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Briefing Security Council on Syria Ceasefire Resolution, Secretary-General Says Humanitarian Convoys Remain Unable to Safely Enter Eastern Ghouta

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SC/13244

Security Council
8201st Meeting (AM)

Despite the demands of the Security Council’s resolution for a ceasefire in Syria, humanitarian convoys had not been able to enter eastern Ghouta without impediment, members heard today as the Secretary‑General provided an update on the situation.

António Guterres, United Nations Secretary‑General, reporting on the implementation of resolution 2401 (2018), said that there had been no cessation of hostilities in parts of Syria, and violence continued not only in eastern Ghouta but also in Afrin, Idlib, and Damascus and its suburbs. The delivery of humanitarian aid had not been safe or unimpeded, and no sieges had been lifted. He also underscored that efforts to combat terrorist groups did not supersede those humanitarian obligations.

He said that he and Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura had worked to create the conditions needed for a ceasefire in eastern Ghouta, and the Russian Federation had announced a five‑hour daily humanitarian pause in the area. There had also been commitments from three armed opposition groups to ensure humanitarian access. In addition, he and the Council President had received a letter on 6 March from the Government of Syria that welcomed the adoption of the resolution. However, Damascus and its allies had intensified air strikes and initiated a ground offensive, and had gained more control over eastern Ghouta, he said.

Outlining what had been achieved regarding delivery of humanitarian aid, he emphasized that delivery had not matched the plan. Syria had not allowed the delivery of life‑saving medicine, and few civilians had been able to leave eastern Ghouta due to safety and protection concerns. The United Nations had sent an inter‑agency convoy to Douma with food for 27,500 people, which represented only a third of the people who needed to be reached. In addition, the Syrian authorities had removed most of the health supplies from that convoy, with only 30 per cent of medical supplies being allowed to proceed to their destination. Underscoring that he refused to lose hope that Syria would rise from the ashes, he called on States with influence to exercise it in support of the United Nations efforts.

Syria’s delegate said that his country was well within its right to defend its citizens and to fight terrorism, and that its actions were within the remit of the ceasefire resolution. He called out actions by the United States as aggressive, and pressed that country, as well as France and the United Kingdom, to stop supporting terrorists in Syria. Following the adoption of the resolution, he said that hostilities had ceased daily for five hours, to ensure the delivery of aid and the unimpeded exit of civilians from terrorist‑controlled areas. However, efforts to send convoys to eastern Ghouta on 5 and 9 March had been countered by armed groups, he said. Those groups had used civilians, who were trying to leave the area, as human shields.

His country had recently requested that the United Nations investigate the humanitarian situation in Raqqa, which had been destroyed by the United States‑led coalition. Those sponsoring terrorism had launched an anti‑Syria campaign, he said, noting that such behaviour was not limited to States but had also been demonstrated by Secretariat officials. United States forces were in Syria without the approval of its Government, and he had hoped that the Secretary‑General would have provided legal qualification for the crimes committed by its coalition.

The delegate of Kuwait, who also spoke on behalf of Sweden, said that he regretted that resolution 2401 (2018) had not been implemented and that acts of violence were preventing the delivery of much‑needed humanitarian aid. The Government of Syria should allow two humanitarian convoys to enter eastern Ghouta and an additional destination each week, he said. In addition, he noted that it was unacceptable that military operations were continuing under the pretext of combating terrorism, particularly as the United Nations had confirmed that the number of combatants in eastern Ghouta associated with terrorist groups was not more than 350.

Several delegates questioned the influence that the Russian Federation had on the Government of Syria, with the representative of France noting that Syria’s ally could not exert sufficient pressure on the regime of Bashar al‑Assad. That regime, with support from the Russian Federation and Iran, sought complete submission by its people, he said. He appealed to those who could make a difference, and stressed that the Government of France had increased its contacts at the highest level to aid the implementation of the resolution.

