land held by armed terrorist groups. Noting that they are the same groups that for years used women and children as human shields, he said the day will come when they will be chased from Syrian territory and no one will raise weapons against the Syrian Government again. Furthermore, Syria would have liked the Council to have a unified voice regarding the recent Da’esh attacks, he added. On aid deliveries, he referred to a General Assembly resolution that clearly outlines the related role of States, pointing out that Syrian authorities have made such efforts and have also led campaigns to drive terrorists from the national territory.

Turning to the Secretary-General’s latest report, he said Syria and its partners on the ground are making great achievements, continually increasing control over areas held by terrorist groups that have been recruiting and using children and seizing humanitarian assistance. Combating terrorism is a part of Syria’s constitutional prerogative, he emphasized, adding that the United Nations should step up the support it provides to Syria and deal with the national authorities, not the local councils, which are makeshift bodies often affiliated with terrorist organizations.

Contrary to what certain people believe, he said, military operations against armed terrorist groups in besieged or hard-to-reach areas have allowed the alleviation of civilian suffering and the delivery of aid. However, unilateral economically coercive measures imposed by the European Union and the United States are obstructing Syrian efforts to provide assistance to its citizens. Its operations to liberate the southern region have faced the White Helmets, who continue to work with terrorist groups in fabricating misinformation to manipulate public perceptions with a view to attacking Syria, he said.

The United Nations should adopt an objective, impartial approach to Syria, but this would be impossible if the Syrian Government’s efforts to help its people are never known nor mentioned in reports, he said. Today’s briefings and the Secretary-General’s report are based on false information provided by questionable sources, some of whom are controlled by terrorist groups. Noting that the Syrian Government has sent documented information on the recruitment of children by armed terrorist groups, he asked why, if the Government is recruiting children, the United Nations has not received information about it. He said that his delegation sent a letter to the United Nations and the Security Council about Law 10, explaining its legal nature and that its aim is to protect property. He refuted all allegations that the law is meant to confiscate or seize property from the Syrian people.

Source: United Nations

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