October Letter to UNSC on UNSCR 2139/65 Compliance

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29 October 2014

 

Your Excellency,

 

I write to you on behalf of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces ahead of the briefing by the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs on the implementation of Security Council resolutions 2139 and 2165.

 

The Syrian people continue to suffer unimaginable horrors at the hands of two terror-wielding entities: the Syrian regime and ISIS.  Despite a campaign of airstrikes by the anti-ISIS coalition since 22 September, the already grave humanitarian situation in Syria continues to deteriorate.  Syrians find themselves in a cycle of destruction, violence, and mass murder carried out by both ISIS and the Assad regime.  Since the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights reported 191,000 total Syrian deaths in August, the regime persisted in its campaign of egregious and indiscriminate violence.  Refugees continue to join their 3 million compatriots in neighboring countries, while an estimated 6.4 million internally displaced persons suffer under incessant oppression.

 

The Syrian regime’s utter disregard for international law drives this severe humanitarian situation.  In contravention to OP3 of Security Council resolution 2139, the Violation Documentation Center reports that the regime’s forces killed 2044 people, including 184 women and 278 children in September.  Many of these deaths occurred in 25 massacres, the most grave of which took place in rif Damascus, Deir Ezzor, Raqqa, Aleppo, Hama, al Hasakah, Homs, and Idlib.  The regime’s forces dropped indiscriminate barrel bombs and aerial munitions, killing and injuring civilians.  In Aleppo alone, the regime dropped 218 barrel bombs, 220 rockets, 16 cluster bombs, and 10 surface to surface missiles.  Targeted aerial attacks also caused the cessation of medical operations by destroying medical vehicles and facilities.

 

The regime’s ongoing siege of Eastern Ghouta, Daraya, Hajr al Aswad, Tadamun, Al Waer in Homs, and Yarmouk Camp is especially concerning.  Regime forces prevented the movement of over 432,000 civilians and the distribution of life-saving aid like food, medicine, baby milk, medical goods and fuel.  The regime continues to thwart any agency or humanitarian organization from entering these areas.  Already critical health conditions have further deteriorated, resulting in the spread of disease and illness, severe malnutrition, and death.

 

The Syrian regime is transparently using the opportunity afforded it by the focus on ISIS to attack Syria’s moderate opposition.  Any strategy to defeat ISIS relies on our moderate forces on the ground, as well as moderate governance to replace the extremism of ISIS and the regime.  The regime’s actions are therefore a direct threat to the success of the international community’s efforts to defeat ISIS.  Since the start of the international community’s campaign against ISIS in Syria, regime aircrafts have significantly increased their aerial attacks on opposition-held areas.  According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the regime’s air force was previously carrying out an average of 12-20 airstrikes per day.  On 20 October, the regime conducted more than 92 air raids, including dropping dozens of barrel bombs on civilian areas within a 24 hour period, and more than 200 airstrikes in 36 hours.  This marks a significant, deliberate and deadly escalation.

 

Amidst this chaos imposed by the Syrian regime, the Syrian National Coalition and our partners on the ground, the Free Syrian Army, the Assistance Coordination Unit, the Interim Government and Local Councils, have worked tirelessly to improve the humanitarian situation in Syria, end the suffering of civilians across the country, and ensure the full implementation of UN Security Council resolutions 2139 and 2165, including by:

 

  1. facilitating humanitarian access across borders:  as required by OP 2 of UN Security Council resolution 2165 and OP 6 of UN Security Council resolution 2139, our partners, including the Free Syrian Army and the Assistance Coordination Unit (ACU), assisted with the facilitation of humanitarian access at border crossings, coordinating with UN and other humanitarian agencies to ensure the delivery of desperately needed aid. During this reporting period, the ACU, in conjunction with other organizations, conducted measles vaccinations in Deir Ezzor, vaccinating 110,000 children. ACU is preparing its 8th round of polio vaccinations in the provinces of Deir Ezzor, Raqqa, Aleppo, Hama, Lattakia, Idlib and al Hasakah. It along with the Interim Government also delivered medicine, orthopedic surgery kits and consumables to Aleppo, Idlib, Hama and Lattakia. These medical goods were provided to local health centers to be distributed to hospitals. In addition, ACU delivered blood bags to Aleppo and provided funding for the blood bank in Saraqeb in rif Idlib, areas hard hit by regime barrel bombing. The ACU has continued and indeed expanded its work on the EWARN (Early Warning and Response Network) systems into Eastern Ghouta.

