Civilians in northwest Syria displaced by pro-Assad attacks (Abdulaziz Ketaz/AFP)
The UN Security Council has been warned about the dire humanitarian situation in Syria after 118 months of conflict.
But the Assad regime’s representative dismissed the reports by launching into an assault on other countries for spreading “terrorism without borders”.
The UN envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen, and Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock each spoke of the deaths, destruction, and deprivation of the conflict, economic crisis, and the Coronavirus pandemic.
Pedersen said millions of Syrians endure “deep trauma, grinding poverty, personal insecurity and lack of hope for the future. For many, the daily struggle just to survive crowds out most other issues.”
Citing Coronavirus, the economic effects of a banking crisis in neighboring Lebanon, and corruption and mismanagement, he warned of “a slow tsunami that is crashing across Syria”.
Despite the pause in March 2020 of an 11-month Russia-regime offensive that seized part of northwest Syria and displaced more than 1.4 million people, Pedersen spoke of threats including abduction, arbitrary detention, increased criminal activity, and attacks on civilian areas: “This is a fragile calm [that] could break down at any moment.”
"We must ensure that addressing the conflict in #Syria is high among our shared priorities," @GeirOPedersen said in a @UN Security Council briefing today. "We need to begin to unlock progress, step by step, in a reciprocal and mutually reinforcing manner." https://t.co/ud28pamO8t pic.twitter.com/weO1nBrNip
— UN Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (@UNDPPA) January 20, 2021
Lowcock set out the severe levels of food insecurity, fuel shortages and power cuts in a harsh winter, and a growing dependence on child labor.
He also referred to an immediate crisis in opposition-held northwest Syria, with displaced civilians forced to “spend entire nights standing up in their tents due to rising flood waters”, the spread of Coronavirus across the country, and the poor conditions in camps for families of former ISIS members in Kurdish-controlled northeast Syria.
Regime: Talk About West, Not Syria
But the regime’s Deputy Foreign Minister Bashar Ja’afari focused on Western nations, declaring that they are “pillaging Syria’s wealth” as they launch “unfounded accusations” against Damascus.
Ja’afari sneered at the March 2011 uprising for rights and reforms, declaring that the January 6 attack on the US Capitol by followers of Donald Trump would have been labeled a “Spring” or an “Orange Revolution” if it had occurred in a non-Western country.
Hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed during the conflict, more than 90% of them by regime or Russian attacks. Tens of thousands have been executed, tortured to death, or perished from poor conditions in regime prisons. There are about 5.6 million refugees and 6.2 million Syrians displaced inside the country.
The Security Council meeting was convened as a Constitutional Committee prepares for a fifth round of talks, overseen by UN envoy Pedersen.
The committee has 150 members — 50 from the regime, 50 from certain opposition groups, and 50 from civil society organizations. It first gathered in October 2019, but meetings have made little advance as the regime has insisted on a priority for “sovereignty” and a fight against “terrorism”, its label for all anti-Assad factions.
Pedersen maintained that while free and fair elections “seem far into the future”, “more serious and cooperative international diplomacy…could unlock genuine progress and could chart a safe and secure path out of this crisis for all Syrians”.