Syria Draft Press Statement
For several days Council members have been trying to agree on a press statement on the ongoing siege of Homs by the Syrian government. A draft press statement was first circulated by Australia and Luxembourg on Tuesday evening (2 July) and placed under silence until 10 am Wednesday (3 July). Russia, which had asked for an extension of the silence period until 10 am Thursday (4 July), has broken silence twice, requesting amendments to the text. A few hours ago , the draft press statement was withdrawn due to continuing differences among Council members.
The language in the original draft text appears to have been taken largely from the 7 June Council press statement which expressed grave concern about heavy fighting in Al-Qusayr, called for unhindered humanitarian access and emphasised accountability (SC/11028). However, the Al-Quasyr press statement was only agreed to once the fighting there was over.
It seems that Russia had voiced objection to citing the number of civilians trapped in Homs. In addition it appears that Russia had insisted on including language on the threat to civilians in Nubul and Zahra, Shiite towns in the northern province of Aleppo which the Syrian opposition has threatened to seize. Other Council members were not comfortable with the suggested amendments which resulted in the revised draft circulated yesterday containing more general language on ongoing hostilities rather than naming the two towns. It seems that Russia was unable to accept this and broke silence for the second time this morning, apparently insisting on the inclusion of its original amendments
Other aspects of the draft press statement appear less controversial. Like the Al-Quasyr press statement, this draft press statement on the fighting in Homs apparently called upon the Syrian government to facilitate immediate, safe and unhindered access for humanitarian actors and urged all parties in Syria to protect civilians and avoid civilian casualties while recalling the primary responsibility of the Syrian government in this regard. It seems that it also emphasised that those responsible will be held accountable.
The developments in Homs and the attempt by Council members to agree on a press statement come at a time when Valerie Amos, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, was unable to visit Syria while she was in the region earlier this week because the Syrian government indicated her dates were not “convenient”. She is, however, likely to brief the Council later this month on her 1-2 July visit to Lebanon. She last briefed the Council under “any other business” on 20 June when she reported that humanitarian access to Syria had been denied or delayed for many months and there had been an increasing use of siege tactics by the parties. She also called on the Council to consider alternative forms of aid delivery, including cross-border operations.
On 2 July the Secretary-General issued a press statement calling on the warring sides to do their most to avoid civilian casualties and to allow immediate humanitarian access and allow trapped civilians to leave. The Secretary-General’s press statement also expressed his concern over threats to seize the two towns in the northern province of Aleppo.