Statement of United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Mr. Geir O. Pedersen
Yesterday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres appealed to warring parties throughout the world for an immediate ceasefire to enable the human family to tackle a common enemy – COVID-19.
Today, I am appealing specifically for a complete, immediate nationwide ceasefire throughout Syria to enable an all-out-effort to suppress COVID-19 in Syria.
Syrians are acutely vulnerable to COVID-19.
Healthcare facilities have been destroyed or are degraded.
There is a shortage of key medical equipment and health professionals.
Internally displaced persons and refugees, as well as detainees and abductees, are living in conditions that are especially dangerous.
I have real concerns for the impact on Syrian women, who are already at the forefront of existing health and community support systems.
This common threat knows no boundaries. It does not discriminate.
It does not care whether you live in areas controlled by the Syrian government or other areas.
It endangers all Syrians.
To confront this danger, the long-suffering Syrian people desperately need a sustained period of calm throughout the country respected by all parties.
Recent ceasefire agreements have de-escalated violence in northeast and northwest Syria, and this is welcome.
But these remain fragile and renewed violence could erupt at any moment.
This would have dire implications for Syria and for the global response to COVID-19 at large.
That is why a nationwide ceasefire - which I have long called for and is a foundation of Security Council resolution 2254 - is needed now more than ever - and why it must be respected by all parties.
Meanwhile, measures are being implemented in areas controlled by the government to address this crisis.
And actions are also being taken by de facto authorities in areas outside government control.
It is essential that such efforts are scaled up now.
There is not a day to lose.
I also appeal on humanitarian grounds for large scale releases of detainees and abductees.
There must also be immediate access for relevant humanitarian organizations to all detention facilities, and urgent steps to ensure adequate medical care and protective measures in all places of detention.
International donors will need to fully support humanitarian efforts and respond to UN appeals.
They will also need to do whatever must be done so that Syrians in all parts of the country have access to the equipment and resources needed to combat the virus and treat patients. Nothing should impede this.
Full, sustained and unimpeded humanitarian access to all parts of the country will be key.
And all modalities will be needed to deliver humanitarian assistance and scale up prevention and protection.
To implement the nationwide ceasefire and help Syrians respond to the COVID-19 crisis, I am ready to work with the Government of Syria and the opposition and all relevant players on the ground, as well as key countries with weight and influence who can support a scaling-up of action and ensure that the ceasefire holds.
Our common humanity demands that we act now so that the Syrian people are spared further fighting and that we combat this new threat to Syrians and to our world.
Let’s end the violence, work together to combat COVID-19 in Syria, and work to move ahead on a political way out of the crisis in Syria.
Geneva, 24 March 2020