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Regions not under Damascus control in most dire straits — senior Russian diplomat

Western nations are politicizing issues of humanitarian assistance to Syria and are openly discriminating Damascus-controlled territories, the deputy foreign minister said

UNITED NATIONS, March 29. /TASS/. The most difficult humanitarian situation in Syria is seen in the regions not under the control of Damascus, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin told an online session of the UN Security Council on humanitarian situation in Syria, laying responsibility on the countries de facto occupying them.

"It is paradoxical, yet true - a significant deterioration in the life of the Syrian population has been observed precisely within the past year, when a significant reduction in violence was achieved on the ground," the senior diplomat stressed. He also drew attention to the fact that "the most difficult situation is developing in the regions not under the control of Damascus in the northwest, north and northeast of Syria, the responsibility for which, let me reiterate, is with the de-facto occupying them countries and local authorities," Vershinin stressed.

Russia "on the whole shares" alarming assessments of the humanitarian and socio-economic situation in Syria, voiced by representatives of the UN and other international organizations, Vershinin pointed out. "Today, the overwhelming majority of Syrians, more than 90%, live below the poverty line, 60% are malnourished, and two million children have no access to education," the senior diplomat stressed.

Mark Lowcock, the UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, said earlier that about 13.4 million people in Syria are in need of humanitarian assistance, which is 20% more than in 2020.

Humanitarian aid for Idlib

Terrorists in Syria’s Idlib de-escalation zone impede civilians’ access to humanitarian aid being sent there, Sergei Vershinin said. "The aid fails to reach the recipients, but ends up in the hands of terrorists, who levy charges on the humanitarian cargoes and crudely oppress civilians, in fact keeping them in the position of hostages to get hold of humanitarian supplies via a non-transparent mechanism, because the United Nations is unable to control it due to the lack of access to northwestern Syria," he said.

As an example, Vershinin mentioned the March 11 incident in Rami, where during the distribution of humanitarian aid militants were taking food away from civilians, which resulted in an armed clash and ten deaths.

Vershinin also said there had been several failed attempts to send a joint humanitarian convoy of the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross and Syrian Arab Red Crescent, agreed back in April 2020.

"At repeated news briefings we can hear only vague explanations it is necessary to obtain consent from certain groups in Idlib to the delivery of urgent humanitarian aid. Obviously, this is a reference to the very same groups that let in similar convoys but only as cross-border shipments. If one recalls that the Idlib zone of de-escalation is controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and Hurras ad-Din (terrorist organizations outlawed in Russia), then it will become clear what these groups are," he added.

Vershinin stressed that the same militants hampered civilians’ unrestricted exodus from Idlib through the special humanitarian corridors, created with assistance from the Russian military.

Politicizing humanitarian issues

Western nations are politicizing issues of humanitarian assistance to Syria and are openly discriminating Damascus-controlled territories, Sergei Vershinin said. "In general, we see open politicization of purely humanitarian matters, discrimination of Damascus-controlled regions from the point of view of humanitarian deliveries, refusal to promote revival and refugee return, toughening of sanctions amid the COVID-19 pandemic and efforts to preserve the trans-border mechanism, which violates the norms of international humanitarian law and the guiding principles of United Nations General Assembly Resolution 46/182. It is done in a bid to undermine Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity due to political motives." 

He stressed that Moscow "regrets and condemns ongoing violations of the spirit and the letter of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2254 by a number of Western nations," starting from provisions on firm commitment to Syria’s sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity, as well as to the goals and principles of the United Nations Charter.

Impact of Western sanctions

Representatives of the United States and other Western countries are failing to mention the dramatic negative effect of Washington’s and Brussels’ unilateral sanctions on lives of ordinary Syrians in their speeches at the UN Security Council on the humanitarian situation in Syria, Sergei Vershinin said. "The reaction of Washington and Brussels to the call of the UN secretary general to ease and lift unilateral sanctions amid the coronavirus pandemic was, on the contrary, to tighten in an unprecedented way the restrictions adopted bypassing the UN Security Council, including the introduction of the infamous Caesar Act in June 2020. Unfortunately, the honorable representative of the US and other Western colleagues spoke about a lot of things in today’s speeches but for the US and EU sanctions and their dramatic negative effect on ordinary Syrians." 

Vershinin underlined that amid the concerning deterioration in Syria staffers of relevant international organizations working there are calling for not only boosting urgent humanitarian aid which only covers basic needs of Syrians but also working on implementation of projects for early recovery and population support. "As a response, we only hear statements from several responsible members of the international community, primarily the US and Europe, saying that Syrians will not get anything for revival until the country carries out political transformations," he added.

Oil smuggling operation

The United States is engaged in a large-scale smuggling operation to haul away oil and grain from Syria while Syrians themselves are suffering from acute shortage of basic products, Sergei Vershinin stated.

"Reports continue to come in that American convoys are trucking out oil and grain from Syria to Iraq daily. The information [we] receive suggests that 300 oil tank trucks and more than 200 cargo trucks with grain had crossed the Syrian-Iraqi border by March 23 since the beginning of the month," he said.

"It turns out while Syrians are suffering from acute shortage of basic products, including bread and petrol, a wide stream of Syria’s smuggled natural resources is flowing from the Trans-Euphrates region controlled by the US, while the country is simultaneously suffocated with unilateral sanctions which essentially are a form of collective punishment," he underlined.