Statement by Turkey at the Security Council Meeting on “the Situation in the Middle East”

Feridun H. Sinirlioğlu 06.02.2020
Thank you for convening this important meeting. I would also like to thank Special Envoy Pedersen and USG Lowcock for their briefings on the current alarming situation in Idlib.
Mr. President,
Syria has been the subject of discussion at this Council for almost a decade now. The Council discussed the use of chemical weapons and the crimes committed by a tyrannical regime against its own people.
It has been discussed as a civil war and a humanitarian crisis caused by the terror regime of a failed state.
It has been discussed as a serious threat to international peace and security.
But nothing has changed. The danger of further escalation is growing.
On February 3rd, the regime run by a clique in Damascus and controlling parts of Syrian territory, deliberately targeted Turkish forces, resulting in the death of seven Turkish soldiers and one civilian personnel.
Acting in self-defense, Turkish Armed Forces immediately retaliated.
These Turkish servicemen were in Idlib as part of the Memorandum signed by Turkey and Russia in September 2018 to stabilize the situation in Idlib and to preserve the status of Idlib as a de-escalation area.
All the deployments of the Turkish Armed Forces, including the most recent one, have been coordinated with Russian authorities.
But despite our notifications, the regime opened fire on Turkish positions on February 3rd.
As a result, we were forced to deploy additional troops to protect our military observation posts and to prevent the escalation of hostilities in Idlib, in line with the responsibilities bestowed on Turkey as a guarantor.
As of today, some of our observation posts remain encircled by the fighters of the regime. Even today there were bombardments by the regime air force.

Mr. President,
Since 2011, hundreds of thousands of Syrians have been killed by the regime. Countless more have been injured, tortured, detained or disappeared.
Millions have been besieged, denied humanitarian and medical aid.
My country is hosting nearly 4 million Syrians. This is almost one fifth of the entire population of Syria before the start of the conflict.
All this is because the tyrant in Damascus refused to meet the legitimate demands of Syrian people.

Terror groups established their own states in Syrian territory because the tyrant in Damascus would not allow Syrian people to enjoy their basic rights.
And now, he wants to pull my country into his dirty war by deliberately targeting Turkish forces.
I cannot overemphasize this: Turkey believes in a political solution in Syria and Turkey works together with the UN for a settlement in line with resolution 2254.
But Turkey will never tolerate any belligerent act.
Any military aggression targeting Turkey’s security and Turkish soldiers will be severely punished.
We will never hesitate to use our right to self-defence. I am not drawing a red line here. This is a warning.
As announced by President Erdoğan, the regime should withdraw from its current positions until the end of this month.
We expect the regime and its supporters to take the necessary steps in that direction.
And we expect from all our friends, and from all the responsible members of the international community to respect our legitimate security concerns.
Mr. President,
With the Sochi Memorandum, we agreed with Russia to stabilize the situation in Idlib and preserve the status of Idlib as a de-escalation area.
We also agreed that Turkish observation posts would be fortified and would continue to function.
As the guarantor of the regime, Russia committed to take all necessary measures to ensure that military operations and attacks on Idlib will be avoided and the existing status quo will be maintained. However, since May 2019, as a result of at least 20.000 ceasefire violations by regime forces, more than 1.500 civilians were killed and around 800.000 were displaced.

A new ceasefire was introduced on 12 January following President Putin’s visit to Turkey. Since that date, the regime has violated the ceasefire more than 6.500 times, in total disregard of all agreements on Idlib.
As I have informed this Council on previous occasions, Turkey has taken a large number of measures to ensure full implementation of the Sochi Memorandum, in line with the responsibilities outlined therein.
In the meantime the regime and its supporters continued to use the pretext of combatting terrorism to attack Idlib.
We all know that the deliberate targeting of civilians only fuels further radicalization.

With over 3 million civilians squeezed in close quarters, fight against terrorism cannot be carried out in clear violation of international humanitarian law. Implying that millions of civilian people in Idlib are HTS terrorists is only a joke.
But we all know the real intention of the Syrian regime.
It is not to end terrorism. It is to punish its own people.
It is to silence the Syrian opposition. Not only in Idlib, but also in the regime controlled areas, where the regime forces killed 1600 people since last April.
Mr. President,
Today, our contacts with Russian authorities continue at every level, including the military level de-confliction contacts.
Our expectation from these contacts is the renewal of our commitment to the Sochi understanding on Idlib and to return to the status quo ante.
Let me underline here: Turkey will not withdraw its forces and will not abandon any observation post.
Mr. President,
Recently, I met with a Syrian doctor.
His depiction of the situation still resonates with me. He said, “I have seen the world’s worst humanitarian crises, but the suffering I’ve seen in Idlib is unprecedented. Idlib has been transformed into a large concentration camp.”
What the regime is pursuing in Idlib over the last months is the last phase of its campaign of extermination of its own people.
Hospitals and schools have been indiscriminately bombed and civilians, including babies were killed.
Freezing temperatures and fuel shortages exacerbate the needs of vulnerable children and families.
The capacity of the health system has been severely damaged, at a time when needs for healthcare are increasing due to displacement and bombardment.
Donors have, on the other hand, responded in an inadequate manner. We need urgent response. If this does not qualify as an emergency situation worthy of additional funding, then what does?
Even before the recent escalation, the residents of Idlib were the most vulnerable people in Syria.
They had already been displaced countless times, seeking refuge from regime’s barrel bombs, airstrikes and heavy shelling for many years now.
In the last two months, regime’s brutal violence resulted in the displacement of almost 600.000 people, 85 percent of whom are women and children.
As bombs fall, civilians continue to move towards our border.
The escalation is triggering a mass influx leading to a chain reaction affecting not only Turkey, but beyond.
Is the world ready to face the repetition of 2015 refugee crisis when over a million people from Syria arrived in Europe?
Mr. President,
The children of Idlib continue to bear the brunt of this massacre.
Only in last July, more children were killed than the entire year of 2018.
In the news one dead Syrian child is referred to only as a casualty. But back in Idlib, she or he has a name.
And the body is buried with the dreams of a peaceful Syria.
And it is even more tragic, when the body of a child could not even be found under the debris of a bombed school.
It is time for the international community and particularly the members of the Security Council to heed the voices of these Syrian children.
Raising concerns or convening meetings are not enough.
Unfortunately, this humanitarian disaster is not given due attention by governments and media around the world.

The UN and the international community need to pay attention to the desperate calls of Syrian people and humanitarian organizations. We need immediate concrete action.
We cannot leave the fate of Syrians to the mercy of a regime that has been systematically killing, torturing and starving its own people.
There is a clear path forward: a genuine political solution that ensures the implementation of all aspects of UN Security Council Resolution 2254.
Let me remind you the formula of 2254:
- a negotiated political settlement,
- elections under the UN supervision with the participation of all Syrians inside and outside with a new Constitution.
For this to happen, the first step is immediate de-escalation in Idlib.
Any step in the opposite direction will inevitably derail the political process.
Let us all work together to end this tragedy for once and for all.
Mr. President,
With reference to the previous speaker, namely the representative of the Syrian regime, I will not honor him with a response since I do not consider him as a legitimate representative of Syria.
A regime that massacred and tortured the Syrian people for 9 years lost its legitimacy long ago and should not have the right to sit behind the Syria nameplate in this Chamber.
His mere presence is an assault to the millions of Syrians who suffered countless crimes at the hands of this tyrannical regime.
Thank you.