United Nations – The ongoing humanitarian effort in Syria was updated to the UN Security Council on Thursday. All of the members agreed that it has been made worse by the earthquakes on February 6, but the outlook for the war-torn nation was less than optimistic.
Regarding a political solution to the crisis in Syria—which has affected about 8.8 million people and is the result of nearly 13 years of war—diplomats were sharply divided.
Updates from special UN envoys provided vital information and statistics on the international organization’s efforts to offer humanitarian help and find common ground for a peaceful settlement to more than a decade of strife as the session got underway. While diplomats appeared determined to uphold a 2015 agreement to end the conflict, the typical East versus West political fault lines were exposed during the open discussion.
According to Geir Pederson, the secretary-general’s special representative for Syria, “Such a solution (for peace and expanded humanitarian efforts) requires realism from all sides, agreements and actions on key issues in Security Council Resolution No. 2254.”
Among other things, Resolution No. 2254 asks for “the Syrian Government and opposition to engage in formal negotiations on a political transition process,” which the conflicting parties now appear averse to doing.
Pederson continued by informing the gathered diplomats that there was an increase in bloodshed in the nation as a result of Israeli strikes, Daesh attacks, and escalating Syrian, Russian, and US-led coalition strikes in retaliation.
After diplomat, they all emphasised how much their countries support expanding access to humanitarian relief. The reasons why that aid seemed to be missing in some areas of Syria, particularly in the north, were, however, the subject of sharp disagreements.
Mohamed Issa Abu Shahab, a representative of the UAE, demanded a national truce in the violence that has significantly damaged Syria since 2015. He emphasised the necessity of stopping the “politicisation” of humanitarian help, claiming that such political ploys eventually do more harm to the Syrian people than good.
Additionally, Abu Shahab stated that the UAE had not observed any indications in the ongoing diplomatic process that point to greater stability in the region and expressed hope for “an Arab leadership role in all efforts” to bring about enduring peace in the area.
To assure the success of these initiatives, he said, “this includes establishing the necessary mechanisms and intensifying (efforts) among the Arab states.”
The diplomat for the Russian Federation, Vasily Nebenzya, expressed additional criticism of the ostensibly slow humanitarian assistance in Syria. He often referred to the US and its allies’ “illegal provocation” of the Bashar Assad government through what he described as targeted sanctions.
Nebenzya claimed that the US and its allies regularly carried out “illegal” military operations “in violation of Syria’s sovereignty and the sovereignty of neighbouring Arab countries,” and that the lack of response from the UN leadership to these acts “is very much alarming.”
Nebenzya stated the situation is still “exceedingly difficult, and it continues to deteriorate” in regards to humanitarian work in Syria.
Nebenzya stated, “We cannot help but note that the growing needs and issues faced by common Syrians across the nation have not deterred Western donors from attempting to politicise the provision of humanitarian aid. They have been using this as a tool to put pressure on Damascus and have also been undermining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria.
According to US Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis, because “Syria continues to radiate instability to the broader region,” the US would not “normalise our relationship with Assad, and we have strongly discouraged others from doing so.”
Without real, comprehensive, and long-lasting reforms and advancements in the democratic process, “We will not lift our sanctions against Assad or support reconstruction,” added DeLaurentis.
The United States “continues to reject any suggestion that US sanctions are blocking humanitarian assistance,” he continued.
Since the start of the Syrian crisis, about 7 million Syrians have been displaced, according to Lisa Doughten, head of resource mobilisation for the UN humanitarian coordination office. Nearly 80% of them, according to her, have been displaced for at least five years.
Syrians have become “acutely vulnerable to shocks and stress,” according to Doughten, who also cited economic pressures, declining public services, and deteriorating key infrastructure as contributing factors.
A resolution to the conflict would be the first step towards finding lasting answers to the situation, according to Doughten.