“It is deeply troubling that, for over a year, the intra-Syrian political process has been in deep freeze,” he said, speaking via videoconference. “A political process is the right of the Syrian people they are entitled to chart their own destiny.”
Mr. Pedersen said Syrians both inside and outside the country continue to suffer severely from the conflict, now in its 12th year, “and the absence of a genuine political process is deeply detrimental to their well-being.”
Collapsing economy, rising prices
He pointed to the further collapse of the Syrian economy as one indicator of this immense suffering. Last week, the Syrian pound hit an all-time low of 15,500 to the United States dollar, compared with 47 pounds to the dollar in 2011.
Prices for food, medicine, fuel and other essential goods are “spiralling out of control”, he added, and many families are struggling to get enough to eat.
Meanwhile, Syria also continues to confront challenges in areas such as displacement, detentions, human rights abuses and terrorism, in addition to the de facto division of the country, which is undermining its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Suffering will worsen
“The tragic reality is that, for as long as violent conflict continues, and the political process is blocked, the suffering of the Syrian people will simply get worse. Syria cannot fix its economy while it is in a state of conflict. And this applies to the many other crises that ravage Syria,” he said.
He stressed that moving towards implementing Security Council resolution 2254 is the only way to begin addressing the many crises afflicting Syria.
The 2015 resolution endorsed a road map for a peace process and set timetables for UN-facilitated talks between the Government and the opposition, and a nationwide ceasefire.
Aid access welcomed
Turning to humanitarian developments, Mr. Pedersen welcomed the recent decision to re-open the Bab al-Hawa border crossing with Türkiye, allowing aid to reach millions in northwest Syria – the last opposition stronghold – for another six months.
He also hailed the extension of authorization for the UN to use two other crossings, Bab al-Salam and Al- Ra’ee, for an additional three months, which were opened following the devastating earthquakes that struck the two countries in February.
Syria also consented for humanitarians to cross the lines within the country at two northwestern cities, Sarmada and Saraqib, for aid delivery over the next six months.
Humanitarian funding shortfall
“It is indeed essential that the UN and its partners continue providing cross-border humanitarian assistance, at the necessary scale and in a principled manner that allows engagement with all parties, for the purposes of seeking humanitarian access, and in a manner that safeguards the UN’s operational independence,” he said.
The Special Envoy also called for increased support for humanitarian operations in Syria. A $5.4 billion plan for operations this year is only around 25 per cent funded, while another to support Syrian refugees in the region is only 10 per cent funded.
In concluding his remarks, Mr. Pedersen reiterated the need for a political process, adding that everyone is paying a heavy price for the conflict, though mostly the Syrian people.
“As international attention and funding for Syria wane, the situation will become ever more unsustainable,” he warned. “The only path out of this is a political process that involves the Syrian parties themselves, in line with resolution 2254.”