China actively cooperating with Syria to combat COVID-19: envoy

File photo of Zhang Jun, China's permanent representative to the United Nations. (Photo: Agencies)

UNITED NATIONS - A Chinese envoy said Wednesday that China is actively cooperating with Syria to combat COVID-19, calling on other countries to do the same.

"China is actively cooperating with Syria to combat the virus. The first batch of medical supplies and assistance have arrived in Syria two weeks ago in Damascus," Zhang Jun, China's permanent representative to the United Nations, told a Security Council meeting on the humanitarian situation in Syria via video-teleconference.

The ambassador said that China pays close attention to the humanitarian situation in Syria, in particular the impact of COVID-19 on the economic and social development in Syria.

"We take note that the Syrian government takes a series of active measures in healthcare, education, transportation, food production, and many other aspects to prevent and contain the spread of the virus," said Zhang, adding that China appreciates these efforts.

Noting that conflicts for years have undermined Syria's capacity to cope with the pandemic, the envoy said that the international community must not stand by.

Talking about bilateral cooperation in the fight against the virus, Zhang said that last week, one renowned Chinese hospital held a video meeting with the Syrian Ministry of Health. Chinese medical experts shared their views with their Syrian colleagues on combatting the pandemic.

"We are willing to continue providing assistance within our capacities to Syria and call on other countries to do the same," said the ambassador.

"We encourage the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and other international humanitarian agencies to make more efforts in supporting Syria to respond to the pandemic in various forms," said Zhang.

"The humanitarian issue in Syria is interlinked with political, economic and the security issues and must be managed in the integrated and impartial way," the envoy noted.

"The role of the Syrian government should be brought into full play," he stressed.

Zhang said that it should be acknowledged that the Syrian government has demonstrated the political will to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

"With regard to the issue of cross-border humanitarian assistance, full respect must be given to sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria. We call for continued coordination and cooperation between OCHA and the Syrian government to find a sustaining solution together," Zhang added.

With regard to the Board of Inquiry, China reserves its concern over the way it was founded, and also its working method, said the ambassador.

Zhang said that unilateral sanctions undermine Syria's capacity to combat COVID-19 and destroy the livelihoods of civilians. "There is no means to justify unilateral sanctions, and we are firmly against them."

"China reiterates its support for the appeals of the secretary-general and high commissioner for human rights to lift these sanctions," he said.

"We urge relevant parties, relevant countries to respect the legitimate rights and the lives of all people affected by the pandemic and immediately lift unilateral sanctions against the countries concerned," the envoy stressed.

"It has to be pointed out that the humanitarian issue in Syria is closely related to the political process," said Zhang, adding that China calls on all parties to fully implement UN Security Council Resolution 2254 and push forward the Syrian-led and Syria-owned political process.

"We support the United Nations and the good offices of the special envoy in the hope that we can jointly promote peace and the stability of Syria and of the region," he said.

"China is also seriously concerned over the civilian casualties caused by yesterday's tragic event. We extend our deep condolences to the families of the victims. We also call on the parties to respond actively to the ceasefire call and appeal of the secretary-general of the United Nations," the envoy noted.