I thank Special Envoy Pedersen and Undersecretary Lowcock for their briefings on both the political and humanitarian situation in Syria.
Our briefers highlighted multiple challenges that Syria will face today and in the near future. On the humanitarian front, millions of people have been deprived of their homes and livelihoods. The spread of Covid-19 resulted in another set of problems, putting in danger the most vulnerable groups and hampering the overall humanitarian response.
Unfortunately, the promises of replacing cross-border deliveries with cross-line aid still fall short. Cross-line aid is dysfunctional, irregular, and unreliable. This is a fact that cannot be overlooked.
In this light, maintaining cross-border aid deliveries in July remains our utmost duty. Sustainable long-term cross-border humanitarian response ensures that all Syrian people will receive necessary food items, medicine, and Covid-19 vaccines. Reaching nationwide ceasefire and unhindered humanitarian access to all those in need is an imperative during the pandemic. I express my gratitude to OCHA for its continued efforts on the ground in Syria, where 4.9 million people were reached in February and March with assistance. I thank you for your dedication and professionalism.
Economic situation remains fragile, as corruption, warlordism and intra-communal fighting continues in and across the country. Safe and dignified return of refugees is still not possible. Broader regional dynamics are also at play. The weakening of neighbouring economies has resulted in substantial losses for Syria, where businesses have historically been strongly interlinked with those in Lebanon and elsewhere.
Looking at the political front, numerous challenges persist. Syrian Constitutional Committee talks in Geneva have not enabled genuine dialogue. The proposed presidential elections in May further undermine political process.
Legitimate claims of the Syrian opposition must be taken into account, when looking into the future of Syria. Estonia and other EU member states support free and fair elections in Syria in accordance with Security Council resolution 2254 under supervision of the United Nations, with all Syrians, including members of the diaspora, eligible to participate. Anything else would be considered yet another farce.
As Constitutional Committee keeps under-delivering, Estonia encourages the Special Envoy to explore additional confidence building measures, which could bring the government and its legitimate opposition closer to each other in the interest of all Syrian people.
Most importantly – we believe that meaningful steps in regards to arbitrarily detained people could benefit the conflicting sides. I reiterate the call of Estonia and the European Union on the need to create an international mechanism to locate missing people or their remains. There must be accountability for the many war crimes and crimes against humanity – and an end to impunity. We demand the release of all arbitrarily detained people: especially women, children, and the elderly.
Estonia and the European Union remain committed to finding a lasting and credible political solution to the conflict in Syria. We encourage all international actors to support Syrian people in achieving these aims, which are set out in the Security Council resolution 2254 and the 2012 Geneva Communiqué.