Syria’s Raqqa devastated, ‘de-facto occupied & run by a gang of incompetents’ – Russia’s UN envoy
On average, an estimated 50 people a week are being killed in Raqqa, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator told members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), noting that virtually nothing is being done for some 100,000 repatriates who have returned to the destroyed city.
“Conditions are not conducive for return, due to a high level of unexploded ordnance and improvised explosive device (IED) contamination, and widespread and severe infrastructural damage and the lack of basic services,” Mark Lowcock said, reporting on the UN team’s findings after its April 1 visit to the Syrian city. “Up to 95 percent of households who have returned to Raqqa are food-insecure. Health services are lacking or severely limited.”
Noting that between 70-80 percent of buildings in Raqqa are “destroyed or damaged,” Lowcock called on the countries to act and help the residents of the city once proclaimed as the unofficial capital of the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorist caliphate and later “liberated” by the US-led international coalition.
The situation in Raqqa, destroyed during a four-month battle that ended in October 2017, remains “disastrous,” Ambassador to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia said on Tuesday, after Moscow requested holding an open UN Security Council briefing on the humanitarian situation in Raqqa and the Rukban refugee camp on the border with Jordan.
“Rebuilding the city that was destroyed by airstrikes is not taking place. People have been returning at their own risk and are often being killed by mines and IEDs,” Nebenzya noted, reaffirming the observations voiced by Lowcock.
“American occupation hasn’t brought anything positive to the inhabitants. The only effective solution to the current situation is to reestablish state structures in Raqqa,” the envoy added, noting that people in the “de-facto occupied territory” have started to protest against the US presence there.
The city, recaptured by the Syrian Democratic Forces, is now under the loose control of the US-supported militias. Reconstruction of Raqqa and its suburbs is being carried out through a network of local councils, which Nebenzia called a gang of “completely incompetent people.”
“How can we entrust them with people’s safety and security?” he asked. “Raqqa is in ruins. Literally, there isn't a building left standing. Thousands of bodies are still buried under the ruins.”
The Russian ambassador condemned the American-led intervention in Syria, noting that the April 14 strikes by the US-France-UK “troika” only set back the reconciliation process in a country ravished by a seven-year-old war. Moscow believes that there is no military solution to the Syrian conflict and that countries must work together to aid the peace process.
“By their acts of aggression, the troika, and those who supported or welcomed their actions considerably set back Geneva negotiations,” the diplomat said. “If the goal is to force the Syrian President under a hail of bombs to sit at the negotiation table, presented as a victory over him...such a task is not feasible...there should be no illusions.”
The Russian ambassador urged all states to stop attempts to create “new realities” in Syria that undermine its sovereignty and territorial integrity. Nebenzia also demanded that the US and its allies stop “aggressive hatred rhetoric” addressed at Syria and Russia, and to cut out requests calling for regime change in Damascus. Militants, for their part, must refrain from provocations, including the use of chemical weapons, and drop attempts to provoke further “external aggression,” he added.
Meanwhile, the US called the UN meeting a farce, orchestrated by Moscow in an attempt to “distract” the international community from Bashar Assad’s crimes.
“Russia has called us here as part of a messaging campaign to try to distract from the atrocities committed by the regime,” deputy US Ambassador to the UN, Kelley Currie, said. “In order to do that, Russia has asked this council to focus its attention on the one part of Syria where the Assad regime isn't pummeling civilians to death with barrel bombs or banned chemical weapons.”
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