On 3 December 2014, Special Adviser Sigrid Kaag provided her last briefing to Council members on the chemical weapons track. She focused on remaining tasks in the implementation of resolution 2118, such as the verification of the ongoing destruction of chemicals outside Syria, plans to complete the destruction of chemical weapons production facilities in Syria by the summer of 2015 and clarification of any discrepancies in Syria’s declared chemical weapons stockpile. Syria’s use of chlorine bombs was also discussed. The Council adopted resolution 2191 on 17 December 2014, extending until 10 January 2016 the humanitarian access provisions of resolution 2165—the authorisation to deliver aid across borders and conflict lines without Syria’s consent and the monitoring mechanism that ensures the humanitarian nature of such aid convoys. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos had briefed the Council two days earlier, reporting that brutality, violence and callous disregard for human life were the hallmark of the Syrian crisis (S/PV.7342).
Special Adviser Sigrid Kaag briefed the Council on 5 November, reporting on the destruction plan for chemical weapons production facilities, to be completed by the summer of 2015. Council members also discussed the 10 September fact-finding report by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapon (OPCW), which found evidence that chlorine had been consistently and repeatedly used in barrel bombs dropped from helicopters. While the report did not attribute blame, only the government has aerial capacity. On 18 November, the Council issued a press statement that condemned ISIS for the murder of US aid worker Peter Kassig. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos briefed the Council on 25 November, reporting that resolution 2165 had enabled assistance to enter more hard-to-reach locations via cross-border access and that the UN and its partners are planning to scale up deliveries in the weeks and months ahead (S/PV.7324). She also presented the 21 November Secretary-General’s report (S/2014/840) that stated since the adoption of resolution 2165, there had been 30 cross-border aid deliveries and while cross-line deliveries within Syria occur, they remain difficult.
On 3 October, the Council issued a press statement condemning the 1 October twin bomb attacks on a school complex in a government controlled area of Homs and a press statement condemning ISIS for the murder of UK aid worker Alan Henning. Sigrid Kaag, Special Coordinator of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)-UN Joint Mission, briefed the Council on 7 October, reporting on the destruction plan for chemical weapons production facilities in Syria—in particular the four additional facilities disclosed by Syria only in September. She also updated Council members on the 10 September OPCW report that found evidence that chlorine had been used consistently and repeatedly in barrel bombs dropped from helicopters. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura briefed Council members on 30 October on possible ways to revive the political process following his meetings with key players in Damascus, Amman, Ankara, Beirut, Cairo, Moscow, Riyadh and Tehran (S/PV.7293). Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Kyung-wha Kang also briefed on 30 October and presented the Secretary-General’s report on the humanitarian situation in Syria. On 30 October, the Council issued a press statement expressing support for the role and efforts of de Mistura. On 31 October, the Council issued a press statement condemning the aerial bombardment, by the use of barrel bombs, of a displaced persons camp in Idlib on 29 October, leaving many dead and injured, including children.
Sigrid Kaag, Special Coordinator of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)-UN Joint Mission, briefed the Council on 4 September, reporting on the destruction plan for the 12 chemical weapons production facilities in Syria and on the successor arrangements to carry out the remaining verification and inspection activities under resolution 2118. During the 4 September consultations, many Council members also exhibited an interest in keeping a reporting line open to the Council regarding the use of chlorine bombs. On 6 September, the Council issued a press statement condemning ISIS for the murder of a US journalist, Steven Sotloff. On 14 Setpember, the Council issued a press statement condemning ISIS for the murder of UK aid worker, David Haines. On 30 September, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos reported that since the adoption of resolution 2165, there had been 14 cross-border aid deliveries, but cross-line deliveries within Syria remain difficult (S/PV.7273).
Sigrid Kaag, Special Coordinator of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)-UN Joint Mission, briefed the Council on 5 August, reporting that on 24 July, the OPCW had agreed to a destruction plan for the 12 production facilities in Syria—the facilities were to have been destroyed by 15 March. On 25 August, the Secretary-General said that successor arrangements to the OPCW-UN Joint Mission were being established to carry out the remaining verification and inspection activities under resolution 2118 and that reporting to the Security Council would continue. On 15 August, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 2170, which condemned ISIS and al-Nusrah Front for the recruitment of foreign terrorist fighters. It also listed six individuals affiliated with these groups under the 1267/1989 Al-Qaida sanctions regime and expressed the Council’s readiness to list others involved in financing or facilitating the travel of foreign terrorist fighters. On 22 August, Council members issued a press statement condemning the 19 August beheading of US journalist James Foley by ISIS. On 28 August, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Kyung-wha Kang briefed the Council on humanitarian access (S/PV.7252). She reported that since the adoption of resolution 2165, there had been five cross-border aid deliveries, some improvement in access to Aleppo, Dar’a and rural Damascus and that medical supplies had reached a number of opposition held areas. However, access continued to decline in government and ISIS controlled areas and that key elements of resolution 2139 remained unimplemented, such as medical neutrality, ceasing aerial bombardments and easing administrative hurdles.
