H.E. Mr. Mahamat Zene Cherif
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Permanent Mission of the Republic of Chad to the United Nations
President of the UN Security Council
15 December 2014
On behalf of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces, it is my grave responsibility to draw to your attention the escalating violence in Syria and the urgent need to effectively implement the mandate of UN Security Council resolution 2165 to ensure aid delivery at scale.
The humanitarian situation in Syria is rapidly worsening. Over the course of the past four weeks, Syrian regime forces have brutally attacked civilian-occupied areas across Syria, indiscriminately deploying barrel bombs with the intention to terrorize, maim and kill innocent men, women and children. Extremist terrorist groups led by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have viciously terrorized Syria’s ethnic and religious minorities—raping, torturing and beheading civilians. Meanwhile, regime forces have continued their illegal policies of siege warfare, with Assad’s military callously starving innocent civilians in the hopes of forcing them into submission.
Since the initiation of US-led airstrikes against ISIL, the Syrian regime has launched more than 2,500 airstrikes, the vast majority of which have focused on Damascus, Idlib, Aleppo and Daraa. During the period from 20 October through 10 December 2014, regime helicopters dropped a total of 1,125 barrel bombs, killing 603 civilians, including 129 children and 112 women. As Annex I demonstrates, regime forces have been particularly brutal in the city of Raqqa, where they have exploited the cover of US-led airstrikes on ISIL to slaughter innocent civilians on an unprecedented scale. These strikes fit a clear pattern: rather than target terrorist groups, they selectively target Syrians who demand a democratic and inclusive future for their country. Throughout the past year, no less than 94 percent of the Syrian regime’s 982 alleged counterterrorism operations have targeted moderate opposition forces. Of the regime’s 238 strikes on Aleppo, just 14 have targeted ISIL. The purpose of these strikes is thus clear: to exterminate Syria’s moderates and eradicate our forces on the ground.
As regime airstrikes have barraged civilian areas, Syrian armed forces have deployed sieges on entire cities. Al-Waer, Eastern Ghouta, Darayya, Tadamun, Hajar al-Aswad and Yarmouk remain under brutal regime-enforced sieges, with over 300,000 people trapped without access to food, water and medical care. Regime forces have repeatedly impeded the delivery of aid across conflict lines, ensuring that millions of Syrians remain without access to urgently needed assistance. Regime forces also continue to deprive Syrians in hard-to-reach areas from urgently needed medical assistance, as a consequence of which innocent men, women and children are dying of preventable disease.
The atrocities perpetrated by the Syrian regime violate the rights and dignity of the Syrian people. They also violate international humanitarian and international human rights law. This includes the Additional Protocols I and II of the Geneva Conventions, which explicitly prohibit indiscriminate attacks on civilian objects, and Security Council resolutions 2139 and 2165, in which the Security Council unanimously demanded that Syrian authorities cease the indiscriminate employment of weapons in populated areas. Repeatedly, however, these legal obligations have gone unheeded by the Syrian regime. They have also gone unenforced by the Security Council.
To improve the humanitarian situation in Syria, the UN Security Council must take meaningful, comprehensive action to alter the situation on the ground and ensure that aid reaches those in need. The Syrian National Coalition therefore urges the UN Security Council to act without delay to:
- enforce the mandate of UNSC resolution 2165 to ensure cross-border aid at scale. Security Council resolution 2165 established a comprehensive mandate to enhance the delivery of cross-border aid. It promised to reach 3.5 million Syrians. Yet five months after its adoption, just a small fraction of that number has been reached due to a lack of proper enforcement. Effective implementation of Security Council resolution 2165 is thus needed to ensure cross border delivery at scale;
- renew resolution 2165. The mandate is soon due to expire. It should be renewed and strengthened to ensure cross-border delivery at scale;
- protect Syrians in need. Millions of Syrians would find immediate relief from regime aerial strikes and terrorist extremist groups were the UN Security Council to support the establishment of a safe zone. Such a zone would save lives and bring security to innocent men, women and children. Most importantly, it would set the basis for a potential peace process.
- increase humanitarian commitments to the Syrian people. As the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs informed the Security Council on 25 November 2014, the international community continues to fall short of meeting the humanitarian needs of the Syrian people. The World Food Programme, for example, is still struggling to keep its food voucher programme available to refugees beyond January 2015. While some members of the Council have shown enormous generosity to the Syrian people, it is vital that all members fulfill and increase the pledges that they have made to the United Nations and to Syrians in need. This includes support for Syrians struggling both inside and outside of Syria, as well as Syria’s neighbors including Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon, which require infrastructural and macroeconomic support as they carry the burden of Syria’s refugee crisis.
Your Excellency, since the adoption of Security Council resolution 2165, the Syrian National Coalition has worked actively to deliver humanitarian relief to hundreds of thousands of Syrians. In the past several weeks, our Assistance Coordination Unit has delivered goods and services cross border to Syrians throughout Syria’s provinces. Where access through the UN proved impossible, we have worked with partners to increase the flow of aid into Syria through non-UN channels. Our priority remains to ensure the safety and security of Syria’s people.
As the Syrian National Coalition works to relieve the suffering of the Syrian people, we also work to end the conflict that is the cause of such suffering. We remain committed to the pursuit of a political solution forged on the Geneva Communiqué, and are committed to the establishment of a future Syria which is free, democratic and inclusive. We hope that the Security Council remains equally committed to this goal, and we hope to work in partnership to create the conditions necessary on the ground to achieve it.
Please accept, your Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.
Dr. Najib Ghadbian
Special Representative of the Syrian National Coalition to the United Nations