     

  2. combating extremists: as demanded by OP 14 of UN Security Council resolution 2139 and Security Council resolution 2170, the Free Syrian Army continued its efforts to combat extremism and terrorist groups in Syria.  The FSA remains the frontline in the international effort to eliminate extremism in all its forms.  FSA brigades, including Liwa Fajr alHuria, Tajamu’ Burkan Furat and Liwa Raqqa Revolutionaries, have been fighting ISIS as it attempts to seize the Kurdish areas of Kobani. FSA fighters have also been combating ISIS in Hama.

     

  3. managing grain in liberated areas.  The Interim Ministry of Finance and Economy assumed responsibility for the management of grain silos in liberated areas of Daraa province.  The effort will enhance food security by protecting grain silos and decreasing food costs.  The interim Syrian government is in discussion with donor countries to import 250,000 tons of wheat in order to address malnutrition in the province.

 

The efforts to address Syria’s massive humanitarian needs are appreciated.  But they continue to pale in comparison to the overwhelming humanitarian catastrophe in the country.  Cross-border delivery mandated by resolution 2165 was supposed to reach an additional 3 million people in need.  Instead it has reached only a minor fraction of its intended recipients.  There is too much focus on coordination with Damascus, over-emphasis on cross-line rather than cross-border delivery and insufficient coordination with moderate opposition groups – both military and political.  The Syrian National Coalition requests that the Security Council urgently address the weaknesses of the implementation of 2165 by:

 

  1. ensuring greater transparency.  In particular, the UN must be open about the discussions it is having with the regime in Damascus, and the relative distribution of aid – what proportions are going to which areas;

     

  2. insisting on more direct coordination with opposition groups.  They are the key to delivery in opposition-held areas.  Both the political leadership and our military forces on the ground need to be extensively consulted and coordinated with;

     

  3. significantly increasing cross-border delivery.  Failure to do so amounts to preferential treatment for regime-held areas and perpetuates the regime’s starvation tactics and empowers the regime to continue to use food and medicine as a weapon of war.  Aid needs to come over the borders at scale; and

     

  4. strengthening the mandate.  The mandate renewal is an opportunity for the Security Council to strengthen the current mandate.

 

Further, the Syrian regime’s utter failure to comply with the mandates in resolution 2139 that require among other things ceasing the use of indiscriminate weapons including barrel bombs, lifting the sieges, and ending arbitrary detention and torture cannot be ignored. The regime acts with continued and escalated violence as though resolution 2139 was never passed. The Security Council must urgently act to ensure compliance with all aspects of that resolution. Where resolution 2139 was meant to ease the suffering of Syrians, since its passage Syrian suffering has only intensified.

 

No amount of humanitarian aid will offer a sustainable solution to the crisis in Syria.  The only solution is a comprehensive approach that deals with all sources of the humanitarian catastrophe, including: ISIS and other extremist groups, the Syrian regime as the underlying cause of extremism in Syria and the need to establish moderate governance on the ground that will ensure that there can be no resurgence of extremism or return to the dictatorship that bred it. The Geneva Communiqué remains the legitimate, comprehensive roadmap for the political resolution of this conflict and the national unity needed to eliminate the scourge of extremism. 

 

Only the Syrian National Coalition and its affiliated moderate armed groups on the ground are capable of delivering all components of a successful strategy.  But we are overstretched and under-resourced on the ground.  We look forward to working ever more closely with the international community to bring the suffering of our people to an end.

 

Please accept, your Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.

 

Dr. Najib Ghadbian

Special Representative of the Syrian National Coalition to the United Nations

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National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces
Committed to a free, democratic, and pluralistic Syria.