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UN humanitarian affairs office should discuss deconfliction directly with Syria — Moscow

The deconfliction mechanism, established by UN OCHA in 2014, is a unilateral initiative not supported by UN Security Council resolution or norms of the international humanitarian law
The Russian Foreign Ministry, background Sergei Fadeichev/TASS
The Russian Foreign Ministry, background
© Sergei Fadeichev/TASS

MOSCOW, July 4. /TASS/. The UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) should discuss the deconfliction of civilian facilities in Syria in direct cooperation with the Damascus government, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Saturday.

According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, the humanitarian deconfliction mechanism in Syria was established in 2014.

"In fact, it is a unilateral initiative by UN OCHA, not based on the international humanitarian law or a UN Security Council resolution. At the same time, the guideline document on the functioning of this mechanism clearly says that it is not legally binding, and participation in it is purely voluntary. It also says that lists of civilian facilities are sent to representatives of Russia, the United States and Turkey on a notification basis," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

"The Syrian government was left aside in this effort. However, UN OCHA has signed some kind of declaration with militants of Syrian illegal armed groups, about observing the international humanitarian law and rendering humanitarian assistance," the ministry said.

"We have repeatedly pointed out that giving the ‘protected’ status to facilities in Idlib is inadmissible. The UN has no access to them, and, therefore, cannot establish whether those facilities are being used for the intended purpose or had been captured by terrorists and turned into military facilities," the statement says.

The Russian Foreign Ministry also criticized the UK foreign secretary for describing Russia's withdrawal from the mechanism as unjustifiable and unacceptable, and for saying that the move violates the norms of international humanitarian law.

"It is striking that it was said by a representative of the country whose armed forces carried out more than 4,500 airstrikes on the territory of Syria and Iraq. The August 2017 airstrike on Raqqa alone left dozens of civilians dead, and this fact was confirmed by the command of the international anti-ISIS [Islamic State terrorist group, outlawed in Russia] coalition. However, London gave the following explanation: the risk of unintended killings of civilians cannot be ruled out, mainly due to inhumane conduct of the adversary, who uses civilians as a human shield," the ministry said.

"Apparently, UK representatives believe that civilians from Raqqa and Idlib are different, and terrorists are also different, even despite the fact that they had been designated as such by the UN Security Council. However, those circumstances did not prevent the UN OCHA from signing declarations with them, ignoring the Syrian government," it continued.

"All those facts once again confirm that the Syrian humanitarian dossier has been overtly politicized, and that there is a clear desire to use it for purposes that are far from real protection of civilians," the ministry added.

UN Under-Secretary General Mark Lowcock said on June 29 that Russia had withdrawn from the humanitarian deconflictation mechanism on June 23.

Russia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Vasily Nebenzya said at a meeting of the UN Security Council on June 29 that Moscow had decided to quit the United Nations system of humanitarian deconflictation in Syria because some this system’s facilities were used by terrorists. "This mechanism operated on a voluntary basis and was not fixed by any Security Council resolutions or other legally binding documents," Nebenzya said. "Our probes repeatedly demonstrated that some of the deconflictation facilities were actually used as terrorists’ headquarters, so they could not be granted a humanitarian status.".