A Syrian woman with her sons wearing masks due to the coronavirus walk on a street in Damascus, Syria, April 18, 2020. (Photo: AP)
A Chinese envoy on Tuesday urged relevant countries to immediately lift the unilateral coercive measures imposed on Syria.
Zhang Jun, China's permanent representative to the United Nations, made the remarks after China and Russia vetoed a Security Council draft resolution on extending the approval of aid deliveries to Syria from Turkey for a year.
"As long as the unilateral coercive measures are not lifted, there will be no fundamental improvement in the humanitarian situation in Syria," Zhang said, noting that some countries have imposed "unilateral coercive measures" on Syria despite claiming to be concerned about the suffering of the Syrian people.
"China once again calls on the Security Council to address this critical issue, and urge the relevant countries to immediately lift the unilateral coercive measures imposed on Syria," he said.
"We also request a comprehensive assessment by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on the impact of unilateral coercive measures on the overall humanitarian situation in Syria, to be presented by the Secretary-General in a focused report to the Security Council," said the envoy.
China's permanent representative to the United Nations Zhang Jun speaks during a Security Council meeting on the situation in Syria at UN headquarters in New York, the U.S., October 24, 2019. (Photo: AP)
Members of the Security Council on Tuesday voted on the draft resolution submitted by Germany and Belgium on the mandate renewal of the cross-border mechanism in Syria. China and Russia voted against it. The draft resolution was not adopted.
The Security Council will now vote on a rival Russian text that would only approve one Turkish crossing for aid access for six months. A resolution needs nine votes in favor in the 15-member council and no vetoes by the five permanent members – Russia, China, the United States, France or Britain - to pass.
The Security Council in January allowed the cross-border aid operation to continue from the two Turkish crossings for six months, but dropped crossing points from Iraq and Jordan due to opposition by Russia and China.
Russia and Turkey back different sides in Syria's prolonged civil war, with Moscow supporting President Bashar al-Assad's government and Ankara backing rebel groups in the northwest.
China has stressed that cross-border humanitarian relief should be based on full respect for Syria's sovereignty and that the humanitarian issue should not be politicized.
A member of a non-governmental aid organization measures temperature as a preventive measure for the coronavirus in the town of Kafr Takharim, Idlib Province, Syria, April 14, 2020. (Photo: AP)
The United States and some other Western countries have imposed sanctions on Syria, which Damascus blames for widespread hardship among ordinary residents.
Speaking of the effects of unilateral coercive measures, Zhang said that these measures "have further aggravated the economic and humanitarian crisis in Syria."
"Years of illegal sanctions have had immeasurable impact on the economic and social development of Syria, devastated livelihoods, and brought untold sufferings to innocent civilians. The unilateral coercive measures have also severely undermined Syria's capacity to respond to COVID-19," he said.
The ambassador noted that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Special Envoy Geir Pedersen have repeatedly called on the relevant countries to lift unilateral coercive measures.
"To this end, China proposed amendments to the draft resolution. It is disappointing that the draft resolution submitted by copenholders completely ignores China's amendments and does not contain a single word about unilateral coercive measures. China is compelled to vote against such an unobjective and unbalanced draft resolution," Zhang said.
Humanitarian improvement is the 'responsibility of the Syrian government'
As to the cross-border mechanism, Zhang noted that it is "merely an urgent and temporary arrangement."
"It is the primary responsibility of the Syrian government to improve the humanitarian situation in the country. The sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria must be respected," he added.
Feng Biao (L), Chinese ambassador to Syria, and Ahmad Khleifawi (R), assistant health minister of Syria, attend a ceremony to deliver a batch of Chinese medical equipment to Syria in Damascus, June 4, 2020. (Photo: Xinhua)
"China encourages the relevant parties to step up their efforts to promote cross-line operations and make corresponding adjustments to the cross-border mechanism. Considering the humanitarian needs in Syria, China does not object to retaining the cross-border mechanism at this stage. Meanwhile, cross-border operations should strictly follow the guiding principles of humanitarian emergency assistance set out in the General Assembly resolution 46/182, ensure impartiality, neutrality and credibility, and enhance coordination with the Syrian government," the envoy said.
"China notes that there are still fundamental differences among Security Council members on the number of crossing points and extension period. China hopes that members will reach consensus through consultations," said Zhang.
Talking about China's assistance to the war-scarred country, the envoy said that China attaches great importance to the humanitarian situation in Syria and supports the international community and UN agencies in stepping up humanitarian relief for the Syrian people.
"China has been providing a wide range of assistance to Syria through bilateral and multilateral channels, including in the areas of food, medicine, education and public services, and played a positive role in improving the humanitarian situation on the ground," Zhang said.
"Since the outbreak of COVID-19, China has provided to Syria two batches of medical supplies and held video conferences with Syrian health experts in an effort to help the Syrian Government and people fight the virus," said the ambassador.