Sigrid Kaag, Special Coordinator of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)-UN Joint Mission, briefed the Council on 7 July, reporting that the final 7.2 percent of declared chemical weapons was removed from Syria on 23 June. On 10 July, the new Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura was appointed. The Council adopted resolution 2165 on 14 July, authorising cross-border and cross-line access for the UN and its partners to deliver humanitarian aid in Syria without state consent, creating the potential to help 2.9 million people in need (S/PV.7216). The resolution authorised access through four border crossings and a mechanism to monitor aid convoys and to notify Syrian authorities. The first such convoy traversed the Bab al-Salam crossing from Turkey on 24 July. On 25 July, Security Council members met with the Commission of Inquiry in a closed Arria-formula format in New York. Over three years, the Commission collated testimonies indicating a massive number of war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed. The scale of government violations continues to outpace that of the opposition, with aerial bombardment, targeting highly populated areas, systematic and widespread reports of deaths and torture in government detention centres. Under Secretary-General Valerie Amos briefed Council members on humanitarian access for the first time under resolution 2165 on 30 July. On 28 July, the Council adopted a presidential statement addressing the seizure of the oilfields and pipelines in Syria and Iraq by ISIS and al-Nusra to finance terrorism. The statement stressed that all states are required to ensure that their nationals and any persons within their territory do not trade in oil with these entities.
Sigrid Kaag, Special Coordinator of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)-UN Joint Mission, briefed the Council on 4 June, reporting that the 30 June deadline for the completion of all removal and destruction activities would be missed. Kaag reiterated that other important issues remained such as verification work, the destruction of production facilities and clarification of the declared chemical weapons stockpile. There was also a discussion of the OPCW’s fact-finding mission to investigate allegations that the regime had used chlorine-filled bombs against civilians. On 10 June, High Commissioner Navi Pillay, during her opening statement to the Human Rights Council, regretted the Security Council’s inability to ensure accountability in Syria and deplored that war crimes and crimes against humanity are commonplace in Syria and occur with complete impunity. On 26 June, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos briefed Council members, presenting a report that clearly demonstrates that the regime has used the distribution of humanitarian aid as a tactic of war (S/PV.7212). She reported that there continues to be no progress in implementing any of the key demands in resolution 2139, such as authorising cross-border aid operations, allowing access to besieged or hard-to-reach areas, observing medical neutrality, ceasing aerial bombardments or easing administrative hurdles.
Sigrid Kaag, Special Coordinator of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)-UN Joint Mission, briefed the Council on 8 May, reporting that Syria had missed the extended deadline of 27 April for the complete removal of its declared chemical weapons materiel. The remaining 7.2 percent includes precursors to produce sarin, held at one site that could not be reached due to the security situation. There was also a discussion of the OPCW’s 29 April announcement that it would deploy a fact-finding mission to investigate allegations that the regime had used chlorine-filled bombs against civilians. On 13 May, UN-Arab League Joint Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi resigned and briefed Council members on the failure of the Geneva peace talks, largely due to the government’s intransigence. On 22 May, China and Russia cast their fourth joint veto on Syria and blocked the French draft resolution referring Syria to the ICC, co-sponsored by 65 member states. All other Council members voted in favour of the referral (S/PV.7180). On 29 May, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Kyung-wha Kang briefed Council members on humanitarian access. The most recent Secretary-General’s report did not indicate any progress in implementation of resolution 2139’s key demands, such as authorising cross-border aid operations, allowing access in besieged or hard-to-reach areas, observing medical neutrality, ceasing aerial bombardments or easing administrative hurdles. In fact, access dropped significantly since the last reporting period due to a new transport mechanism put in place by the government. The report said that the government failed its responsibility to look after its own people and that its arbitrary denial of aid, in particular by not opening relevant border crossings, which is a violation of resolution 2139 and international law. The report called on the Security Council to urgently consider its next steps to ensure compliance with its demands.
On 15 April, France convened an “Arria-formula” meeting for the authors of Report into the Credibility of Certain Evidence with regard to Torture and Execution of Persons Incarcerated by the Current Syrian Regime (codenamed the Caesar Report) to present their work to Council members. Also at France’s request, humanitarian chief Valerie Amos and Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Oscar Fernández-Taranco briefed Council members on 17 April on the situation in Homs, where the local government and local opposition had almost reached agreement on the evacuation of civilians and fighters from the besieged old city. However, the authorities abruptly stopped negotiations, and on 15 April the government renewed its assault on Homs. It seems the briefing and discussions in consultations focused on the coercive elements of localised ceasefires in besieged areas, in which the government uses bombardment and starvation tactics to bring communities to their knees. Amos briefed Council members again on 30 April to present the Secretary-General’s report on implementation of resolution 2139 (S/2014/295). The report said that the arbitrary denial of humanitarian access was a violation of international humanitarian law, and it called on the Security Council to take action. Regarding chemical weapons, Special Coordinator of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)-UN Joint Mission Sigrid Kaag briefed Council members twice in April reporting significant, but not yet complete, removal of declared chemical weapons material. On 3 April she warned that further delay would make it increasingly unrealistic to meet the 30 June completion deadline. The US requested an additional briefing on 23 April for an update on removal activity ahead of the 27 April deadline.
