Statement by Turkey at the Security Council Meeting on the Humanitarian Situation in Syria

Bilge Koçyiğit Grba 29.07.2020
Mr. President,

Let me start by expressing our thanks to USG Lowcock for his briefing. We also thank Ms. Amany Qaddour for her insightful remarks on the blunt reality on the ground.

What we have been witnessing in Syria since 2011 is nothing less than an all out war by the regime against its own people.

Deliberate targeting of medical facilities, doctors, schools and children, use of chemical weapons and bombing of humanitarian aid convoys killed hundreds of thousands of Syrians and displaced millions. Critical infrastructure has been destroyed, resulting in the lack of shelter, in addition to broken health and education systems. Today, the humanitarian situation remains as dire as ever.

The situation in the northwest remains one of the most acute and severe humanitarian crises in the world.

Due to regime’s military campaign, Idlib’s entire population squeezed into a small area along our borders, in makeshift tents.

We have repeated on many occasions at the Security Council that a potential outbreak of COVID-19 would gravely affect the already dire humanitarian situation in the northwest. We also pointed out to the highly weakened health system and the imperative to renew the cross-border humanitarian mechanism.

Since the first COVID-19 case was recorded on 9 July, 23 people have been tested positive in the region. And this is while testing capacity remains very low.

Through scaling up the volume of the cross-border operations over the last months, with the facilitation of Turkey, UN and its partners took precautions against the potential spread of the virus. Yet, the situation remains precarious.

Mr. President,

Millions of people living in the region rely entirely on the humanitarian assistance channeled through cross-border operations from Turkey.

It is regrettable that at this critical time when more humanitarian access is needed, lifeline cross-border operations have been reduced, leaving vulnerable people on the line amid regime’s aggression and the ongoing global pandemic.

We take note of the extension of the cross-border mechanism by the Council with only Bab al Hawa crossing for a period of 12 months and regret that Bab al Salam crossing was excluded from its scope.

The exclusion of this crossing point will make the humanitarian access extremely difficult to 1.3 million Syrians in northern Aleppo who continue to depend on the UN assistance for their survival. In June, 25% of all UN cross-border aid into the northwest came through Bab al Salam. The remaining Bab al Hawa crossing will not be a feasible alternative to reach those people in need due to insecurity, distance and related costs and access constraints. In any case, cross-line access will not be a viable option. The UN has reported on several occasions that cross-line is not functional in the northwest. In the absence of an alternative, the exclusion of Bab al Salam from the mechanism will have major consequences for the region and increase the humanitarian responsibility that Turkey has been shouldering for more than nine years.

The Security Council’s failure to renew the mechanism with the inclusion of other available crossings from Turkey, particularly Bab al Salam, will only increase the suffering of those in need and particularly the most vulnerable, such as women and children. There are already widespread shortages of PPE, ventilators, medicines and oxygen throughout hospitals in the northwest. The ongoing shortage of doctors and other humanitarian workers is also adding to the strain on the humanitarian operations.

Shutting down the most direct route to food, shelter and medical assistance will not serve the political calculations of those behind it. Turkey will continue to assist the UN cross-border humanitarian operations at record levels. We will not abandon Syrian people in northern Aleppo. We will swiftly adapt to the new situation and never turn back on any humanitarian need in the region. In doing so, we will act in coordination and cooperation with all stakeholders, in particular the UN and its agencies, in order to address additional challenges this new situation might create. We are also ready to work with OCHA and our donor partners to explore new ways to reach these people. It is our joint responsibility to bring the most needed assistance to those in need while the Security Council should urgently consider to reauthorize the use of Bab al Salam crossing in light of the increased needs.

Mr. President,

There can be no sustainable humanitarian solution to the crisis without a political solution on the basis of Security Council Resolution 2254. In the absence of any progress on the political track, millions of Syrians continue to be trapped in a vicious cycle of conflict.

Turkey has been doing its part on this front as well. Ceasefire in Idlib holds despite violations by the regime. More than 300.000 displaced Syrians have returned to their homes thanks to relative calm on the ground.

Our aim in Idlib is to make the ceasefire sustainable. This is essential for the protection of civilians; improving humanitarian situation on the ground; mitigating risk of refugee flows towards Turkey and beyond; and advancing the political process. This is also of utmost importance for Turkey’s national security.

In accordance with the Additional Protocol of March 5th, we have so far conducted 22 joint ground patrols with Russia along the M-4 highway and the entire patrol route of 72 km. was covered in July. On July 14th, a VBIED attack during the recent joint patrol mission targeted both Turkish and Russian vehicles.

Turkey remains committed to the full implementation of the Additional Protocol in order to ensure lasting calm in Idlib.

On the other hand, we will continue to combat all terrorist groups, including PKK/YPG, which seek to undermine the territorial integrity of Syria and represent a direct threat to Turkey’s national security. PKK/YPG continues its infiltration attempts and attacks against civilians throughout northern Syria. Lastly, on the 26th of July, they targeted a marketplace in Ras al-Ayn by an IED attack which left five innocent civilians dead and 12 wounded.

This terrorist organization also burns crop fields, which are the only livelihood of a large portion of local population in opposition-controlled areas. We continue to respond in self-defense against PKK/YPG attacks.

Mr. President,

The ongoing atrocities and humanitarian disaster in Syria can only be overcome by addressing the root cause of the problem: that is the violent oppression of the democratic aspirations of the Syrians.

As revealed by several UN reports, the acts of the regime and its backers amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. The erosion of international law, international humanitarian law, and continuing violations of human rights across Syria is a serious threat to international peace and security.

Syrians should not be left alone by the international community. They deserve our collective action. In doing so, we should also continue to expose and shame those who are on the wrong side of history and humanity.

What we heard from the previous speaker was another futile attempt by the regime which tries to divert the attention from the enormous destruction and human suffering that it had imposed on its own people. We reiterate our strong will to continue supporting the legitimate aspirations of Syrians and assisting their humanitarian needs.

Thank you.