I will deliver this statement as co-penholder together with Ireland.
Let me first thank USG Griffiths for his briefing, and all the efforts of the UN and partners to alleviate the humanitarian suffering in Syria, under extremely difficult circumstances. I am also grateful to Mr. Egeland, for his compelling account. The efforts of the Norwegian Refugee Council are critical to save and protect lives in Syria.
The humanitarian needs of the Syrian people must be the overriding imperative for our work in the Council on this agenda item. The unanimous adoption in July 2021 of
resolution 2585 meant that the UN and partners could continue to deliver lifesaving humanitarian aid across the border from Turkey into North-West Syria. On a monthly basis millions of people are provided with humanitarian aid: from health care, to food baskets, tents and shelters, and livelihood opportunities. In 2021 alone, almost 10,000 trucks brought vital assistance across the border.
As co-penholders, Ireland and Norway have repeatedly emphasised our support for all modalities to provide humanitarian aid to meet the needs of people across Syria. Our sole objective is ensuring that humanitarian aid reaches all people in need.
This includes also by cross-line deliveries to the North-East and the North-West.
We therefore welcome the recent humanitarian convoys from the WFP and other UN agencies across the conflict line into the North-West. We call on all parties to facilitate their continuation. However, as reported by the Secretary-General last month, the cross-line convoys are not able to replicate the size and scope of the cross-border operation.
The cross-border humanitarian operation remains the critical lifeline for millions of Syrians in need of humanitarian assistance in the North-West.
Right now, the severe winter in Syria is causing flooding, windstorms, and heavy snowfall. Children are dying while trying to stay warm. There has also been a reported increase in airstrikes on civilian infrastructure. On 2 January, an airstrike hit Arshani water station outside the city of Idleb. The station can no longer provide water to the 225,000 people relying on it. And on 20 January an attack on Afrin city reportedly killed six civilians, including children.
We further deplore recent incidents of humanitarian workers being attacked – including the tragic killing of a humanitarian paramedic in northeast Syria. And we are deeply concerned about the humanitarian consequences of the recent attack on a prison in al-Hasakeh city, which reportedly killed civilians, including children, and caused displacement.
The conduct of hostilities in urban and other populated areas in Syria is causing unacceptable, large-scale, and protracted harm to civilians and civilian objects. Destruction of critical civilian infrastructure deprives the population of essential services such as water, energy, health care and education, causing grave and long-term consequences for the lives and future of the people of Syria.
We call on all parties to respect international humanitarian law, including the prohibition on indiscriminate attacks; and the obligation to take all feasible precautions to avoid, and minimize, harm to civilians and civilian infrastructure. Effective deconfliction mechanisms can be a practical tool in this regard.
The severe humanitarian situation in Syria is further exacerbated by the economic, COVID-19, and food crises. We have serious concerns about harmful practices, and negative coping mechanisms, such as child and forced marriage, and sexual exploitation and abuse. Children born following conflict-related sexual violence- and their mothers- are in a particularly vulnerable situation. It must be a priority to stop and prevent sexual and gender-based violence, and to respond to the needs of the survivors.
The humanitarian imperative will remain the guiding principle for our work as penholders on this file; and we trust in your cooperation to this end. Above all else, our common goal should be to alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people.
I thank you.