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UK condemns Russia for protecting Syrian Regime

A girl pose for a photo outside tents in an informal tented settlement, near Alqah village, close to the Syrian-Turkish border, northwest Syria, 30 December 2019.Since December 2019, an escalation in violence affecting southern rural Idlib, has forced nearly 300,000 people to flee their homes in Maarrat An-Numan and other towns in the area. Eighty per cent are estimated to be women and children. Displaced families have headed north towards safer parts of Idlib, seeking refuge at schools and mosques turned into collective shelters, or in informal tented settlements near the border with Turkey. As temperatures continue to drop, the newly-displaced families are facing a harsh winter, living in extremely basic conditions and struggling to keep their children warm. As violence in northwest Syria and displacement continue, children and families’ humanitarian needs are getting more acute by the day. UNICEF reiterates that the protection of children and the civilian infrastructure they rely on in northwest Syria and across the country must always be protected by all parties to the conflict.

I thank USG Nakamitsu for her excellent briefing, as ever.

As we discussed last month, the Douma report is further confirmation of Syria’s disdain for its basic obligations under international law.

We again commend the Investigation and Identification Teams’ integrity, impartiality and professionalism in reaching its conclusions through rigorous scientific methodology.

The Douma report has also further exposed Syria and Russia’s repeated attempts to discredit and undermine the OPCW to protect the Assad regime from accountability. Their reprehensible scapegoating of the White Helmets is aimed at deflecting attention. The White Helmets’ life-saving work has been demonstrated time and again, including during the recent earthquake response.

President, it is also worth noting that today marks five years since two Russian GRU agents carried out a chemical weapons attack in the UK killing a British citizen and injuring others. It is, therefore, perhaps not just the Assad regime that it is attempting to protect.

President, Douma represents the ninth attributed instance of chemical weapons use by the Assad regime. Given this consistent pattern of behaviour and without progress on any of Syria’s outstanding declaration issues, we cannot exclude the possibility that the Assad regime might use chemical weapons again.

As we have said many times, the outstanding issues on Syria’s declaration are neither academic nor historic. While Syria continues to fail to comply with its obligations under the CWC, its chemical weapons programme presents an ongoing threat to international peace and security. It is therefore incumbent on this Council to continue to discuss the matter and to continue to bring pressure on Syria to cooperate with the OPCW.