July 2024 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 June 2024
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Expected Council Action 

In July, the Security Council will hold a meeting on the political process and the humanitarian situation in Syria. 

Key Recent Developments  

On 30 May, Special Envoy for Syria Geir O. Pedersen and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths briefed the Council on the political and humanitarian tracks in Syria, respectively. Griffiths provided an overview of the increasingly dire humanitarian situation in the country and the devastating consequences of the persisting insecurity on civilians. He apprised members of a recent uptick in hostilities in Deir-ez-Zor governorate in eastern Syria, particularly near the UN humanitarian hub, which damaged humanitarian assets and led to the temporary suspension of humanitarian operations. He also spoke about the situation of women and girls in the country, noting that they continue to be exposed to appalling levels of gender-based violence, including sexual violence, exploitation, and abuse. Griffiths called on relevant parties to allow and facilitate the rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief while taking note of the lack of progress in cross-line delivery of aid—that is, across domestic conflict lines from Syrian government-held areas into areas outside government control. Lack of necessary approvals and security guarantees, among other things, continue to impede the cross-line delivery of humanitarian assistance. 

Cross-border humanitarian operations have continued from Türkiye into north-west Syria. The Syrian government’s authorisation for the use of the Bab al-Salam and Al Ra’ee border crossings is scheduled to expire on 13 August, while permission for the Bab al-Hawa crossing is set to expire on 13 July. At the time of writing, according to OCHA, a total of 246 trucks carrying humanitarian supplies from seven UN agencies had crossed into north-west Syria from Türkiye since the beginning of this year, through the Bab al-Hawa (214 trucks) and Bab al-Salam (32 trucks) crossings. 

Despite the rising humanitarian needs across the country, securing funding has been a challenge for the UN and partner agencies. At the time of writing, Syria’s 2024 Humanitarian Response Plan, requiring $4.07 billion, was only 13.6 percent funded. 

In his remarks at the 30 May meeting, Pedersen said that there was no clear path emerging to implementing resolution 2254 of 18 December 2015, which focused on finding a political solution to the Syrian crisis, including through the reconvening of the Syrian Constitutional Committee. Efforts to resume the Constitutional Committee remain stalled. He underlined the importance of preparing for a new and more comprehensive approach, noting that there must be a political horizon to resolve complex conflicts instead of managing or containing them in perpetuity. Highlighting the lack of trust among the stakeholders, he said that only concrete engagement, coordination and action could bring reciprocal and verifiable progress. The absence of a way forward threatens to cause prolonged division and despair. (For background and more information, see our Syria brief in the June Monthly Forecast and 24 June What’s in Blue story.) 

Pedersen also described the ongoing hostilities and persisting security tensions within Syria, including insurgent activities by some tribal elements against the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a primarily Kurdish group opposing the Syrian government; the violent crackdown on protestors in Idlib by the Security Council-listed terrorist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham; and ongoing protests in al-Sweida governorate, which started in August 2023 against the backdrop of the deteriorating economic situation in the country. He stressed the need for urgent de-escalation across all the frontlines within Syria and in the region, starting with a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza. He also took note of the upcoming parliamentary elections in government-controlled areas, scheduled for July, adding that these elections cannot be a substitute for an inclusive political process, as envisioned in resolution 2254.  

Over the past few months, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) has increased its attacks in Syria. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR)—a UK-based monitoring group with a presence in the country—the Syrian government and its allied forces, with support from Russia, launched joint operations in early June against ISIL positions across various locations in the Syrian desert. As at 23 June, the SOHR reported that ISIL attacks and pro-government military operations in the Syrian desert had resulted in 437 fatalities since the beginning of this year, including 365 government-backed forces, 29 ISIL members and 43 civilians.  

On 16 June, the US Central Command (CENTCOM) announced that it had conducted an airstrike in Syria in which Usamah Jamal Muhammad Ibrahim al-Janabi, a senior ISIL leader, had been killed. 

