Statement of Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia Sergey Vershinin at the ministerial meeting of the conference "Supporting the future of Syria and the region"
Dear ladies and gentlemen,
I am glad to greet the participants of the Third Brussels Conference on ''Supporting the future of Syria and the region".
When talking about the support of Syria, first of all, I would like to emphasize the main point: Russia strongly and firmly supports the restoration of sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Syria. During all these years we have confirmed this principle position by concrete deeds. We are also convinced on the lack of alternatives to the political settlement of the Syrian crises within the framework of Syrian-led and Syrian-owned, UN-facilitated process in line with the UN Security Council resolution 2254 and in full respect of the principles of the UN Charter. In this regard, it is regrettable that the delegation of the Syrian government, full-fledged representative of its country to the UN, is not present at this important meeting, that contradicts the universally recognized provisions of the international law on the imperative to interact with legitimate authorities of the country.
Today, as the wide-scale hostilities have been ended and the situation in the major parts of the Syrian territories has stabilized, the first priority is to deliver aid to the Syrians in line with basic humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence. It is necessary to provide assistance to all Syrian territories, help all those in need, without putting preconditions and politization. Consequently, I would like again to point out the destructive effect of the unilateral economic sanctions that make ordinary people suffer. Such restrictions, for example, hinder the purchase of medicines and materials for their production, medical equipment and expendables as well as block the provision of engineering technical equipment necessary for the reconstruction.
At the same time Russia continues to provide wide-range assistance to Syria in terms of reconstruction of infrastructure and humanitarian aid delivery. Starting fr om July last year more than 800 educational and 150 medical facilities have been rebuilt, 1000 lcm roads repaired, 1000 km electric transmission lines laid, 130 water facilities launched. Besides, more than 2000 humanitarian actions have been earned out, delivering and spreading 3300 tons of food, water and essential supplies. Russian doctors have also provided aid to 105 thousand people. Therefore, we call upon all responsible members of the international community to follow our suit.
With Syria coming back to normal peaceful life, the issues of ensuring the right of all Syrians to return become very important. In July last year Russia put forward an initiative on facilitating the return of Syrian refugees and IDPs to the places of their permanent residence. Consequently, the Refugee Migration Monitoring Center was established in Damascus and operational cells were formed in Amman and Beirut. Effective interaction is also maintained with main hosting countries - Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, as well as the specialized international agencies, first and foremost the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). As a result of the efforts made, more than 150 thousand refugees and 1,2 million IDPs have been able to return to their homes during the last six months. Around 1000 refugees arrive in Syria daily. According to the UNHCR data, 76% of refugees are willing to come back to Syria. It is, therefore, necessary to help and support the realization of this legitimate aspiration of Syrians.
The return of the Syrians to their homeland is of crucial importance in terms of irreversible transition of the country from war to peace and reconstruction of the demolitions caused during the years of the armed conflict and fight against terrorism. It also helps ease the socio-economic pressure on the hosting countries and reduce the related internal political risks. What is even more important, is that the Syrian refugees and IDPs have the right not only to return, but also to be supported once they decide to return, and both these rights should be fully guaranteed and ensured. We highlight in this regard the efforts made by Damascus aimed at facilitating safe and dignified return, in particular introduction of amendments to the laws regulating property rights, military amnesty and status settlement procedure within the framework of the process of national reconciliation.
In conformity with the information of the international humanitarian agencies, today in Syria more than 2 million children are out of school and 15,5 million people require water assistance. It is therefore surprising and concerning why the responsible international community is unable to help these people now without putting preconditions and artificial obstacles to delivering such aid. I would also like to remind here that the necessity of humanitarian assistance, including water, electricity, health and social services, was underlined in the joint statement by the leaders of Russia, Turkey, Germany and France adopted during the summit in Istanbul, in October 2018.
The other dangerous consequence of the protracted conflict in Syria and wave of terror - is dense mining of the vast territories and contamination of explosive hazards. As estimated by the UN and other international organizations, more than 10 million Syrians are living in areas affected by hostilities and explosive hazards, meaning under constant threat of being injured or killed. Russia has made and makes considerable efforts in the field of mine action - around 2000 hectares of land, 3300 buildings, 280 km of roads have been cleared from mines, more than 19 thousand explosive hazards found and eliminated. In addition to this, the decision to allocate 1 million USD as a voluntary contribution to the UN Mine Action Service has been recently taken. And here too we call upon responsible members of the international community to follow our suit.
It goes without saying that Russia apart from providing humanitarian assistance and reducing violence on the ground, takes active measures to advance the political process and build trust between the conflicting Syrian parties. Within the framework of the Astana format together with Iran and Turkey, in interaction with the UN Secretary-General" s Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen and in close coordination with the Syrian government and opposition, we work on the launch of the Constitutional Committee in Geneva as soon as possible. This will help to give a start to the lasting and viable process of the Syrian crises settlement. At the same time we are convinced that the Syrians themselves as well as, frankly speaking, other peoples in the Middle East and North Africa are able to decide on their future themselves via broad national dialogue and generally acceptable agreements. It is clear that dictate and ultimatums from abroad, blackmailing with humanitarian assistance and its politization - no matter wh ere it takes place in Syria, Venezuela, African or Asian countries, - insult and humiliate people, provoke resentment and rejection. Finally, it violates basic principles of humanitarian assistance, respect for sovereignty and independence of Syria as well as other UN member-states, the commitments to which has already been and, I am sure, will be reaffirmed many times during this conference.
We also continue our efforts to release detainees and search for missing persons within the framework of the Working Group with the participation of Astana troika, the UN and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) experts. As a result of two mutual releases that took place in November last year and in February this year all in all 60 persons were released that is a unique and important contribution to restoring trust between the Syrian parties.
In conclusion, I would like to emphasize that today, when it has become crystal clear that the war in Syria is over, and the process of normalization in and around the country has started, Syria restores natural ties with other regional states and returns to the Arab family. In light of this it is extremely important to support this natural process, or at least not to hinder it, in order to finally arrive to a point in history when there is plus one example of peaceful conflict settlement and minus one hot spot on the map of the Middle East.