Press Releases

PRESS RELEASE : Cross-border aid in Syria cannot be replaced – UK statement at the UN Security Council [December 2022]

The press release issued by the Foreign Office on 21 December 2022.

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

Thank you, President. I want to start by thanking our briefers Special Envoy Geir Pedersen and USG Martin Griffiths for their comprehensive and sobering briefings today.

First, on the humanitarian situation. The facts on the ground are clear, as Special Envoy Pederson said, we have an ever-deepening humanitarian crisis. An estimated 15.3 million Syrians will be in dire need of humanitarian assistance by early 2023, with approximately 12 million facing acute food insecurity.

The Secretary General’s special report, published this month, sets out the criticality of food, shelter, and medical assistance — in particular, the response to cholera and immunisation services.

The UN has also clearly explained that cross-line operations compliment, but cannot replace or compensate for, the cross-border mechanism.

So my first point is that, with millions of Syrians facing another harsh winter, the moral and humanitarian imperatives are clear: renewing the cross-border mandate in January and continuing cross-border assistance is essential to the UN’s humanitarian operation, and provides a lifeline to those people in desperate need.

Madam President, my second point is that a political solution, as others have said, is the only way to bring an end to the humanitarian crisis. This means implementing Resolution 2254. That is to say: a nationwide ceasefire; safe, voluntary and dignified return of refugees; free and fair elections in line with a new constitution and release of those arbitrarily detained.

We know that thousands of Syrians are arbitrarily detained in regime detention centres and information on their whereabouts is withheld from their families. Worse, the Syrian Network for Human Rights reported yesterday that hundreds of detainee deaths, including many children, were never reported to the families.

I want to thank, too, USG Griffiths for his work to address gender-based violence. Colleagues will recall that three weeks ago the UK hosted a preventing sexual violence in conflict conference to strengthen global response to this problem.

We call for the immediate reconvening of the Constitutional Committee in Geneva to focus on the substance of political transition. The Syrian opposition remains ready to engage in good faith. We urge Russia and the regime to do the same.

My third point, Madam President, is that as we have heard, continuing the status quo is not an option. Syria needs the Security Council to unite and to support renewal of cross-border aid within a humanitarian framework, and implementation of Security Council resolution 2254 – leading to a political solution.

Thank you.