Swedish Statment at the UN Security Council Briefing on the Situation in the Middle East
National statement delivered by Ambassador Carl Skau on behalf of Sweden at the United Nations Security Council briefing on the situation in the Middle East, 28 August 2018, New York.
Thank you Madam President,
Speaking on behalf of the humanitarian penholders, I thank Mr Ging for his briefing and I pay tribute to the tireless efforts by humanitarian workers saving lives on the ground in Syria every day. Too many brave humanitarians have been killed on duty.
We meet today as there are alarming signs of a pending military offensive in north-western Syria. Over the last two weeks, we have already witnessed attacks on educational and health-care facilities, including three schools supported by UNICEF. In the first half of 2018, there have been 38 reported attacks against health facilities in Idlib. These are clear violations of international humanitarian law.
All parties, including Syrian allies, need to be reminded of their obligations under international humanitarian law:
- to protect civilians and civilian objects;
- to comply with the principles of distinction, proportionality and the avoidance of unnecessary suffering;
- civilian areas, buildings dedicated to education, including schools, and hospitals and medical facilities must not be subject to direct attack or used for military purposes; and
- humanitarian and medical personnel must be respected and protected.
We note with deep regret the continued lack of implementation of resolution 2401, presented by Sweden and Kuwait and adopted unanimously by the Council some six months ago. We stress that UN Security Council resolutions must be respected.
Idlib is a de-escalation area, established by the Astana guarantors. One after the other of the de-escalation areas have turned into escalation areas.
Of the estimated 2,9 million people living in Idlib and surrounding areas, more than half of the population are IDPs, many who have already fled not only once, but several times including from other de-escalation areas. A staggering 2,1 million people in Idlib and surrounding areas are in need of humanitarian assistance. Increased military escalation would have catastrophic consequences and can lead to a humanitarian disaster.
We therefore urge all parties to abide by the de-escalation agreement in Idlib and we call upon the Astana guarantors to uphold their commitments regarding de-escalation and humanitarian access. We must ensure that Idlib will not become the next Aleppo or Eastern Ghouta.
We remain deeply concerned by the continued lack of humanitarian access. In the last reporting period, only four inter-agency convoys were dispatched. The Syrian authorities must be compelled to do more.
We encourage those with influence and those who engage in dialogue with Damascus to step up advocacy for the signing of facilitation letters for convoys, UN regular programming to all areas, including areas that have recently changed control, and approval of visas for UN staff, including OCHA.
We also note that the cross-border modality remains an absolute lifeline for the many people in need in Idlib and commend the efforts of the UN and partner organisations.
In Syria, horrible war crimes continue to be perpetrated on a daily basis. Civilians, both women and men as well as children, continue to be targeted in blatant disregard for human life and dignity and in violation of international law.
In the military operations to retake control of the south-west, indiscriminate aerial bombardment and artillery shelling including against schools and hospitals were frequently used. We are also shocked by the attacks perpetrated by ISIL in Sweida on 25 July, such as the abduction of women and children.
This highlight yet again the need for accountability and we reiterate our full support for the Commission of Inquiry as well as the IIIM.
All displaced Syrians have the right to return, but UNHCR's assessment is that conditions for voluntary repatriation of Syrian refugees are not yet in place. It is the responsibility of the Syrian authorities to create an environment propitious for a safe, voluntary and dignified return of refugees as well as IDPs, in accordance with international law and the principle of non-refoulement.
UNHCR has a clear mandate to protect refugees. The return of refugees and IDPs must be managed by the UN with all relevant parties, in line with international humanitarian law. We fully support the work of the UN, including UNCHR and agree with its assessment. In this regard, we also express our continued concern regarding the Syrian law no. 10.
Finally, we reiterate our support for a UN-facilitated political solution in line with resolution 2254. This is the only way to ensure a sustainable solution to the crisis in Syria, to end the suffering and to address the legitimate concerns of all Syrians. Furthermore, only once a credible political transition is firmly under way and when conditions for safe, voluntary and dignified return of refugees and IDPs are in place will the international donor community be ready to assist in the reconstruction of Syria.
To conclude, let me emphasise that Sweden and Kuwait have been significant donors to the Syria Humanitarian response over the years and we will continue to contribute. As co-penholders, we will also continue to do our utmost to help alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people, remind the Syrian parties of their obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law and human rights law, and ensure that the Council upholds its responsibility according to the Charter.
I thank you Madame President.