Steven Sahiounie, journalist and political commentator
The European Union has co-chaired with the United Nations a conference on ‘Supporting the Future of Syria and of the Region’, March 29-30. This is the fifth EU donor conference on Syria claiming to pursue a peaceful and sustainable future for all Syrians.
However, the actual focus is not on all of Syria, but only a small segment of the Syrian population. The focus is partly on a community living under the armed control of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, formerly the Al Qaeda branch in Syria, located in Idlib Province. The other focus is on Syrian refugees living outside of Syria in neighboring countries. The vast majority of Syrians neither moved to Idlib with the terrorists nor left the country as refugees. This leaves the majority of Syrians living inside Syria without international assistance and aid programs. The conference goals of the western enablers are to maintain the Syrian conflict.
The conference portrays Syria as the largest refugee crisis in the world, and claims there are 24 million people in need of humanitarian assistance in Syria and the neighboring area. While the facts are true, the conference does not offer help for the majority of Syrians who resisted the armed opposition and Al Qaeda obeyed the law and remained in their own homes throughout the 10-year conflict.
The residents of Aleppo, Damascus, Homs, Hama, and Latakia are not discussed, nor offered any assistance by the conference, which aims for donations from the international community. International donors have pledged $4.4 billion in relief to Idlib, and the rest for refugees sheltering in neighboring countries.
The governments of Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, and Egypt will be paid millions to pass on to Syrians living in those countries in the form of cash assistance, educational programs, and job training programs.
However, nothing is mentioned being supplied to the government in Damascus, which offers medical and educational services to all the residents of Syria, and who face sanctions on importing gasoline, heating fuel, medicines, medical supplies, and building materials to repair the ruins of war.
On March 29, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged the UN Security Council to reopen border crossings in Syria which had been blocked by Russia because multiple border openings are difficult to control, and the experience of US weapons pouring into Syria from Turkey for the use of the terrorists.
Blinken said world powers should be ashamed by their inaction, and added, “Look into your hearts,” he implored. “We have to find a way to do something – to take action to help people. That is our responsibility. And shame on us if we don’t.”
Blinken bears some responsibility in creating and sustaining the Syrian conflict which began in March 2011 while he served as Deputy Assistant to President Obama and National Security Advisor to Vice President Biden. Blinken supported the 2011 military intervention in Libya and the supply of weapons to Syrian armed fighters, much of which ended up in the hands of Al Qaeda and ISIS.
UN supplies can enter only at one crossing at Bab al-Hawa near Idlib. Blinken called for the reopening of closed crossings at Bab al-Salam, also on the Turkish border, and Al-Yarubiyah on the Iraqi border.
Serena Shim died in 2014 after reporting her first-hand investigation of terrorists crossing the Syrian border from Turkey with weapons supplies. The American journalist was killed in a suspicious car accident after exposing the Turkish connection with armed terrorists pouring over the border at crossings, some using the cover of international aid trucks.
Joseph Borrell at the EU tweeted on March 14 that the Syrian people continue to have the full political and humanitarian support of the EU. Though the EU referenced the need for a political solution under UN Security Council Resolution 2254, the real reason for the conference was to generate international financial support: it was a fundraiser, not a solution finder.
Besides asking for donations, the conference was urging the renewal of UN Security Council Resolution 2533 enabling humanitarian access and the cross-border delivery of assistance. The past abuse of border crossings was not discussed. The EU is a western enabler, determined to sustain a population being held as human shields, which prevents a political solution to the Syrian conflict. The US, EU, and the UN all want to feed the people in Idlib, along with their occupiers.
The UNHCR posted a statement on March 29 concerning the findings of their 2021 Needs and Response Summary, which showed some 13.4 million Syrians need humanitarian assistance and added that the COVID-19 pandemic has made a bad situation worse.
The UNHCR in Syria provides protection and in-kind or cash assistance to refugees living outside of Syria, internally displaced persons living in camps in Idlib province and camps under the occupation of the Turkish Army, people who have returned to Syria, and Palestinians who live in Syria and are termed by the UN ‘stateless people’.
The UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock said, “… sustaining the basic living standards for people in Syria is also an essential ingredient of sustainable peace.” However, he did not attempt to address the needs of the majority of Syrians who do not qualify for any UN assistance because they remained in their own homes and resisted following or supporting Radical Islam, which was the tool used by the US-EU-NATO for ‘regime change’.
Caritas Internationalis urged the international community to act during the conference “Church and Caritas: 10 years of humanitarian response in Syria”.
Secretary-General Aloysius John said in his speech that Caritas Internationalis joins the Syrian Church in asking to lift the US-EU sanctions, and increase access to services and healthcare, including COVID-19 vaccines, and ensure support to the NGO, in particular the faith-based organizations. He added the need for a negotiated peace, avoiding continued stalemate, which adds to the suffering of innocent civilians.
Cardinal Mario Zenari, Apostolic Nuncio to Syria, said at the Caritas Internationalis press conference, “It is true that bombs and rockets have not fallen on various regions of Syria for some months. However, the terrible “bomb” of poverty has exploded.”
Riad Sargi, executive director of Caritas Syria, was one of the few who appealed to the international community, saying, “The sanctions and boycott on Syria, in addition to the Caesar Act, has negatively affected the lives of Syrian citizens, especially the most vulnerable, as these sanctions hit them at the core of their daily lives so that some of them could only eat bread and drink water. The garbage containers in the streets became a source of food for the poorest.”
Archbishop Jean-Abdo Arbach, Melkite Archbishop of Homs, Hama, and Yabroud, and president of Caritas Syria, said, “We want peace, we want dialogue,” while adding that the crisis in Syria has become forgotten.
On March 21, Russian airstrikes hit a terrorist-controlled crude oil refinery. The rustic refinery received oil stolen from the Syrian oil fields under the US military occupation, where it was refined into gasoline for use by the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and the occupied population.
Syria and Russia say they only target militant Islamists and deny any indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas or deliberate attacks on hospitals and infrastructure. However, the international aid groups support field hospitals, which are houses and underground rooms converted to medical use. During a recent attack on the terrorists, it was reported seven civilians were killed in a ‘hospital’, which turned out to be a hidden underground room not identified as such. The terrorists are responsible for civilian deaths because they use them as human shields and store weapons among the civilians, who turn into collateral damage in the global war on terror.
The UN, US, and EU are committed to sustaining the occupation of Idlib, deterring refugees from returning home to Syria, and preventing the rebuilding of Syria. The title of the conference is misleading, as it does not address the future of Syria, but rather it maintains the current stalemate which prevents a peaceful solution for the millions who rejected Radical Islam as a political system. Syria has been the only secular country in the Middle East for 40 years. The majority of Syrians reject the Muslim Brotherhood which is the backbone of the US-EU-supported opposition. Forcing a sectarian ideology on the Syrian public is not democratic, but this is what the US has done in Iraq and Lebanon. This US State Department is using the ‘sect card’ as a political tool in the Middle East.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.