Airstrikes, allegedly by Israel, continue to target sites in Syria. According to media reports, airstrikes on 3 June hit multiple locations near the city of Aleppo, killing several people, including one Iranian military adviser, Saeed Abiyar. This was reportedly the first attack attributed to Israel that resulted in the death of an Iranian military personnel since the 1 April bombing of the Iranian consulate in Damascus. On 19 June, airstrikes in Quneitra and Daraa provinces resulted in the death of a Syrian soldier. While Israel has not commented on these strikes, it has historically targeted sites associated with Iranian forces and affiliated militants in Syria. 

In his annual report on children and armed conflict, dated 3 June, the Secretary-General expressed concern about the high number of grave violations against children in Syria, particularly incidents of recruitment and use and killing and maiming. The Secretary-General reported 1,574 verified grave violations against 1,549 children in Syria, including 1,385 boys and 118 girls. At the end of 2023, the report said, over 800 children, including foreign children, remained in detention for alleged association with armed groups, mainly Da’esh, and approximately 29,000 children with suspected family ties to Da’esh continued to be deprived of liberty in al-Hol and al-Roj refugee camps in north-eastern Syria.  

Key Issues and Options 

A key issue for Council members is the ongoing hostilities in Syria. Continuing violence and the lack of accountability threaten to destabilise the country further. ISIL remains one of the key security threats in Syria. The deteriorating socioeconomic conditions in the country are also of concern. Determining how the Council can address the spillover effects of the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and de-escalate rising tensions in the region, including in Syria, is an important issue for the Council.  

One option would be for the co-chairs of the Informal Expert Group on the Protection of Civilians (Switzerland and the UK) to hold a meeting on the situation in Syria to receive briefings from relevant UN entities about the impact of the conflict on civilians. 

Another important issue for the Council is maintaining international attention to the situation in Syria when the focus has largely shifted to other crises, such as those in Gaza and Ukraine. 

As well, a key issue is how to alleviate the growing humanitarian needs throughout the country. Council members could consider adopting a press statement calling on the international community to scale up the humanitarian response in Syria.  

The need to break the underlying political impasse in the country and support the Special Envoy’s work in this regard is another key issue. The Council could consider holding a private meeting with relevant stakeholders to discuss the impediments to the resumption of the Constitutional Committee, including the issue of venue, and support Pedersen’s efforts to reinvigorate the political process. (A private meeting is a closed, formal meeting format; unlike closed consultations, non-Council member states are allowed to participate in this format.) 

Council Dynamics  

Over the years, Syria has been one of the most divisive files on the Council’s agenda. China and Russia are supportive of the Syrian government, emphasising the need to respect the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and drawing connections between unilateral coercive measures on Syria and the challenging humanitarian and economic situations in the country. In contrast, the P3 (France, the UK, and the US) and other like-minded members criticise the government for violating international humanitarian law and human rights law, arbitrarily detaining people, not engaging meaningfully in political dialogue, and not creating conditions for the safe and voluntary return of refugees.  

Russia has consistently criticised the presence of US forces in Syria, accusing them of destabilising the country. The US maintains that its deployment of forces in the country remains focused on fighting Da’esh and has blamed Damascus for allowing Iranian-backed militias to operate in the country. 

Council members also have diverging views on normalising ties with the Syrian government. While the US and like-minded members continue to oppose engagement with the government, China and Russia have voiced support for the normalisation of ties. During the 30 May Council briefing, the US said that “[w]e remain sceptical that the Arab League’s engagement with the Syrian regime will accomplish its objectives…[and] urge[d] those engaging with the regime to do so in pursuit of the objectives of resolution 2254”.  

Switzerland is the penholder on the Syria humanitarian file. 

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Security Council Resolutions
18 December 2015S/RES/2254 This was the first resolution focused exclusively on a political solution to the Syrian crisis. It was adopted unanimously.
Secretary-General’s Reports
3 June 2024S/2024/384 This was the Secretary-General’s annual report on children and armed conflict.
Security Council Meeting Records
30 May 2024S/PV.9640 This was a meeting on the political and humanitarian situations in Syria.

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