Statement by Estonia at the GA debate on Syria

76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly

General Assembly debate on Syria

Statement by Ms Kristel Kaeval

Mr. President,

Estonia aligns itself with the statement delivered by the European Union.

We welcome today’s General Assembly debate pursuant to the unanimously adopted GA resolution 76/262, an extraordinary initiative that Estonia was honoured to cosponsor early on.

Estonia deeply regrets that a veto was cast by the Russian Federation during the Security Council meeting on 8 July 2022 under the agenda item “the situation in the Middle East” that concerned the extension of cross-border humanitarian aid to the Syrian people for altogether 12 months at the only remaining, Bab al-Hawa crossing that is critical to assist more than 4 million people in the northwestern Idlib region of Syria.

The initiative of Norway and Ireland to mandate the border-crossing for 12 months garnered the full support of 13 of the Council’s membership of 15. The draft resolution was a necessary, appropriate and commensurate response to the threat to people’s lives. It would have facilitated the delivery of humanitarian aid in a long-term and predictable manner.

This proposal was already a compromise that Russia blatantly rejected. There are many members of the Council further in support of an even more expansive and responsive approach of opening more border crossings to fulfil the dire humanitarian needs. As we speak, more crossings and a lengthier mandate is needed for planning of humanitarian operations, for the predictable and stable provision of life-saving assistance. We deplore the continuous negative trend of closing international border crossings that were once numbered four, due to constant threats and use of veto by Russia and China.

Mr. President,

We are here today to remind that the United Nations Charter grants the Security Council a responsibility and power to maintain international peace and security and to act on behalf of the whole membership of the United Nations.

The Russian veto was clearly not cast in a responsible manner. It is cynical, including regarding the timing of the renewal of the mandate in mid-winter, when the situation is the most precarious, and disregards the undeniable threat to the lives of Syrian people. It also seriously undermines the effectiveness and credibility of the Security Council.

At the end of the day, Russia was isolated in its opposition to the extension of the cross-border provision of humanitarian aid and irresponsibly threatened that the alternative to their own 6-month initiative would be the ultimate closure of the crossing altogether.

Mr. President,

Russia needs to stop politicising the Council and hindering the fulfilling of humanitarian needs of the Syrian people on the ground in accordance with the humanitarian principles of impartiality and neutrality.

We expect allowing for a maximum level of sustainability to the border-crossing in the future by the Council. Estonia continues to be ready to support UN initiatives ensuring humanitarian aid to the Syrian people. Finally, we also need to keep trying to find a political solution to the conflict. But this may not come at the expense of the people in need of humanitarian assistance on the ground today.

I thank you.