(Check Against Delivery)
Remarks by H.E. Mr. Motohide Yoshikawa
Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations
At the Informal Meeting of the Plenary of the General Assembly
On the Humanitarian Situation in Syria
25 February 2014
I would like to express my sincere gratitude for convening today’s meeting.
We are grateful to the Mission of Saudi Arabia for its initiative to request the President of the General Assembly to arrange a briefing session on the humanitarian situation on Syria. In light of the importance of the subject, Japan co-sponsored the Saudi proposal.
I would also like to thank the Secretary-General, Ms. Pillay, Mr. Guterres, Dr. Chan, and Ms. Kang for their briefings.
Our briefers just gave us an account of the tremendous suffering that the people of Syria endure every day. Well over 100,000 people are reported to have been killed. Nearly a quarter million people are trapped in besieged communities. More than 3 million people are still waiting for food and medicine in hard-to-reach areas.
Faced with this appalling situation, we urgently need to take action.
One of the few pieces of good news on Syria was the unanimous adoption of Security Council Resolution 2139 on Saturday, even though it was long overdue.
Japan demands that all parties, in particular the Syrian authorities, immediately cease all attacks against civilians in accordance with the resolution. They must also ensure immediate, safe and unimpeded humanitarian access to all areas affected by the conflict, including across conflict lines and across borders.
We would like to request that the Secretary-General produce a detailed report to the Security Council in 30 days, as to whether all parties, in particular the Syrian authorities, will have adhered to the obligations set by the Security Council.
Japan pledged an additional 120 million dollars at the pledging conference in Kuwait on 15 January. That has brought the total of our humanitarian assistance to 275 million dollars. Following our national Diet’s approval of the budget, my Government is now expediently proceeding with the disbursement of funds to various humanitarian agencies, including OCHA and UNHCR.
Humanitarian aid pledged in Kuwait, including ours, needs to be delivered to those in need on the ground and the full implementation of the Security Council resolution is indispensable in order for that to happen.
I have to point out that, even with international assistance, there will be no sustainable improvement in the humanitarian situation in the absence of a political solution.
In this context, we welcome the convening of the Geneva 2 conference on 22 January. Although the conference should have been convened much earlier, it was an important step in the right direction.
However, we regret that two rounds of talks between both parties in Geneva failed to achieve tangible results in moving forward the political process. The Syrian Government’s obstruction to discussions on the issue of a Transitional Governing Body made it even more difficult to make progress.
At a press conference in Geneva on 15 February, Mr. Brahimi, who made so much effort, apologized to the Syrian people that the two rounds of talks did not help them very much. He also expressed his personal hope that the two sides will come back to engage seriously on implementing the Geneva Communiqué. I would like to echo Mr. Brahimi’s sentiment and reiterate our full support for his tireless mediation efforts.
Finally, let me recall that the destruction of Syrian chemical weapons is also important as we address humanitarian and political challenges.
We are very concerned about a significant delay in the removal of priority chemicals out of Syria. Only about 11% of the chemicals have been removed from Syria according to the OPCW.
If the pace is not accelerated considerably, our common target to eliminate the Syrian chemical weapon program by the end of June will hardly be achieved. Japan urges the Syrian Government to intensify its efforts to expediently meet its elimination obligations.
I thank you, Mr. President.