UNSC Arria Formula Open Meeting “Aleppo Under Siege: Syria’s Latest Tragedy Unfolds”
Statement by H.E. Mr. Karel van Oosterom, Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the UN, New York, 8 August 2016
I would like to thank the US, France, New Zealand, Ukraine, and the UK for this timely and highly relevant initiative. As my minister argued last week [in The Independent]: The current situation in Aleppo demands immediate action. There is a real risk that “Aleppo” will become synonymous with the world’s failure to act. Disaster can only be averted through international pressure. Therefore, the international community needs to redouble its diplomatic efforts to urge for full and unimpeded humanitarian access, restoration of a ceasefire and resumption of the peace talks in Geneva. The international community has committed itself to these goals in UN Security Council resolutions. For political talks to succeed, compromises have to be made by all sides without exception.
The statements and testimonies heard this morning once again remind us of the critical situation. Civilians – including women and children – are suffering tremendously, and will remain doing so if respect for international humanitarian law continues to be utterly neglected by the warring parties.
[What needs to be done?]
Access to all besieged and hard to reach areas is crucial. Humanitarian operations should never include forceful displacement of civilians. Whether or not civilians wish to leave Aleppo should be a voluntary choice. The Netherlands is committed to full and unimpeded humanitarian access for the UN and its implementing partners. Let me be clear: as a neutral humanitarian actor, the UN should be the leading actor in the humanitarian response for Aleppo. We urge the UN to present a plan of action to deliver neutral humanitarian assistance in Aleppo as soon as possible. If in conformity with humanitarian principles, humanitarian efforts of actors on the ground can be included in the UN plan.
Humanitarian corridors can be a step to ease the humanitarian suffering, but the UN should lead the implementation.
We strongly support OCHA’s proposal for regular 48-hour cessations of hostilities. These pauses would allow the delivery of humanitarian aid into the city to avert starvation and the deaths of thousands more of Aleppo’s citizens. If aid delivery on the ground is not an option, air drops need to be considered, as they have been successful elsewhere in Syria.
[What does the Netherlands do?]
We take our responsibility. The Netherlands supports the UN and INGO’s, also in the fifth year of this war, with €360 million for the delivery of humanitarian aid within Syria, as well as to Syrians in the neighbouring countries. We have supported the air drops by WFP in Deir ez Zor (€3,3 million), and the most recent delivery of aid to the people trapped in the berm on the border with Jordan.
In the long run, a political solution to this harrowing war is the only way to end the carnage in Syria. The Netherlands calls upon all Council Members to work even closer together in order to avert humanitarian disaster, to restore the ceasefire and to resume the peace talks in Geneva.