Special Coordinator of the OPCW-UN Joint Mission Sigrid Kaag briefed Council members on 5 March, reporting that despite several missed deadlines Syria and the OPCW had reached agreement on a revised deadline for full removal of chemical weapons material by the end of April. UN-Arab League Joint Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi delivered a pessimistic message to Council members on 13 March and to the General Assembly on 14 March about the prospects for the Geneva process to deliver a tangible outcome. He said that the current blockage is due to the government’s unwillingness to accept the proposals on the table and that a third round of talks will be meaningless if there are no constructive ideas to break the stalemate. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos briefed Council members on 28 March, reporting continuing aerial bombardments by the government and increasing use of car bombs and suicide attacks by extremist groups. France drafted a press statement expressing support for Brahimi and the resumption of talks based on genuine engagement by all parties. The draft underlined the centrality of forming a transitional governing body and emphasised that elections should be organised within the framework of the Geneva peace talks. Russia objected to referencing elections and to any language specifying how an approach to the resumption of talks should be sequenced, i.e. tackling issues of terrorism and forming a transitional government in parallel. In the end, the press statement was not issued due to Russia’s objections.
Special Coordinator of the OPCW-UN Joint Mission Sigrid Kaag briefed Council members on 6 February, reporting that the 5 February deadline for the removal of the entire chemical weapons stockpile was missed, though Syria did transfer cargoes on 7 and 27 January. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos briefed Council members on 13 February, reporting that since the adoption of the October 2013 presidential statement (S/PRST/2013/15) the conflict had intensified with the continued use of siege as a weapon of war, denial of humanitarian assistance and aerial bombardment. On 22 February, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 2139, demanding that all parties, in particular the Syrian authorities, allow humanitarian access across conflict lines, in besieged areas and across borders and expressing its intent to take further steps in case of non-compliance. The vote followed two weeks of intense negotiations that resulted in significant compromises on references to Syria’s unwillingness to implement the October 2013 presidential statement on humanitarian access, possible sanctions in case of non-compliance, cross-border access and access to besieged areas, aerial bombardment, accountability and counter-terrorism.
On 8 January, Special Coordinator of the OPCW-UN Joint Mission Sigrid Kaag briefed Council members, reporting that the 31 December 2013 deadline for removing priority-one chemicals was missed, though Syria did transfer an initial tranche on 7 January. She told Council members that the first movement of chemicals must not be a symbolic action and that the government should continue its cooperation in a safe and timely manner. Kaag also reported that Syria continued to request security equipment despite consistent advice that such “dual use” equipment would not be procured by the mission. Finally, Kaag encouraged key member states to continue to exert pressure on Syria to fulfill its obligations. On 17 January, Security Council members held a closed Arria formula meeting focused on women’s participation in resolving the Syrian conflict. A key message was that neither the government nor the opposition sufficiently represent the Syrian people and the integrity of the talks would be undermined if women and civil society were excluded. In a 17 January note to Council members, OCHA head Valerie Amos reported nominal progress in some areas but reiterated that intense needs continued to go unmet, particularly in besieged areas. While in Damascus on 12 January, Amos said that she raised access to besieged areas with the government and that she was “particularly worried about reports of starvation”. The 17 January note recommended intense engagement by Council members to respond to these increasing reports of malnutrition and starvation.
On 3 December, humanitarian chief Valerie Amos briefed Council members reporting no progress in gaining cross-line access into hard-to-reach areas. She also reported no improvement in the protection of civilians or in the demilitarisation of schools and hospitals. She said there was moderate progress with the approval of visas for UN humanitarian workers and additional humanitarian hubs. On 4 December, the Special Coordinator of the OPCW-UN Joint Mission, Sigrid Kaag, briefed Council members on the preparations for removing critical chemical agents from Syria by 31 December, warning that the security situation could negatively impact the end of year deadline. Council members were briefed on 16 December by the Secretary-General on the final report of a UN team led by Åke Sellström that included the results of the investigation into seven allegations of chemical weapons use in Syria. On 18 December, Council members failed to reach agreement on a press statement condemning the Syrian government’s airstrikes against Aleppo. Separately, High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said on 2 December that the UN Commission of Inquiry had produced massive evidence that war crimes and crimes against humanity had been committed and indicated responsibility at the highest level, including Assad.