Expected Council Action
In September, there will be the monthly meetings on the political, humanitarian and chemical weapons tracks in Syria. Council members will also hold an informal interactive dialogue (IID) in accordance with resolution 2642 of 12 July, which reauthorised the Syrian cross-border humanitarian aid mechanism and encouraged an IID every two months to regularly review and follow up on the implementation of the resolution, including progress in early-recovery projects.
Key Recent Developments
According to the Secretary-General’s 60-day report on the humanitarian situation in Syria, released on 22 August, violence has increased significantly in northern Syria. On 22 July, a Russian airstrike on al-Jadidah, a village in Syria’s northwestern Iblid province, killed seven civilians and wounded 12 others, according to the Syrian Civil Defence (also known as the White Helmets). At least three Syrian troops died in Turkish airstrikes on 16 August near the border town of Kobani, in northern Aleppo province. On 19 August, missile attacks on al-Bab town in Aleppo province resulted in 15 civilian deaths. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based human rights monitoring organisation, has accused the Syrian government of the attack.
Conflict has also been reported in other parts of the country. On 14 August, Syrian state media reported that Israeli air strikes targeting Iranian assets outside Damascus and in western Tartous province resulted in the deaths of three Syrian soldiers. On 19 August, clashes between pro-government gangs and local residents in southern Sweida province left 17 people dead.
Abolfazl Alijani, a general in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, was reportedly killed in Syria on 21 August. The details of his death remained unclear at the time of writing.
On 25 August, US forces carried out two airstrikes against militants reportedly linked to Iran in Deir al-Zour province in eastern Syria. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claims that six or more Syrian and foreign fighters lost their lives in the airstrikes. In a 26 August letter to the Council, the US stated that its strikes were directed “against a facility in eastern Syria used by militia groups affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps” and that they were carried out following attacks on US forces and facilities in Iraq and Syria by Iran-backed militia. The US added that its strikes were consistent with its “inherent right of self-defense, as reflected in Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations”.
Humanitarian aid continued to be delivered to Syrians in need both through the Bab al-Hawa crossing on the Syrian-Turkish border and across domestic frontlines from Syrian government-held areas into areas outside government control. Cross-border deliveries continue to be the dominant form of assistance. According to the Secretary-General’s 22 August report, 1,232 trucks carrying humanitarian aid had passed through Bab al-Hawa into Syria during the previous 60 days. The sixth cross-line delivery over the past year, which consisted of 14 trucks, occurred on 4 August.
Türkiye, which severed diplomatic ties with the Assad government in March 2012, has signalled an apparent desire for a diplomatic rapprochement with Syria. In comments to reporters on 19 August, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that “diplomacy cannot be cut off between states”, when speaking of his country’s relationship with Syria. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu also recently spoke of the need for reconciliation between the government and opposition in Syria to bring peace to the country.
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 encouraged them “to engage in constructive diplomacy on Syria”. It appears that the government delegation was unwilling to participate because of Russia’s concerns 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 to choose 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 on UN premises in Geneva.
On 28 July, Council members discussed the political and humanitarian situations in Syria in consultations. During the meeting, Special Envoy Pedersen told members that he was working with the parties to break the impasse over the next steps regarding the Constitutional Committee. He reportedly expressed concern about the government’s lack of political will to engage in the Committee’s work.
On 29 August, Pedersen and Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Joyce Msuya briefed the Council on the political and humanitarian situations in Syria, respectively. Pedersen noted that the political process in Syria remains stalled, while there are “troubling signs of military escalation” in the country. Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Joyce Msuya expressed alarm at the increased violence in northern Syria, described the negative humanitarian effects of the economic crisis in the country, and called for increased humanitarian funding from the international community.
Members met in consultations on 30 August to discuss the Syria chemical weapons file.
Human Rights-Related Developments
During its 51st session, the Human Rights Council is expected to hold an interactive dialogue on 22 September with the Commission of Inquiry on Syria to consider its most recent report (A/HRC/51/45), not yet available at the time of writing.
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 cancellation of the ninth round of talks of the Constitutional Committee.
The humanitarian crisis in the country also remains an ongoing issue of concern for Council members. The country continues to contend with a dire economic situation, rising food and fuel prices, food insecurity, and water shortages.
One option for the Council is to adopt a statement that supports the Special Envoy’s efforts to reinvigorate the political track and calls for continued support for early recovery projects in Syria regarding water, sanitation, healthcare, education, and electricity.
During the IID in September, members could invite a UN and/or civil society representative to provide input on early recovery needs throughout Syria (that is, in government and opposition-held areas) and the types of projects that would be most beneficial to the welfare of Syrians in this regard.
There are stark divisions in the Council on Syria. China and Russia tend to be sympathetic to the Syrian government, emphasising the need to respect the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and drawing connections between unilateral sanctions on Syria and the challenging humanitarian situation in the country. On the other hand, the P3 (France, the UK and the US) and others are highly critical of the government for violating international human rights law and international humanitarian law, arbitrarily detaining people, and not engaging meaningfully in political dialogue.
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.|
|22 August 2022S/2022/635||This was a 60-day report on the humanitarian situation in Syria.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|31 August 2022|
|31 August 2022|