June 2022 Monthly Forecast

MIDDLE EAST

Syria

Expected Council Action

In June, the Security Council will hold its monthly meetings on the political and humanitarian tracks in Syria. The briefing on the chemical weapons track will not take place this month.

Key Recent Developments

The EU-sponsored sixth Brussels Conference, titled “Supporting the future of Syria and the region”, was convened on 9-10 May. The conference—which was intended to support the UN’s efforts to find a political solution to the war in Syria and mobilise financial support for Syrian refugees and their host communities—included 55 countries and various UN entities, among other international organisations. The EU did not invite Russia to participate, which led to the UN’s decision not to co-host the meeting with the EU. At a 10 May press briefing, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell said that “Russia has not been invited because we are inviting those partners who have a genuine, a real interest to contribute to peace in the world. And Russia, with its aggression against Ukraine, has shown that clearly it has not such interest, to maintain peace in the world”.

Conference participants pledged $4.3 billion for 2022 and $2.4 billion for future years. Loans of $1.8 billion were also pledged by international financial institutions. The amount pledged was higher than last year’s annual Brussels conference, but less than the $10.5 billion the UN has said is required to assist Syrians in need in 2022. In this regard, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths told participants that “$4.4 billion of that is for the response inside Syria, and another $6.1 billion for the refugees and host communities in the region”. Special Envoy Geir O. Pedersen also addressed the delegates, reiterating his commitment to continue “to engage all key actors, Syrian and international, on the importance of contributing not only to alleviating suffering but to confidence-building and a political path out of this crisis”.

On 16 May, the UN conducted a cross-line delivery of humanitarian aid in northwest Syria (that is, across domestic frontlines from Syrian government-held areas into areas outside government control). This was the fourth cross-line delivery since the July 2021 adoption of resolution 2585, which mandated the delivery of cross-line aid as well as cross-border humanitarian aid from Turkey into Syria through the Bab al-Hawa crossing.

Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Joyce Msuya visited Syria from 16-18 May, where she met with families dealing with the humanitarian consequences of the conflict, humanitarian service providers, and Syrian officials. An 18 May OCHA statement said that during her visit, she discussed “possible ways to expand humanitarian access to reach communities in need, protect civilians and help affected Syrians envision a better future” with Syria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Faisal Mekdad, and Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bashar Jaafari. It also quoted Msuya as saying that she was “struck by the courage and incredible resilience of Syrian people” she met on her visit.

On 20 May, the Council held a briefing on the humanitarian situation in Syria. Griffiths and Farida Almouslem of the Syrian American Medical Society briefed. Griffiths said that “cross-line operations cannot under current conditions replace the size or the scope of the massive UN cross-border operation”, adding that “failure to renew the [cross-border] authorization would disrupt life-saving aid for people living in the northwest”. Almouslem described her experience working as an obstetrician-gynaecologist in Aleppo from 2011 to 2016, echoing Griffiths’ emphasis on the importance of cross-border humanitarian assistance in Syria.

In a 29 April press statement, Council members marked the 25th anniversary of the entry into force of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction (CWC). Council members reaffirmed their commitment to “exclude completely…the use of chemical weapons anywhere, at any time by anyone”, as well as to the complete destruction of chemical weapons. They also reaffirmed that the development, production, and use of chemical weapons, as prohibited by the Convention, remain a clear threat to international peace and security.

Council members held a meeting on the Syria chemical weapons track on 27 May. High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Izumi Nakamitsu provided the briefing.

The Syria Constitutional Committee’s eighth round began in Geneva on 28 May and was expected to end on 3 June. Following the conclusion of the seventh round (21-25 March in Geneva), which failed to achieve meaningful progress, Pedersen said, “I will do everything I can to bring closer viewpoints among the members through exerting my good offices, which is plainly needed”.

At the time of writing, Pedersen was scheduled to brief Council members on the political situation in Syria on 31 May.

Key Issues and Options

The humanitarian crisis in Syria remains an ongoing concern for Council members. The country continues to contend with an ever-worsening economic situation, rising food and fuel prices, water scarcity, and high unemployment. One option for Council members is to hold a closed Arria-formula meeting with civil society representatives who can speak to the importance of early recovery projects in Syria and provide their input on the types of projects that would be most beneficial to the welfare of Syrians. Given the upcoming expiration of the cross-border aid mechanism—and the difficult nature of the negotiations in recent years—Council members may decide to begin negotiations in earnest during the current month.

Another key issue is the ongoing stalemate in the work of the Constitutional Committee. If little progress is made in the eighth round of meetings of the committee, the Council could consider adopting a presidential statement that supports the Special Envoy’s efforts to reinvigorate the political track.

Council Dynamics

There are significant differences on Syria among Council members on all three areas of Council engagement: the political, humanitarian and chemical weapons tracks. On the political front, while there is general support for the Constitutional Committee’s work, several Council members have expressed frustration with the lack of progress since its launch two and a half years ago. Some members—such as Albania, Ireland and the P3 (France, the UK and the US)—tend to accuse the Syrian government of not engaging in the process in good faith. On the other hand, Russia, a close ally of the Syrian government, has cautioned against imposing artificial deadlines on the committee’s work.

Although most members have repeatedly emphasised that the cross-border aid mechanism is an essential humanitarian tool in Syria, China and Russia maintain that cross-line deliveries should supplant cross-border deliveries sooner rather than later, and India has argued that the cross-border aid mechanism violates Syria’s sovereignty. (The delivery of cross-border aid authorised by the Security Council does not require the consent of the Syrian government.) There is likely to be considerable focus on the cross-border aid mechanism in the Council as the July expiration of resolution 2585 approaches. (The penholders on humanitarian issues in Syria have traditionally been elected members of the Council, including current penholders Ireland and Norway.)

Council members also continue to hold starkly different views on the chemical weapons track in Syria, disputing the evidence regarding responsibility for the use of chemical weapons in the country and the credibility of the work of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). While several members have consistently expressed support for the OPCW’s work, maintaining that it is credible and essential, other members, such as China and Russia, claim that its work is biased and politicised.

UN DOCUMENTS ON SYRIA

Security Council Resolution
9 July 2021S/RES/2585 This renewed the mandate of the cross-border humanitarian aid delivery mechanism to Syria.
Security Council Meeting Record
20 May 2022S/PV.9038 This was a meeting on the humanitarian situation in Syria.
Security Council Press Statement
29 April 2022SC/14876 This is a press statement marking the 25th anniversary of the entry into force of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction (CWC).