August 2022 Monthly Forecast

MIDDLE EAST

Syria 

Expected Council Action  

In August, the Security Council is expected to hold one meeting on political and humanitarian issues in Syria, and another on chemical weapons in the country.   

Key Recent Developments  

On 12 July, the Security Council adopted resolution 2642, reauthorising the cross-border humanitarian aid mechanism in Syria for six months until 10 January 2023 and requiring a separate resolution to extend the mandate for an additional six months until 10 July 2023. The resolution received 12 votes in favour, with three abstentions (France, the UK, and the US). In their explanations of vote, the abstaining members said that they would have strongly preferred a 12-month reauthorisation.   

Resolution 2642 urges efforts by humanitarian organisations “to step up further initiatives to broaden the humanitarian activities in Syria, including water, sanitation, health, education, electricity where essential to restore access to basic services, and shelter early recovery projects…and calls upon other international humanitarian agencies and relevant parties to support them”. It requests the Secretary-General to submit a special report on the humanitarian needs in Syria no later than 10 December, in addition to reports at least every 60 days on the implementation of the resolution. The resolution also encourages the convening of an informal interactive dialogue (an informal, closed-meeting format) with key stakeholders every two months to review and follow up on the implementation of the resolution, including progress on early recovery projects.    

The negotiations on the text were arduous. Resolution 2642 was adopted only after two previous drafts failed to be adopted on 8 July: an Irish-Norwegian draft that was vetoed by Russia and received 13 affirmative votes and one abstention (China) and a Russian draft that received two affirmative votes (China and Russia), three votes against (P3 members) and ten abstentions. (For background on the negotiations leading up to the adoption of resolution 2642, please see our 11 July What’s in Blue story, Syria: Vote on Draft Resolution Reauthorising the Cross-Border Aid Mechanism.)   

Following Russia’s 8 July veto, the General Assembly held a session on Syria on 21 July. This was in accordance with General Assembly resolution A/RES/76/262, adopted earlier this year, which states that the General Assembly is expected to convene “within 10 working days of the casting of a veto by one or more permanent members of the Security Council, to hold a debate on the situation as to which the veto was cast”. In the General Assembly session, Russian Deputy Permanent Representative Dmitry Polyanskiy maintained that his country had vetoed the Irish-Norwegian draft because it called for a 12-month reauthorisation of the mandate, whereas Russia wanted a six-month reauthorisation that would require a Council resolution for an additional six-month extension.  

On 20 July, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Izumi Nakamitsu briefed the Council on the issue of chemical weapons in Syria. Nakamitsu said that the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Technical Secretariat continues to seek information from Syria regarding the unauthorised movement and remains of two destroyed cylinders related to the 7 April 2018 chemical weapons incident in Douma. She also expressed regret that the OPCW Declaration Assessment Team (DAT) had been unable to hold its 25th round of consultations with Syrian authorities in Damascus because of the unwillingness of the Syrian government to issue a visa to one member of the DAT. 

In a 16 July statement, UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir O. Pedersen expressed regret that the ninth round of meetings of the Constitutional Committee, originally planned for 25 to 29 July in Geneva, was “no longer possible”. In his statement, Pedersen emphasised “the importance of all the stakeholders in this conflict protecting and firewalling the Syrian political process from their differences elsewhere in the world”, and he encouraged them “to engage in constructive diplomacy on Syria”. It appears that the delegation representing the government side was unwilling to participate because of concerns expressed by Russia about the venue of the talks; in this regard, on 16 June, Alexander Lavrentyev, Russia’s Presidential Representative for Syria, called for the Constitutional Committee for a new venue for the next round of talks because it does not view the Swiss government as an impartial actor. The previous eight rounds of talks of the Constitutional Committee, which was launched in 2019, have all been held in Geneva.   

On 19 July, Presidents Vladimir Putin (Russia), Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (Türkiye) and Ebrahim Raisi (Iran) held a summit on Syria in Tehran. In a joint statement following the meeting, the three leaders emphasised, among other things, their commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Syria; expressed their determination to continue to work together to combat terrorism; and rejected unilateral sanctions.   

