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Statement by Minister Coveney at UN Security Council Open Debate on humanitarian situation in Syria

Thank you Secretary Blinken and thank you for the invitation to be with you this morning.  Your presence today as chair of our meeting - and the strength and clarity of your remarks - are welcome signs of the urgency the United States attaches to alleviating the plight of Syria’s long suffering people. 

Let me begin by aligning myself with the co-penholder statement that was delivered on behalf of Ireland and Norway by Minister Søreide.

Our joint role as humanitarian co-penholders reflects a consistent support to the humanitarian response in Syria. For what is now over a decade of conflict.

Ours is a shared commitment to ensuring that humanitarian assistance continues to reach all people in need.

I would like to make two brief points this morning in my national capacity.

The first is to focus our attention on the devastating scale of need in Syria.

I want like others to thank our briefers – Mark Lowcock, Henrietta Fore and in particular Dr. Amani Ballour – for their stark and unsparing accounts of the terrible realities of life in Syria today. A full decade after this conflict began.

We are confronted in Syria with a humanitarian crisis that continues to be truly staggering in scale and severity.

We know the cold, hard facts we hear them very month. And the situation is worsening. The Secretary-General tells us that humanitarian needs have increased by one fifth in the last year alone.

History will judge this council so harshly for failing after a full decade to protect the Syrian people from mindless war, violence and utter misery. Women, children, hospitals, schools – whole cities in rubble. And even now, we are unable to fully deliver basic humanitarian assistance to children in tents starving without even basic needs and supports being met.

Mr President,

We, collectively around this table, have a duty to act – even 10 years late.

This Council must ensure that humanitarian actors can carry out their work safely.

My second point is to amplify what we have heard clearly from the Secretary General - and from OCHA, once again today – that in order to meet the significant humanitarian needs on the ground, intensified cross-line and cross-border deliveries are both essential.

This includes the continued provision of UN support through the border crossing in the North West.

I visited Bab Al-Hawa crossing a number of weeks ago, and saw first-hand the UN operation that provides a vital lifeline to over 3 million people in North West Syria.

While there, I met with Syrian and international NGOs and UN agencies working in North West Syria.

Their first-hand accounts brought home to me again the sheer human misery – and the waste of human potential - that results from this conflict.

I also met with the Head of the United Nations Monitoring Mission and was very impressed by the thorough nature of the monitoring and oversight at the transshipment hub. The ability to confirm the humanitarian nature of consignments which of course is important - and provide thorough supervision and inspection - is an essential part of the overall UN operation there.

All of the evidence that we have before us tells us clearly that this Council needs to renew the mandate for this crossing before it expires in July. In truth we need more crossings, more than just one, but at an absolute minimum we must maintain what’s currently there.

Ireland believes in the UN’s efforts to find a political solution to the conflict in Syria. And we will work to support that.

Only a sustainable political solution can end conflict and bring hope and stability to a country that has been torn apart.

But in the meantime, many millions of Syrians are desperately in need of humanitarian assistance. And they are relying on us to provide the answers and support. Let’s not make them wait any longer.

This Council must not fail – any more than it already has - in our collective responsibility to the Syrian people.

Thank you.


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