Delivered By: His Excellency Mohamed Abushahab, Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative
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We thank Mr. Geir Pedersen and Mr. Martin Griffiths for their important briefings today. We also thank Ms. Rasha Muhrez, for her touching briefing and we express our sincere condolences to her and all those affected by the earthquake.
The people of Syria went through tragic devastation this month. In addition to the 12-year war and the worsening humanitarian situation in Syria, the earthquake inflicted additional hardship and distress, killing and injuring tens of thousands of people, turning historical cities with ancient civilizations into a pile of rubble, and leaving families displaced and children orphaned.
While the peoples of Syria and Türkiye are struggling to pull themselves together and heal from the catastrophic earthquake that struck their countries earlier this month, the second earthquake on 20 February imposed further suffering on millions of people. We once again extend our sincere condolences to those affected and reiterate our support and solidarity with them.
During these difficult conditions, the spirit of international solidarity was present in support of the Syrian people. Arab efforts were at the forefront of this support, as reflected by the number of Arab countries reaching out to Syria in the recent period as well as the support of the Arab people for their Syrian brothers. This reaffirms the need to bring the Syrian Arab Republic back into the Arab fold. In this context, the UAE’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, made an urgent visit to Syria and Türkiye in the aftermath of the earthquake, where he saw firsthand the extensive destruction and suffering across affected areas.
In light of the current situation, I would like to highlight the following issues:
First, the international humanitarian response to Syria must be urgently intensified by every possible means to reach all those affected. In this context, the UAE welcomes the Syrian government’s decision to open two additional crossings for a period of three months in response to the urgent needs resulting from the earthquake. This critical step enabled the transfer of thousands of tons of humanitarian assistance across the Syrian-Turkish border. We also welcome what Mr. Martin said regarding the continuous and unimpeded delivery of aid from the three crossings.
On our part, the UAE’s response is in line with its foreign policy principles, which are centered on assisting those in need around the world. To this end, the UAE launched a humanitarian operation with the aim of sending relief and medical aid to Syria and Türkiye, including through the deployment of search and rescue teams and the construction of field hospitals. In addition, the UAE extended an aid package with over 200 million USD for both countries, including 20 million USD allocated to support the UN Flash Appeal for Syria. The UAE is also facilitating an air bridge consisting of more than 100 flights to transport urgent relief supplies and medical support as well as an additional air bridge to Syria from the International Humanitarian City in Dubai for flights operated by the United Nations and international organizations.
Secondly, we affirm the need to expedite the removal of debris and to begin with early recovery phase in all affected areas by the earthquake which suffer from huge shortage of basic services and lack of shelter. This requires providing heavy equipment’s and raw materials to restore the infrastructure and rebuild what was demolished. We appreciate the efforts by the United Nations agencies in supporting early recovery projects, we also believe that the focus now should be on the affected areas.
Thirdly, we must remain vigilant as terrorist groups continuously seek to exploit fragile situations to achieve their targets. While we were all preoccupied on the disastrous effects of the earthquake, terrorist groups obstructed the cross-line delivery of aid to achieve narrow gains at the expense of the Syrian people. In this context, we reiterate our categorical rejection of these actions, which reflects the dangerous exploitation of the current disaster. The current situation requires stepping up the scale and frequency of cross-line aid delivery, in order to meet current needs without any obstacles by terrorist groups.
We are also deeply concerned about the reported increase in cases of kidnapping and killing over the past few weeks by the terrorist group Da’esh. In this context, we condemn Da’esh’s terrorist attacks carried out in eastern Homs, which killed 53 people. These attacks reflect terrorist groups’ reckless exploitation of disasters.
In conclusion, Mr. President, while this tragic earthquake is one of the largest natural disasters in history and will long remain a painful memory in our minds. We continue to show solidarity with the Syrian people at this difficult time.