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Statement by Ambassador Ma Zhaoxu on the Humanitarian Situation in Syria

2018/12/13

Mr. President,

China abstained in the voting on resolution 2449 (2018) on renewing the measures for cross-border humanitarian assistance to Syria.

China is of the view that the international community's humanitarian operations in Syria should abide by the principles that guide United Nations humanitarian work, as well as the relevant provisions of international law, and scrupulously observe the principles of neutrality, impartiality and non-politicization, while ensuring that all areas in Syria and all the population in need receive timely assistance.

Cross-border humanitarian assistance is a special modality in response to a set of specific circumstances. It must fully respect the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Syria and proceed in strict compliance with Council resolutions. Actions in that regard should be placed under the oversight of the United Nations, throughout the process, with greater transparency. Due attention should be accorded to better coordination with the Syrian Government and practical measures should be put in place to prevent aid supplies from falling into the hands of terrorist groups.

China commends Kuwait and Sweden in their roles as co-penholders for taking on board proposals from Member States regarding, inter alia, facilitating the return of Syrian refugees, improving humanitarian operations and adjusting the frequency of the reports of the Secretary-General over the course of the consultations on the resolution. Nevertheless, some legitimate concerns raised by members of the Council, including China, were not fully taken on board. There was still room for improvement. We are of the view that members of the Council should continue to engage on that in order to maximize consensus.

I would like to thank Under-Secretary-General Mark Lowcock for his briefing. I also commend the efforts of the United Nations and other actors concerned to improve the humanitarian situation in Syria. China would like to share its perspective on the current humanitarian situation in Syria,

First, the humanitarian situation in Syria on the whole remains grim. Many years of conflict have left Syria with a large number of people in need of assistance, crumbling infrastructure, food insecurity and a lack of medical care and medicines. The situation in northern and eastern Syria remains fragile. Civilian casualties persist, as does the risk of a deterioration of the humanitarian situation.

Secondly, the security situation in Syria is stable on the whole. Conflict has eased throughout the country, which provides a more favourable environment for improving the humanitarian situation. Although the implementation of the memorandum on the stabilization of the situation in the Idlib de-escalation zone has encountered some obstacles, the implementation process is by and large under way. The Astana dialogue at the end of November continues to play an important role in the continued improvement of the Syrian situation and in consolidating the cessation of hostilities and violence.

Thirdly, Syria's humanitarian assistance needs have recently changed. As the situation in some parts of Syria improves, the number of Syrian refugees returning from neighbouring countries such as Jordan and Lebanon is on the rise. The projections of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees put this number at a quarter of a million in 2019. The number of internally displaced persons returning to their homes has also steadily increased. The restoration or reconstruction of housing and of water, electricity, medical and educational facilities is a basic requirement, and the removal of mines and other explosive remnants of war is now a top priority.

Mr. President,

In view of the current situation, the Syrian parties should put the greater good of national destiny and people's well-being first, respect the relevant Council resolutions, resolve differences through dialogue and consultation, work together to keep Syria stable, prevent an escalation of conflict, and continue to create enabling conditions to ease the country's humanitarian situation.

It is incumbent upon the international community to further increase its assistance - financial and in kind - to the Syrian people and intensify support for the host countries of Syrian refugees, including Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. At the same time, the international community should step up its efforts to improve the humanitarian condition of returning Syrian refugees and internally displaced persons and create supportive conditions, whereby they can live and work happily in peace. Part of this process is the reconstruction of infrastructure.

The current situation in Syria is offering a window of opportunity for the political settlement process. The international community should firmly support the role of the United Nations as the main channel of mediation and push the Syrian parties to come to a solution that addresses the concerns of all parties through negotiations, based on the principle that the process should be Syrian-led and Syrian-owned and in accordance with Council resolution 2254 (2015). Only by so doing can we truly ease the humanitarian woes facing Syria once and for all, leading to a comprehensive, just and proper settlement of the Syrian issue.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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