Kuwait hopes int’l efforts avert humanitarian catastrophe
NEW YORK: Kuwait urged all parties in the Syrian crisis to abide by the de-escalation agreement in Idlib in hopes to avoid any further violence and loss of human lives, a top Kuwaiti diplomat said Friday. In his speech to the United Nations Security Council briefing on the situation in the Middle East (Syria – Idlib), Deputy Foreign Minister of Kuwait Khaled Al-Jarallah said — on behalf of the Syria humanitarian penholders, Kuwait and Sweden — that the’s meeting of the Security Council was taking place at a very critical time for Syria.
Alarming reports are amassing of a possible military escalation in Idlib province at the same time when international aid agencies are preparing to provide further aid, said Jarallah. “The situation in Idlib is different from Aleppo, Eastern Ghouta and Daraa. Idlib is home to nearly 3 million people – half of them internally displaced – and there are thousands of terrorist elements,” said Jarallah, adding that “Large-scale military operations, if they take place, will be disastrous and their humanitarian consequences will be dire for the inhabitants if no arrangements are reached between the parties concerned.”
“If this escalation occurs, where will these innocent civilians go to avoid artillery and air bombardments to survive – them and their families?,” he asked. “What is known to us now is that there is no safe place for them to resort to.” He urged all parties to abide by the de-escalation agreement in Idlib and called for vital steps to avoid more violence. “We also share with the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, his appeal to the Government of Syria and all parties to exercise restraint and to prioritize the protection of civilians; as well as his call on the Astana guarantors to step up efforts to find a peaceful solution to the situation in Idlib.”
“We refer here to the summit of the Astana guarantors, and we expect them to respect relevant Security Council resolution and ensure that their own de-escalation agreement in Idlib is respected,” Jarallah noted. “We stress the importance of giving diplomatic efforts more time, attention and redoubling these efforts by all to avoid more bloodshed. The images of death and destruction from Aleppo and Eastern Ghouta still remain in our mind. The Syrian people have suffered enough. The exposure to flagrant violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law over the past years without any accountability is enough.”
He went on saying that military attacks against terrorist groups, as designated by the UNSC Council, “did not in relieve any party to the conflict from obligations under international law, including complying with the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution and protecting civilians and civilian objects.”
“Even wars have rules to be observed. Let us remember that innocent civilians — children, women and the elder — make up the vast majority of the population in Idlib, not terrorists,” Jarallah affirmed. The Kuwaiti diplomat commended the distribution of humanitarian supplies by OCHA and partners in preparation for a disaster in Idlib.
“We urge donors to step up their contributions to the humanitarian response and call on all parties to allow and facilitate rapid, safe and sustained humanitarian access to those in need. In this context, the cross-border assistance modality is a vital part of the humanitarian response in Syria. Millions of Syrians depend on the modality, not least close to two million people in Idlib and neighboring areas. There is no doubt that these needs will be exacerbated in the event of any military operation.”
“The reports coming in are concerning and we remind all parties of their responsibilities under international humanitarian law to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure,” Jarallah stressed. “The systematic attacks against civilian areas in Idlib province and beyond, including schools, hospitals and medical facilities, must cease immediately. Humanitarian and medical personnel must be protected in line with international humanitarian law. In this regard, we reaffirm the need to respect Security Council resolutions, including resolution 2401, submitted by Kuwait and Sweden in February this year, calling for a cessation of hostilities without delay and the delivery of humanitarian aid; resolution 2286 on the protection of hospitals and personnel; and resolution 2427 on children and armed conflict. Resolutions that are not implemented on the ground have no value. We also reject impunity and stress the need for accountability and renew our support for the Commission of Inquiry and the IIIM.”
Jarallah affirmed that “The Security Council has a humanitarian, moral and legal responsibility towards the population of Idlib, and this Council must seek meaningful preventative action.” “The series of meetings of the Council on Syria in general and Idlib specifically this week, including our meeting, are critical to this end,” he said. “We appreciate and support Staffan de Mistura’s efforts in Idlib and in all of Syria. We reaffirm that the best way to reach a sustainable solution to the Syrian crisis and end the humanitarian catastrophe in Idlib in particular remains an UN-facilitated political solution in accordance with resolution 2254 and the 2012 Geneva Communique.”
