India, which has shipped critical supplies of COVID-19 vaccines to nations globally, has said it stands ready to work with the United Nations and its agencies to ensure the doses are delivered to people of Syria facing “dire” situation compounded by the pandemic, winterisation and food insecurity.
Speaking at the UN General Assembly high-level panel on the human rights situation in Syria on Tuesday, India’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador K Nagaraj Naidu said India continues to stand with the people of Syria in the grave hour of need.
“The 10-year long Syrian conflict has brought about much suffering to the Syrian people. The country is facing a dire situation compounded by COVID-19, winterisation and food insecurity which is putting into peril the future of 17 million Syrians, including 6.2 million displaced people,” he said.
India has extended 12 million dollars in humanitarian assistance through bilateral and multilateral channels and last July, more than 10 MT (metric tonnes) of medicine supplies have been delivered to help Syria cope with the pandemic. Earlier this month, more than 2000 MT of food supplies were delivered.
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“We also stand ready to work with the UN and its agencies to ensure COVID-19 vaccines can be brought to the aid and assistance of the people of Syria,” Mr Naidu said. India’s efforts and contribution towards providing critical supplies of the COVID-19 vaccines around the world are being widely applauded, with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres hailing India for being a “global leader in pandemic response efforts” for having provided critical medicines, diagnostic kits, ventilators and personal protective equipment to more than 150 countries.
Under the initiative “Vaccine Maitri”, which translates into “Vaccine Friendship”, India is providing vaccines to the world.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had told the Security Council last month that while India is a significant source of supply to the COVAX facility, the country is also directly sending vaccines to friends and partners.
“Starting with our immediate neighbours, 25 nations across the world have already received Made in India vaccines. 49 more countries will be supplied in the coming days, ranging from Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean to Africa, South-East Asia and the Pacific Islands,” Mr Jaishankar had said.
UN General Assembly President Volkan Bozkir noted with concern at the session that a decade of death, displacement and destruction, has left the Syrian people with little hope.
“Hundreds of thousands of people have been murdered. Aerial and artillery bombardments have reduced cities to rubble. More than half of the pre-conflict population is displaced. Starvation is used as a weapon of war,” he said.
Bozkir referred to the report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, released last month, which had said “the horrors of the conflict have left no Syrian family untouched.”
Bozkir said the Syrian people have endured being held under siege, and suffered the effects, of chemical weapons attacks.
“Recent reports document the killing, torture, and inhuman treatment of people in Syria, particularly of those deprived of their liberty,” he added.
Naidu added that the latest report of the Independent International Commission of Enquiry, in addition to highlighting the human rights violations perpetrated by the parties to the conflict, points to the internationalisation of the conflict due to involvement of influential states.
“The conflict in Syria is primarily political in nature. The fact that the conflict has been so protracted and intractable, points to the inevitability of a Syrian-led and Syrian-owned political process, preserving the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria,” culminating in constitutional reform and free and fair elections.
“We call on all parties to the conflict to show political will and statesmanship to break the current impasse on the political track,” he said.
Mr Naidu also pointed the involvement of external actors in Syria has given a fillip to the growth of terrorism in Syria and in the region.
He described as extremely concerning the presence of 11,000 ISIL fighters in the North East and reports of radicalisation, training, and incitement in camps housing ISIL fighters in Syria. “It is imperative that all parties must adhere to their international obligations to fight terrorism and terrorist organisations in Syria,” he said.
He stressed that the scale, severity and complexity of humanitarian needs should provoke the collective conscience of the international community, particularly those who advocate linking of humanitarian and developmental assistance to expected outcomes on the political track.
“We appeal for an assessment of sanctions measures imposed by countries on Syria since they considerably aggravate the current situation faced by the people, especially women, children, and the elderly,” he said.
The protection of civilian life is paramount, and the blatant disregard for civilian safety runs contrary to the obligations that all parties must uphold under international humanitarian law and international human rights law, Mr Naidu said.