The representative of the United States said that the negotiations that led to resolution 2401 (2018) had been long and difficult, and that the Russian delegation had stalled and inserted numerous conditions along the way. The Russian Federation had then voted for the resolution, but had not kept its commitments in that regard. It had negotiated the wording of the ceasefire agreement, and then continued its own bombing missions. Syria and the Russian Federation, she noted, had never intended to implement the ceasefire. Rather, they had spent two weeks labelling opposition groups as terrorist groups so that they could exploit a loophole in the ceasefire regarding those groups.

The Russian Federation’s delegate, underscoring that attacking terrorist groups did not contradict the edicts of the resolution, noted that the Government of Syria had every right to remove that threat to the safety of their civilians. Without exercising that right, the suburbs of Damascus would remain a hotbed of terrorism. He also voiced his suspicion that the Nusrah Front was being kept for political purposes, so that resistance could be kept close to Syria’s capital. His delegation had voted in support of resolution 2401 (2018) because it was guided by the priority of improving the humanitarian situation in parts of Syria. Other capitals, meanwhile, felt comfortable doing nothing while blaming what they called the Syrian “regime” as well as placing demands on his country.

Also speaking today were representatives of the United Kingdom, China, Kazakhstan, Peru, Equatorial Guinea, Poland, Côte d'Ivoire, Bolivia, Ethiopia and the Netherlands.

The meeting began at 11:12 a.m. and ended at 1:22 p.m.

Briefing

ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, United Nations Secretary‑General, reported on the implementation of resolution 2401 (2018), stressing that in 2017, more children had been killed in Syria than during any other year since the war began. “I am deeply disappointed by all those who have, year after year, by action or inaction, by design or indifference, allowed this to happen.” Syria was bleeding inside and out. And while following developments closely, the United Nations did not have a full picture, due to a limited presence and restricted access.

Despite the resolution’s demands, there had been no cessation of hostilities, with violence continuing in eastern Ghouta, Afrin, parts of Idlib and into Damascus and its suburbs, he said. In eastern Ghouta, air strikes, shelling and ground offensives had intensified, claiming hundreds of civilian lives, with some reporting the toll at more than 1,000. Humanitarian aid provision had not been safe, unimpeded or sustained. No sieges had been lifted, and to his knowledge, not one critically sick or wounded person had been evacuated. He recalled that efforts to combat terrorist groups identified by the Council did not supersede those obligations.

Since the resolution’s adoption, he said he and Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura had worked to create the conditions for a cessation of hostilities in eastern Ghouta. On 26 February, the Russian Federation had announced a five‑hour daily humanitarian pause in the area. On 27 February, a letter from the Syrian National Committee had been received, conveying the commitment of three armed opposition groups in eastern Ghouta — Jaysh al‑Islam, Faylaq al‑Rahman and Ahrar al‑Sham — to the full implementation of Council resolutions, and to expelling the armed groups of Hayat Tahrir al‑Sham, Nusrah Front and Al‑Qaida from eastern Ghouta. They also promised to ensure humanitarian access and to facilitate the work of the United Nations.

He said the Special Envoy subsequently had opened channels with all three groups inside and outside the enclave, while further letters from the respective commanders had expressed the groups’ readiness to negotiate in Geneva with the Russian Federation. In parallel, he and the Special Envoy had engaged with the Russian Federation and Syria, offering good offices. “Despite our best efforts, it was not possible to schedule any meeting,” he said.

Meanwhile, on 6 March, he and the Council President had received a letter from Syria welcoming the adoption of resolution 2401 (2018), while the Special Envoy informed the Russian Federation of his plan to invite the three armed opposition groups to a meeting in Geneva with that Government three days later. In the meantime, Syria and its allies had intensified air strikes and launched a ground offensive, gaining more control over eastern Ghouta. In 8 and 10 March meetings between Russian officials and Jaysh al‑Islam, progress had been made regarding the removal of Nusrah Front members. Thereafter, a group of those fighters had been evacuated. It had not been possible to facilitate contact between the Russian Federation and Faylaq al‑Rahman, with the group insisting that the meeting take place in Geneva, and the Russian Federation insisting it happen on the ground.

