Press Releases

PRESS RELEASE : Aid and political solutions are needed to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Syria – UK statement at the UN Security Council [October 2023]

The press release issued by the Foreign Office on 30 October 2023.

Statement by Ambassador Barbara Woodward at the UN Security Council meeting on Syria.

Thank you, President, and I join others in thanking Special Envoy Pedersen and Director Wosornu for their briefings.

As we have heard today, this remains a live conflict and an entrenched humanitarian crisis. I want to set out three tangible steps that would improve the situation for the people of Syria and these overlap very closely with Special Envoy Pedersen’s four priorities.

Firstly, we need to ensure sustainable, predictable and efficient aid flows across the whole of Syria. There is no substitute for cross-border access to deliver for people in the North West. Short term, last minute agreements are inappropriate.

As Director Wosornu just said, we must insist that cross-border access is granted for as long as humanitarian needs demand, across all three crossing points.

We have also heard that humanitarian funding remains inadequate. The UK continues to be a top donor for Syrians in humanitarian need, pledging up to $180 million this year alone. But as a donor, we are concerned that 17 cents of every dollar in aid being sent to UN agencies based in Damascus is being lost to the regime who manipulate exchange rates for their benefit.

Secondly, at a fragile moment for the region all parties should be focused on avoiding further escalation of conflict elsewhere in the Middle East. We are concerned at reports of increased Iranian-affiliated militia activity, and increasing hostilities between Israel and militia groups in southern Syria. We call on the regime to prioritise de-escalation and to focus on fostering stability and prosperity.

Thirdly, this backdrop of violence in the region underscores even more urgently the need for a viable political process in Syria. We call on the regime to act in good faith and engage.

Thus far, attempts at normalisation have not borne fruit. Insecurity persists, the captagon trade continues, and the safe, dignified and voluntary return of refugees remains out of reach. The UK’s position has not changed – we will not engage Damascus without evidence of genuine, consistent behaviour change.

Resolution 2254 provides the framework to deliver an inclusive and sustainable political process. The Constitutional Committee has been deadlocked for too long. We strongly support efforts to convene a meeting, with the Syrian parties alone if necessary, in Geneva later this year.

Thank you, President.