“Kuwait and Sweden will do their utmost to push the Security Council to explore all meaningful options and to ensure that the Council closely follows the developments in Idlib,” said Jarallah. He added that “As penholders and significant donors to the humanitarian response to Syria, Kuwait and Sweden will continue their role to alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people and to ensure that the Security Council upholds its responsibilities in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.”
Meanwhile, Jarallah hoped that international efforts would succeed in defusing escalation in Idlib, thus prevent a humanitarian disaster. Speaking after the UN Security Council session on Syria, Jarallah said Kuwait and Sweden would continue highlighting UNSC’s role to saving the Syrian people from a disaster providing military confrontations took place in Idlib. “We have listened attentively to the Security Council’s deliberations … over this sensitive and humanitarian issue,” he said.
Jarallah said the whole world was closely following the situation in Idlib and possible military confrontations between the Syrian regime and armed men in the city. “The international community is gravely concerned over this escalation specially regarding the humanitarian conditions of the Syrian people in Idlib, which is home to more than three million Syrian citizens, most of them are children, elderly and women,” he said. Kuwait and Sweden, said Jarallah, acted and pushed for discussing the humanitarian situation in Syria, and the importance of the UN humanitarian office’s (UN OCHA) role in Idlib. Jarallah hoped the deliberations would contain the situation in Idlib, assisted by an outcome of a summit between Iranian, Russian and Turkish leaders in Tehran. UN Secretary General special envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura briefed the council about the situation in Syria, said Jarallah, “and the situation is gloomy in the country.”
Resolving the situation
Kuwait had also urged the UN Security Council to join efforts and overcome differences and divisions amongst members to end crimes against the violence in Idlib and Syria in general. The issue was brought up in Kuwait’s speech during the Security Council session on the case of chemical use in Syria, which was presented by its Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Mansour Al-Otaibi on Thursday.
Otaibi reiterated contentment on the demolishing of the last two chemical facilities in Syria, which stacked up the number of facilities destroyed to 27, a major step in executing resolution 2118. Otaibi also welcomed the Tripartite Memorandum that allows for the Organization of Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and its officials to work in Syria.
“Although there has been significant progress, in this case, there is a discrepancy in the details of the chemical program that was announced by the Syrian government and we hope the answers given by the Syrian Government in response to the Director-General of the OPCW inquiries, will help in overcoming any disparity in information on the chemical program in Syria,” said Otaibi, as he urged the Syrian authorities to cooperate with the OPCW fully.
Otaibi added that the Security Council is unable to carry out its responsibilities on the case of chemical use in Syria because it lacks the mechanisms to identify the responsible parties who are using the chemical weapons in Syria through a joint investigation due to the divisions in the stand of its members. In the face of this reality, many of the nation members including Kuwait are resorting to another international forum to take its place, which is the OPCW, said Otaibi. He also mentioned the session that was held at the Hague in which the organization decided on the mandate to identify the parties responsible for crimes using chemical weapons, as he looks forward to the necessary training the Organization will need to obtain to take on this responsibility.
Otaibi was very supportive of a fact-finding mission and praised the task and its professionalism while assuring the need for cooperation and the necessary security and protection to create a safe environment for them. He was hopeful of what was to come in the near future including the investigations on the incident of Douma last April, reiterating Kuwait’s principled stance on the use of chemical weapons at any time and place and under any circumstances, as a grave violation of international law, with an emphasis on the accountability of those responsible for such use, whether they were individuals, entities or groups other than the states or governments. He added on the situation Idlib saying, “our meeting comes at an exact time as it coincides with the reports and increasing indications of an imminent military escalation in the province of Idlib, which is inhabited by nearly three million people, half of whom are internally displaced.” “We are concerned about the possibility of chemical weapons use again in Syria and repeating the crime of Khan Sheikhan, but this time in Idlib,” he said.
Otaibi stressed that any use of chemical weapons is unacceptable, as the Syrian people have suffered for eight years the worst form of human violations, including the use of chemical weapons. He expressed his hope that the summit of the guarantors, Astana will prevent a humanitarian disaster in Idlib to protect civilians and facilitate for humanitarian assistance to the needy in compliance with the resolution of the Security Council and international humanitarian law. – KUNA