Statement Attributable to the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Mr. Geir O. Pedersen on Anniversary of Earthquakes in Turkiye and Syria

A year ago, thousands of Syrians in Syria and Türkiye perished after devastating earthquakes, and millions fled their destroyed homes. This disaster came on top of more than a decade of conflict and suffering, compounding the tragedy of the Syrian people inside and outside and on both sides of conflict lines.

A year on, we remember those who died, and pay tribute to all those – especially Syrians on the ground and aid agencies – who responded in solidarity, and who have this past year worked tirelessly in difficult conditions. The earthquakes struck at a time when humanitarian needs were enormous, and they have only grown since. Continued backing for the humanitarian operation in Syria remains essential, including initiatives for early recovery.

After the earthquakes, we saw the lowest level of hostilities in a decade, and fresh diplomatic attention to the Syrian tragedy. This however did not translate into real progress. Tragically, 2023 later saw the worst eruptions of violent conflict in years, further exacerbating the worsening humanitarian situation, and a lack of meaningful progress on the political process.

Ongoing and alarming spillover from regional developments remind us, just as the earthquakes did a year ago, that Syrians are acutely vulnerable. I urge all parties to take concrete measures to lower tensions and consider the human and economic costs of a broader conflict in an already volatile region. The Syrian people need the hope and protection that can be provided by de-escalation from all key actors, calm on the ground, genuine assistance to all in need, and a political path forward to restore their unity and meet their aspirations in line with Security Council resolution 2254 (2015).

Geneva, 6 February 2024

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