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Confidence building critical to break Syria political deadlock

Hygiene kits are distributed to families displaced by the earthquakes in northwestern Syria in February (file photo).
© UNICEF/Joe English
Hygiene kits are distributed to families displaced by the earthquakes in northwestern Syria in February (file photo).

Confidence building critical to break Syria political deadlock

Peace and Security

A comprehensive solution to the Syrian conflict remains elusive, the UN Special Envoy for the country said on Wednesday, calling for “concrete moves” and confidence-building measures to break the impasse.

Briefing the UN Security Council in New York, Geir Pedersen urged political leaders and the international community to act now to “arrest the downward slide in Syria” as suffering and the sense of hopelessness among the population deepens.

Deliver hope

“We cannot simply accept the status quo, because it will get worse and worse, it could well unravel, and this will lead to new challenges” he warned.  “We need the political process to start to deliver on the ground and to deliver hope.”

Mr. Pedersen said the deadlock can be attributed to several factors, including “gaps of political will, the distance between substantive positions of the parties, deep distrust, and the challenging international climate.”

Moving forward will require “a shift in mindset”, he said, as “the Syrian parties and all key international actors need to entertain compromise in a more fundamental way”.

‘Recipe for disaster’

The Special Envoy said the way forward “would see real confidence building via mutual and reciprocal steps” to address protection and livelihood concerns.

The step-by-step process would also result in a gradual deepening of a Syrian-owned and led constitutional dialogue and greater engagement with civil society.

“If this path is not taken, the alternative is not a grim but containable status quo. It is not a miraculous change for the better from the perspective of this or that Syrian party,” he warned.

“It is, rather, a future of deterioration across humanitarian, security, and institutional fronts, with significant implications for all. That is a recipe for disaster for the Syrian people and the region.”

Lifesaving aid delivery resumes

The political impasse is playing out against a backdrop of ongoing violence, economic decline and staggering humanitarian needs.

Furthermore, escalating hostilities in the north represent some of the most serious threats to the relative calm that has prevailed since 2020.

Edem Wosornu, a senior official with the UN humanitarian agency, OCHA, pointed to a positive development – the resumption last week of aid deliveries into northwest Syria from Türkiye via the Bab al-Hawa border crossing.

Bab al-Hawa closed in July after the Security Council failed to reach consensus on two competing resolutions which would have renewed the main aid corridor.

Ms. Wosornu reported that 65 trucks have now made the crossing in all, carrying health and nutrition items and other vital relief supplies for more than two million.

“We expect many more trucks to cross into the northwest in the coming days and weeks,” she added.

Families going hungry

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people have been temporarily displaced by the renewed hostilities in northern Syria.  Many are sleeping in the open as camps are overcrowded. Civilian casualties were also reported, including women and children.

Additionally, 23 people were killed, and many more injured, in fighting in the northeast late last month. Tens of thousands were displaced, while those who remained faced shortages of food and medicines.

Ms. Wosornu said across Syria, families are struggling amid the deepening economic crisis, and as the price of food and other essentials has nearly doubled.

Painful choices

The situation is unfolding amid a sharp decline in the resources available for the humanitarian response, as the 2023 Humanitarian Response Plan for Syria remains less than 30 per cent funded.

As a result, many humanitarian agencies are being forced to make painful decisions, she said, such as slashing food assistance, halving rations, and cutting or scaling back essential programmes.