On 10 March, he said Syria’s forces had captured Misraba. That evening, the Russian Federation had informed that a unilateral ceasefire would take place with Jaysh al‑Islam in Douma, and it was agreed that talks would occur on 11 March with United Nations facilitation. The meeting had taken place, as had another on 12 March, which he had just been informed had occurred in a positive atmosphere. Moreover, he had heard reports of tentative initiatives by tribal leaders and the Russian Federation for contact with other groups.

In between, he said attacks on other parts of eastern Ghouta continued, with the enclave now split into three separate pockets. The United Nations remained apprised at each step of diplomatic engagement and offered support and guidance. The Turkish offensive in Afrin — pursued with armed opposition group allies — had intensified. Pro‑Syria forces had also deployed inside Afrin.

On the humanitarian crisis, he said that while plans were in place to deploy multiple convoys each week to agreed upon locations, in response to independently assessed needs, actual delivery had not matched the plan. Assistance had reached 50,000 people in Afrin and Tell Rifaat, and a 19‑truck convoy had reached Dar al‑Kabira in northern Homs, providing aid to 33,500 of the requested 40,250. Syria had not allowed delivery of life‑saving medicine, and few civilians had left eastern Ghouta, as sufficient protection standards were not in place for voluntary movement, while armed groups prevented others from leaving.

On 5 March, the United Nations had sent an inter‑agency convoy of 46 trucks to Douma in eastern Ghouta with food for 27,500 people, representing only one third of the requested beneficiaries, all in desperate need, he continued. Syrian authorities had removed most of the health supplies, with the World Health Organization (WHO) estimating that only 30 per cent of medical supplies in the convoy had been allowed to proceed. On 9 March, a 13‑truck convoy had reached Douma, delivering the remaining food assistance. Shelling occurred nearby, despite assurances given by all parties. In Douma, relief workers described conditions as shocking: people sheltering in overcrowded basements with limited access to food, water and sanitation. In eastern Ghouta, health partners advised that some 1,000 people required urgent medical evacuation, which the United Nations was ready to support, in cooperation with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent. A prioritized list of those in greatest need had been shared with Syria, and he urged a positive response.

Amid the lack of trust, mutual suspicions and cold calculations, it should still be possible to implement resolution 2401 (2018), he declared; to have a cessation of hostilities, deliver aid, evacuate the sick, lift the sieges, speed humanitarian mine action and remove Council‑listed terrorist fighters from conflict zones without indiscriminate attacks against civilians. Calling on States with influence to exercise it in support of United Nations efforts, he voiced hope that this week’s Astana ministerial meeting, gathering the guarantors of de‑escalation, would restore such arrangements and take steps on detainees, abductees and missing persons. “I refuse to lose my hope to see Syria rising from the ashes,” he said, and a united democratic country able to avoid sectarianism with its sovereignty and territorial integrity respected.

Statements

NIKKI R. HALEY (United States) said that the Council had sat around the table for 16 days to agree on a 30‑day ceasefire. The negotiations had been long and difficult. The Russian delegation had stalled and had inserted conditions they insisted on before they would allow the killing to stop. To stop that killing, the United States had accepted those conditions. The Russian Federation had voted for the resolution, and with that vote it said that it would work to create the conditions for food and medicine to reach Syrian families. The Russian Federation did not keep that commitment. It must be asked whether the Russian Federation could no longer influence the Bashar al‑Assad regime, and whether it was now the tool of that regime or even of Iran. In addition, the Russian Federation had continued its own bombing missions. It had negotiated the wording of the ceasefire and then immediately disregarded it. There had been almost no deliveries of medical equipment because the Assad regime had removed them from the humanitarian convoys. In the past 16 days, there had also been reports of chemical gas attacks. Syria and Russia never intended to implement the ceasefire. They had spent the previous two weeks labelling opposition groups as terrorist groups so that they could exploit a provision in the ceasefire regarding terrorists. They labelled anyone as terrorists who resisted their absolute control. The United States had drafted a new ceasefire resolution that provided no room for evasion, and contained no counter‑terrorism loopholes for the regime, Iran and Russia to hide behind.

MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait), speaking also on behalf of Sweden, the co‑penholders for the humanitarian aspect of the Security Council’s work on Syria, said it was “with great regret” that resolution 2401 (2018) was not being implemented and that military operations and acts of violence were preventing the delivery of humanitarian assistance. The Syrian authorities must allow two humanitarian convoys per week to eastern Ghouta and an additional destination, accompanied by United Nations staff, with all parties giving security guarantees. He reiterated the Council’s demand for immediate and unconditional medical evacuations, starting this week, with the Syrian authorities cooperating with the United Nations in that regard. Emphasizing that a daily five‑hour truce in eastern Ghouta did not support implementation of resolution 2401 (2018), he said all parties, and specifically the Syrian authorities, must comply with that resolution and international law so that humanitarian assistance could reach those in need.

It was unacceptable to continue military operations under the pretext of combating terrorism, given that the United Nations had confirmed the number of combatants in eastern Ghouta associated with terrorist groups did not exceed 350, he said. Parties to the Astana accord and the International Syria Support Group must redouble their efforts in support of a 30‑day ceasefire. Council members had a collective responsibility to maintain their credibility and work towards implementation of resolution 2401 (2018), whose provisions would remain valid even after 30 days from the date of its adoption. “We cannot let the Syrian people down. We must continue to strive to implement these joint demands that we have set out,” he said, recalling that the absence of any political settlement of the conflict based on resolution 2254 (2015) would lead to a further deterioration of the humanitarian situation.

JONATHAN GUY ALLEN (United Kingdom) said the Russian Federation had used every tactic in the book to weaken resolution 2401 (2018) so that its ally Syria could bomb indiscriminately. The resolution had not been implemented. There had been no ceasefire, as civilian deaths had risen to 607 in 16 days. While opposition armed groups had committed to implement the text, Assad regime air strikes had continued. The Russian Federation had failed to confirm it would target only those listed as terrorist groups by the Council. On safe, unimpeded access for humanitarian convoys, only one had entered Ghouta in 16 days, delivering aid to a fraction of the people in need. The regime’s ongoing violence was a factor, as was its failure to grant access. There had been no medical evacuations. Of the demands for a ceasefire, humanitarian access, medical evacuation, “none have happened”, he said, and the Assad regime would continue to pound eastern Ghouta until it could claim victory. There would be future accountability for such crimes, and the Russian Federation’s role in protecting the Assad regime from such would be remembered. He urged the Russian Federation to support resolution 2401 (2018) and a ceasefire to enable humanitarian delivery, to respect humanitarian law and to protect civilians.

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) said that since 24 February, civilian victims had numbered in the hundreds each week, targeted by the regime to starve, rape and kill them. The hell on Earth in eastern Ghouta was an assumed goal of such madness, which featured war crimes and crimes against humanity for which the regime would have to answer. The Russian Federation could not exert sufficient pressure on that regime, which continued its bombing and offered a textbook example of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Assad regime, with support from the Russian Federation and Iran, sought complete submission by its people. He appealed to those who could make a difference on the ground, especially the Russian Federation, stressing that France had increased its contacts at the highest level to foster implementation of resolution 2401 (2018). He underscored the need for a monitoring mechanism to ensure maximum pressure on the parties, stressing that the truce must be sustained for aid to be delivered. Medical evacuations must be carried out with all guarantees necessary. Terrorist combatants must be expelled from the area, and he urged the Russian Federation to conclude agreements in that regard. On political negotiations, he said such prospects must be in line with resolution 2254 (2015), drawing attention the Russian Federation and Iran in that context.

VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said his delegation supported the passing of Council resolution 2401 (2018) because it was guided by the priority of improving the humanitarian situation in various parts of Syria, unlike some capitals whose representatives felt comfortable doing nothing while blaming what they called the Syrian “regime” and placing demands on the Russian Federation. It was important to understand that the resolution was not talking about an immediate ceasefire, as that would be utopian. It was talking about an agreement among parties for a sustained solution, not just in eastern Ghouta but elsewhere. The authorities in Damascus had expressed their content with the resolution. They had also asked for a cessation of attacks on the capital, and all attempts to undermine the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country.

Attacking terrorists was not in contradiction of the resolution, he said. The Syrians had every right to remove that threat to their civilians, and the suburbs of Damascus could not remain a hotbed of terrorism. The Cairo agreements of 2017 regarding de‑escalation allowed fighters to become involved in a political agreement, but they did not. What they were doing was being coordinated and headed by Nusrah Front. Fighters were discussing their plans to shell the humanitarian corridors. He expressed his suspicions that Nusrah Front was being kept for political purposes, to maintain a hotbed of resistance close to the Syrian capital.

In the wake of the resolution, five‑hour daily humanitarian pauses had been established for peaceful citizens as well as fighters and their families, he said. They had been given safe transport throughout the humanitarian route. But fighters continued to shell Damascus and its suburbs. Since the resolution was passed, more than 100 people had died, and a greater number had been wounded. The death of any number of civilians in an armed conflict was a tragedy, but his country had always been interested in the origin of the data used by the United Nations, given how politicized the situation was. He also noted that later in the day, four members of the Security Council were holding an informal Arria formula meeting with the goal of ensuring that opposition voices were being heard. He pointed out that it was unacceptable to use United Nations resources for politicized goals.

ZHAOXU MA (China) said he was empathetic to the suffering Syrian people, and his country had worked to provide help. China had provided assistance through the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), sending water, food, medical services and shelters for the internally displaced persons in Syria. On 24 February, all parties of the Council had abandoned their differences and adopted resolution 2401 (2018). That had upheld the unity of the Council and provided a rare opportunity for a ceasefire. After the resolution, United Nations humanitarian convoys had entered eastern Ghouta and delivered material. As the Russian Federation had announced a temporary ceasefire, the humanitarian corridor had been opened. Some civilians had already entered the safe area through the corridor and received assistance. However, the parties of the conflict continued to attack one another and the corridor had not been able to play its full role due to shelling. He urged all parties to earnestly implement the resolution.

KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan) said he welcomed the efforts of the United Nations system and ICRC to render immediate life‑saving services, conduct medical evacuations and send convoys to the besieged and hard‑to‑reach areas of Syria, especially eastern Ghouta. He echoed the United Nations calls to all parties to facilitate unconditional, unimpeded and sustained access to all people in need throughout the country. The Astana process had the potential to direct inter‑Syrian talks towards long‑term peace. In that context, he proposed to provide all‑round assistance and make use of positive developments. Kazakhstan was interested in establishing and strengthening security and stability in the entire Middle East region. The only way to resolve crisis was through negotiations predicated on mutual trust and understanding, together with confidence‑building measures.

GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) expressed regret that two weeks after the adoption of resolution 2401 (2018), the cessation of hostilities had not happened, civilians continued to be victims and only restricted humanitarian assistance had been provided. The Council must maintain unity in its responsibility to protect Syrians and encourage all action that guaranteed the implementation of resolution 2401 (2018). The responsibility to act was greater for the guarantors of the Astana process de‑escalation zones, he said, pressing Syria to comply with the ceasefire, protect its population and cooperate in the implementation of resolution 2401 2018). He voiced support for the proposal to talk with opposition groups and expel from eastern Ghouta terrorist groups linked to Nusrah Front. There must be a political end to the conflict.

ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea) said today’s meeting should be a milestone in the international response to the crisis in Syria. Yet, that was not the case. In recent weeks, parties had intensified fighting in eastern Ghouta, despite a ceasefire agreed to 16 days ago. He welcomed that a United Nations and Syrian Arab Red Crescent convoy had delivered food to eastern Ghouta on 9 March. All humanitarian aid, including seized medical and health supplies, must be delivered without delay. He welcomed improvements in the area outlined by the Secretary‑General. Citing the 9 March letter by France, the United Kingdom and United States letter, and another letter from Syria, he saw mutual accusations that had been a hallmark of the conflict from the start. “We have had enough of mutual accusations,” he said, urging the formation of a peace mechanism to end the war. He lamented the fighting in Idlib, which had suffered rocket fire from Islamic factions, and called on Astana guarantors to ensure that 15 and 16 March negotiations, which the Special Envoy would attend, would provide impetus for resolving the crisis.

JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland) said there had been no substantial change on the ground in Syria, urging implementation of resolution 2401 (2018). The Council should do its utmost to ensure life‑saving aid convoys reached those in need and medical evacuations could begin. She expressed full support for the Secretary‑General and the Special Envoy to find a political solution to the conflict. While the Council’s role was crucial, it was up to Syrians to determine their future. Parties must comply with international humanitarian law and any response to the violence must be proportionate. She underscored the need to respect the ceasefire outlined in resolution 2401 (2018), calling the Russian proposal for a daily five‑hour pause “simply not enough” to help those in need. She suggested the Council demand access to the de‑escalation zones to monitor civilian well‑being and facilitate the work of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry. Parties must withhold support for armed groups targeting civilians and all military operations must be in line with international law, while violations — including possible war crimes — must be investigated and perpetrators held accountable. “From New York perspectives, we sometimes lack feedback on our actions,” she said, stressing that it was for Syrians to tell us the most effective way to support them.

BERNARD TANOH-BOUTCHOUE (Côte d'Ivoire) said that two weeks after the unanimous adoption of resolution 2401 (2018), which provided much hope, he was sorry to say it had not been implemented in the way his country had hoped. The requirement for the immediate cessation of hostilities for at least 30 days to allow the safe and unhindered arrival of humanitarian assistance as well as medical evacuations, in line with international humanitarian law, had not yet taken place. The security and humanitarian situations remained worrying, as it was impossible for humanitarian convoys to travel as they came under attack daily by various parties to reach the besieged areas. Living conditions for the internally displaced were difficult and their hopes for a safe and dignified return had been destroyed. He hoped that the second international conference of support for the future of Syria that would take place in Brussels in April would lead to commitments to increase humanitarian assistance.

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) said he lamented the obstacles that stood in the way of the implementation of the resolution and condemned all deliberate attacks against civilians and called for respect for international humanitarian and human rights law. He called upon the parties to cooperate and strengthen coordination with Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to provide medical supplies. Those efforts must be increased, particularly in hard‑to‑reach and besieged areas. The resolution should be implemented throughout Syria as soon as possible. It was important for the Council that unity needed to continue if the resolution was to be fully implemented. He called on all parties to depoliticize the situation in Syria and to ensure that their actions were aligned with international law.

TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia) said that two weeks after the adoption of the resolution, the humanitarian situation in Syria remained cause for serious concern. The United Nations and its partners had not managed to have sustained humanitarian access due to the continued fighting, particularly in eastern Ghouta. The resolution needed to be fully implemented to relieve the humanitarian situation. Because of the complex situation, however, he knew it would not be an easy task. There remained serious challenges in ensuring its full implementation. It demanded the full cessation of hostilities without delay for 30 days to ensure sustained delivery of humanitarian aid, but despite that there had been ongoing military activity. As the Secretary‑General had stated, the crisis was now entering its eighth year, and the Council’s role was indispensable in solving that crisis.

