On August 20th, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said there is a “secret directive” that prohibits UN agencies from assisting in the rebuilding of Syria until there is a “political transition,” as reported by the RT.
At first only the Russian Foreign Minister claimed of the existence of such a directive, however on August 24th, RT released a statement it had received from the Russian Foreign Ministry. The document in question is entitled “Parameters and Principles of UN Assistance in Syria.” It was issued by the UN Secretariat in October 2017 and provides guidelines for UN agencies and programs in their work with the war-torn country.
RT further reported that The Secretariat issued the paper without requesting consent or consultations with the UN Security Council or any UN member state. That didn’t happen at least at an official level, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry statement cited by the RT. Further adding that the “guidelines” document still “penetrates deeply” into the political situation in the Syrian Arab Republic, thus “going beyond the issue of simple coordination between the UN structures.”
On August 20th, the RT cited Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who said that Washington’s “absolutely destructive” stance is hampering Syria’s recovery and stops the UN from aiding the country until a “political transition” takes place.
“We addressed UNESCO on how they plan to implement the longtime talks, the longtime understanding on attracting the potential of this organization to rebuilding Palmyra,” an ancient city, regarded by the agency as a World Heritage Site, Lavrov said. “From the explanations of why UNESCO has still been unable to get involved in this process actively, we took that there was some kind of a directive from the United Nations headquarters in New York.”
Lavrov further admitted that the UN Secretariat, the organizations executive body, has “actually issued and distributed a secret directive throughout the UN system in October last year that prohibited the agencies included in this system from participating in any kind of projects aimed at restoring the Syrian economy.”
Lavrov spoke after talks with Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil in Moscow. He claimed that “only humanitarian aid and nothing more” was allowed, while speaking to journalists. “A term was put forward that restoration of Syria would only be on the agenda after a certain progress is made in the so-called political transition” in the country, he further added.
He also reminded of the talks between US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, and UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura on August 15th. That is when it was agreed that “any discussion of reconstruction was premature absent a political solution” in Syria.
Lavrov further pointed out that the US demands a “political transition” only in areas who have been liberated from “terrorists” and are controlled by the Syrian government in Damascus.
“As for the areas held by often non-constructive opposition forces, cooperating with the US… the restoration processes there is, on the contrary, in full swing. Furthermore, the US attracts a number of its allies to funding these activities,” he said.
He further commented that US actions contradict the UN Security Council resolution 2254 from 2015, which highlights the “critical need to build conditions for the safe and voluntary return of refugees… and the rehabilitation of affected area” in Syria.
Moscow is going to continue working with the countries that “understand the urgency of the proposed measures for the return of refugees and creation of necessary conditions for them,” Lavrov said. He mentioned Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey as well as the European countries which are starting to understand the necessity for “concrete steps” in Syria.
The contents of the document, which were later uncovered by the Russian Foreign Ministry in the statement to RT, include a provision that explicitly states that the UN “would be ready to facilitate reconstruction” in Syria only “once there is a genuine and inclusive political transition negotiated by the parties.” This was described as an apparent attempt to prevent the UN from assisting Syria under the circumstances, while enforcing a “politicized approach of the countries advocating a regime change.”
The directive also implicitly restricts the UN agencies’ cooperation with Damascus, the ministry said, adding that the text of the document says that “UN assistance must not assist parties who have allegedly committed war crimes or crimes against humanity.” As per RT, that targets the Syrian government, which the US and allies, have repeatedly accused of violations of international law.
The Foreign Ministry Statement further said that “If some influential [UN] donors believe that … it is time to toughen the sanctions regime against Syria, it does not necessarily mean that the UN agencies should be guided by the same irresponsible approach.”
The paper also openly states that the UN “will not promote the return of refugees.” UN assistance must be “prioritized based on the needs of the population (rather than government-driven).”
The document, as per RT, had been briefly mentioned on the UN website in a temporary job description. However, the text of the document has never been publicly presented by any UN agency.