At the time of writing, Council members were expected to hold consultations on the political and humanitarian situations in Syria on 28 July. Pedersen and OCHA’s Acting Director of the Humanitarian Financing and Resource Mobilization Division Heli Uusikyla were the anticipated briefers.   

Human Rights-Related Developments 

On 8 July, the Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on the human rights situation in Syria by a vote of 25 in favour; six against, including permanent Security Council member China; and 15 abstentions, including elected Security Council members Brazil, India and the United Arab Emirates (A/HRC/50/L.5/Rev.1). Among other things, the resolution condemned in the strongest terms all acts of sexual and gender-based violence committed by all parties since the start of conflict in 2011. It requested that the Commission of Inquiry on Syria consider updating its report on sexual and gender-based violence, taking a victim- and survivor-centred approach.  

Key Issues and Options 

A key issue for the Council is how it can support the Special Envoy’s efforts to promote positive momentum on the political track in Syria, especially in light of the postponement of the ninth round of talks of the Constitutional Committee. An option for the Council is to adopt a statement that supports the Special Envoy’s efforts to reinvigorate the political track. 

The humanitarian crisis in the country remains an ongoing concern for Council members. The country continues to contend with a dire economic situation, rising food and fuel prices, and high unemployment.  

Another option would be for Council members 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. 

Council Dynamics 

The difficult negotiations on the Syria cross-border aid reauthorisation last month once again highlighted the difficult Council dynamics on Syria. Most Council members are strongly supportive of the cross-border mechanism, arguing that cross-line assistance (that is, across domestic frontlines from Syrian government-held areas into areas outside government control) alone cannot address the scope of humanitarian needs in Syria. Over the years, the pen on the humanitarian track has been held by elected members (E10). In this year’s negotiations, the E10 showed particularly strong solidarity. They met during various phases of the negotiating process to discuss a joint approach and voted as a block on the two drafts that failed to be adopted as well as on the one that was adopted. Kenya, as the E-10 coordinator for July, spoke on behalf of the group in the Council chamber prior to votes on the failed texts on 8 July and the adoption of resolution 2642.  

China and Russia have been less supportive of the mechanism than other members. They have expressed concern about cross-border aid being diverted by terrorist groups, emphasised that the cross-border aid mechanism constitutes a violation of Syria’s sovereignty, and argued that it needs to be phased out and replaced by enhanced cross-line deliveries. As a result of these views, China and Russia are inclined towards shorter renewals of the mechanism. This was clearly seen in the negotiations on resolution 2642, where one of the main issues was the length of the mandate of the cross-border mechanism. Most members—including the P3 and all of the elected members—would have preferred a 12-month reauthorisation. In this regard, several Council members maintained that a one-year mandate would allow humanitarian actors to plan, staff and procure supplies more effectively for humanitarian operations in Syria and that it would promote continuity of assistance during the winter months. Russia’s position was that the agreed 6-month reauthorisation was needed to allow for an assessment of the implementation of the resolution prior to a decision on an extension of an additional six months. Russia also emphasised that the resolution would encourage efforts to improve cross-line deliveries and urged stepped-up early-recovery initiatives. 

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 OPCW. Several members have consistently expressed support for the OPCW’s work, maintaining that it is credible and essential, but other members, such as China and Russia, claim that its work is biased and politicised.  

Ireland and Norway are the penholders on humanitarian issues in Syria.  

UN DOCUMENTS ON SYRIA 

Security Council Resolutions
12 July 2022S/RES/2642 This resolution reauthorised the cross-border humanitarian aid mechanism in Syria for six months until 10 January 2023 and required a separate resolution to extend the mandate for an additional six months until 10 July 2023.
Security Council Meeting Records
12 July 2022S/PV.9089 This was the meeting at which resolution 2642, which reauthorised the cross-border aid mechanism in Syria, was adopted.
8 July 2022S/PV.9087 This was the meeting at which the two draft resolutions on Syria failed to be adopted, including one that was vetoed by Russia.
Other
8 July 2022S/2022/541 This was the Russian draft on Syria cross-border assistance that received two affirmative votes (China and Russia) and failed to be adopted.
8 July 2022S/2022/538 This was the Irish-Norwegian draft on Syria cross-border assistance that was vetoed by Russia.