KAREL JAN GUSTAAF VAN OOSTEROM (Netherlands) said the day after the adoption of resolution 2401 (2018), Syria, supported by the Russian Federation and Iran, launched a ground offensive to conquer eastern Ghouta, adding to its relentless air campaign. In Idlib and Afrin, violence continued to threaten civilian lives. The Council must do its utmost to advance implementation of resolution 2401 (2018), he said, expressing shock that the Syrian regime had removed medical and surgical supplies from convoys. “Medical supplies cannot be used as weapons by terrorists,” he said, and there was no justification for such actions. He advocated for sustained unimpeded access to provide aid, especially in eastern Ghouta, calling for the creation of a strong mechanism to monitor implementation of the resolution. An exemption to the ceasefire for United Nations‑listed terrorist groups did not justify a lack of respect for the principles of distinction and proportionality. It was crucial that any evacuation of such fighters from eastern Ghouta take place in a safe, orderly fashion, and he urged the Russian Federation to accept the Special Envoy’s offer in that regard, stressing that the obligation to execute Council decisions lay with Member States. A full cessation of hostilities throughout Syria was needed and the Russian Federation must do its utmost to achieve that goal.

BASHAR JA'AFARI (Syria), referencing the Secretary‑General’s remarks, said the Secretariat did not have all information needed to accurately analyse the situation in Syria, notwithstanding that the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs had an office in Damascus, and 13 international non‑governmental organizations operated throughout the country. Council colleagues had shut embassies in Damascus, cutting themselves off from information and instead relying on open‑source material, which would never serve the interests of the Syrian people. “This information might poison the atmosphere and fuel sedition, regarding the Council’s role,” he said, stressing that Syria was ready to seriously engage with positive international initiatives to end the bloodletting.

Following the resolution’s adoption, hostilities had ceased daily from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Damascus time, he said, with the aim of delivering aid and ensuring the unimpeded exit of civilians from terrorist‑controlled areas. Two corridors were open for that purpose. But efforts by ICRC and the United Nations to send convoys on 5 and 9 March to eastern Ghouta had been countered by armed groups, incited by their pay masters, some of which sat on the Council. Those groups had denied civilians exit from eastern Ghouta, and instead used them as human shields. A terrorist arm of Qatar had targeted a convoy driving towards one of the corridors, while Faylaq al‑Rahman had been presented as moderate Syrian opposition. A letter signed by that group, and other terrorist organizations, had even been propagated by Council members.

For its part, Syria had recently requested the United Nations and humanitarian organizations to investigate the humanitarian situation in Raqqa, which had been destroyed by the United States‑led coalition, he said. Two days ago, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent had obtained Government approval to send its convoys to eastern Ghouta and other areas, but its efforts had been hampered by the United Nations failure to ensure the proper safeguards by Turkish and occupation forces.

For every advance by his country’s army against terrorists, those sponsoring terrorism had launched an anti‑Syria campaign, he said. They had never been keen on saving civilians. Such behaviour was not limited to States; it was demonstrated by senior Secretariat officials. He had hoped the Secretary‑General would have provided legal qualification for the crimes committed by the United States‑led coalition, and procedures to ensure an end to that aggression, as well as such qualification and procedures regarding the invading Turkish forces. United States forces were in Syria without his country’s approval.

In sum, he said Syria was within its right to defend its citizens and to fight terrorism, in line with resolution 2401 (2018), including those funding terrorism. To claims by the United States delegate that her country would take actions against Syria, as it had done in 2017 in bombing an air base, he said such provocative statements only incited terrorists to use chemical weapons and fabricate evidence to accuse the Syrian army. The Joint Investigative Mechanism had not taken samples from Al‑Shayrat air base. Had it done so, it would have known Syria was not responsible. Calling actions by the United States aggression, he pressed that country, along with France and the United Kingdom, to stop violating Council resolutions and sponsoring terrorists in Syria. Quoting author Naguib Mahfouz, he said: “We know that they are liars.”

For information media. Not an official record.