Thank you Mr. President,
The start of this year seemed to offer fresh and renewed hope for the Syrian population. There was a breakthrough in securing access for humanitarian assistance for more than 500,000 people in besieged and hard-to-reach areas.
2. Violence was significantly reduced due to the cessation of hostilities agreement. Most importantly, peace talks aimed at solving the political deadlock had finally gained some traction.
3. However, in recent weeks fighting in Aleppo has intensified. It appears the fragile cessation of hostilities no longer holds and had collapsed there.
4. We cannot allow the good progress so painstakingly gained thus far to unravel.
5. I thank Mr Feltman and Mr O’Brien for their comprehensive briefing on the latest development in Aleppo.
6. Similarly, we thank the United Kingdom for requesting this urgent meeting of Council in light of the deteriorating situation in Aleppo.
7. It was only yesterday that Council adopted a landmark resolution seeking to protect the wounded and sick, medical and humanitarian personnel, supplies and facilities.
8. Yet on the very same day, the al-Dabeet maternity hospital in Aleppo was struck, killing at least three medical personnel and patients. It seems that scant, if any, respect is accorded for the neutrality and impartiality of medical facilities. It is all the more telling when six medical centres had been attacked in less than a week.
9. We wish to reaffirm that such attacks - whether premeditated or otherwise - are simply unacceptable.
10. Reports of the Government’s aim to encircle Eastern Aleppo, placing its residents under one of the largest siege of the conflict is alarming. Besieging that territory would inevitably lead to yet another catastrophic humanitarian situation.
11. This Security Council is duty bound to ensure the calamity in the 4 towns of Madaya, Fou’ah, Kefraya and Zabadani is not repeated in Aleppo.
12. We welcome and support the talks between Special Envoy de Mistura and Foreign Ministers of Jordan, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, the US, Germany and France as well as the Head of Opposition, Riyad Hijab. In addition to the truce brokered by the Russian Federation and the US in Latakia and near Damascus, the news of “Days of Silence” beginning last night in Aleppo is one that we welcome.
13. A full and immediate restoration of truce, in Aleppo and elsewhere in Syria, is key if we are to rebuild confidence shattered by the sharp escalation of violence and hostilities in recent weeks.
14. With the start of “Days of Silence” in Aleppo and other areas, we call on parties to the conflict to commit to the following:-
14.1. Immediately cease hostilities and attacks against civilians and civilian objects;
14.2. Allow safe, unimpeded and unhindered humanitarian access to the population in Aleppo. We stress that delivery of humanitarian assistance must be allowed to reach ALL civilians, regardless of their political affiliation;
14.3. Build on the consensus between the Government and groups of opposition during the latest round of peace talks on the necessity for a political transition in Syria; and
14.4. Urgently engage the UN and in particular, Special Envoy de Mistura with a view to resuming the peace talks in Geneva and recommence its deliberation based on the Geneva Communique and Security Council Resolution 2254, including on the political transition.
I thank you, Mr. President.