Statement by the Special Envoy of the President of the Russian Federation for Developing Relations with the Syrian Arab Republic, Ambassador of Russia to Syria H.E. Alexander Efimov at the International Conference on Repatriating Syrian Refugees
Damascus, November 11, 2020
Despite the fact that the Syrian Arab Republic has managed to withstand the fight against international terrorism and liberate most of its territory, it still has a long way to go to overcome the grave consequences of the war. We in Russia know form our own experience how fraught that process can be – since we have been through this experience more than once.
The current situation in Syria is aggravated by several other factors. Part of its territory still remains under foreign occupation. Damascus has a limited access to its own natural resources, namely oil, gas, fresh water and fertile lands. Important transport routes have been cut so far.
Moreover, the country sustains tremendous pressure from outside in the form of political isolation and crippling sanctions. The later hinder supplies that are needed for revitalizing the economy: various types of raw materials, machinery, spare parts and many other products, including essentials. Vital external, as well as internal trade and economic ties have been disrupted. Furthermore, the existing limitations and economic downturn arising from the coronavirus pandemic have only exacerbated the above mentioned problems.
In other words, there a lot of issues. However, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that Moscow is fully aware of the essence and nature of these problems. The present Conference is one of the steps towards joining our efforts in order to solve them. A great number of representatives from Russian ministries, agencies and companies are taking part in this Forum to have a substantive and meaningful discussion of different aspects of cooperation with our Syrian partners.
Like it happened 5 years ago – when Russia provided strong and decisive military support to Syria and helped it to defend its statehood – today once again we are not abandoning our Syrian friends in their hard work to restore a peaceful life and in their uphill battle against “economic terrorism”.
Our political and military assistance is certainly going on. Russia reaffirms its commitment to the sovereignty, national unity and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic, to the Syrian people’s right to decide the future of their country by themselves. We consistently help our Syrian friends in safeguarding those principles at various international fora.
In my capacity as Special Envoy of the President of the Russian Federation for Developing Relations with the Syrian Arab Republic, I would like to focus on economic and humanitarian aspects of our cooperation. Especially, since we are talking about sustainable and voluntary return of Syrian refugees – the reconstruction of social and economic infrastructure of the country is of special priority. The future repatriates are in dire need of permanent housing and jobs. They also need to be able feed their families, provide them with medical care and education.
I would like to stress that historically our country has been supporting Syria in the most difficult moments of its history. The USSR played an exceptional role not only in strengthening the defense capabilities of Syria but also in the development of its economic potential. Many of the Syria’s key industrial facilities in various spheres were established using the equipment and spare parts produced in our country and have been maintained by Syrian specialists trained in Soviet and Russian universities.
Despite unprecedented sanctions imposed on both Syria and Russia, the economic cooperation between our countries is gaining momentum. Our goal is not limited to reaching pre-war trade and economic indicators but we also strive to achieve their further quantitative and qualitative growth in the common interests of Russian and Syrian people.
At the same time our bilateral ties are not constrained by purely commercial activities, but they also make up a significant contribution to dealing with the urgent humanitarian issues of the Syrians, to the efforts to revive their national economy.
Today our Syrian friends are in particular need of our assistance and always get it. Even in the face of difficulties and limitations caused by COVID-19, economic operators from Russia are working hard to maintain Syria’s crucial enterprises and infrastructure facilities.
Russian companies are carrying out some major investment projects in Syria as, for example, the reconstruction of the civilian section of Tartus port, modernization of Homs fertilizer plant, restoration of a number of oil and gas fields as well as processing plants. All of these projects are nothing but the key points of growth for the Syrian economy for years to come.
Thanks to these projects, job opportunities are created, additional income is generated. It also helps to build Syria’s resilience in the face of foreign sanctions, to support and stimulate the growth of other economic sectors. Anyway our primary goal is to help to build Syrian people’s confidence in the prosperous future and the country’s irreversible return to a normal and peaceful life.
A number of other perspective Russian-Syrian projects currently at various stages of planning and implementation are also being discussed nowadays. Our plans, for instance, include the restoration of up to 40 energy infrastructure facilities in Syria and development of fresh water supply systems for large cities.
Currently other options for providing economic support for Syria are also being elaborated in Moscow. I would prefer not to pre-empt upcoming events, however within the next few weeks you will see it yourself. New large-scale initiatives are on the way.
In the field of humanitarian aid let me highlight the direct deliveries of wheat to Syria in 2020 as a grant from the Russian Government.
Besides, at least three times this year Russia has sent here essentials needed to deal with COVID-19 pandemic, namely personal protection means, antiseptics, test-systems and ventilators.
Groups of Syrian children who got wounded during the conflict are sent to Russia for treatment and rehabilitation. The Syrian schools are being restored and reconstructed thanks to the funds raised in Russia. On a yearly basis we allocate 500 scholarships for Syrian students to join top Russian universities.
I also cannot fail to mention the fact that Russian aviation made a major contribution in putting out wildfires that have recently raged in Syria.
Almost since its deployment to Syria the Russian military on a regular basis have been conducting humanitarian missions including in hard-to-reach areas of the country. I will not dwell on this topic as our colleagues can report it in a more detailed way.
I would like to point out that in addition to the bilateral cooperation we actively assist Syria through the UN channels. In 2018-2020 Russia funded several projects conducted by different UN agencies in the fields of health, education, food security, agriculture and mine action which in total amount to almost 40 million dollars of contributions.
We call upon all foreign parties to follow our example. We strongly believe that the concerned states, specialized UN agencies and international NGOs should act proactively and without double standards to make a substantial and concrete contribution to the resolution the of problem of refugee return – in all its dimensions.
We regret that some of our partners could not give up their politicized approaches and boycotted the Forum. We consider the attempts to set political conditions for the issues of assistance to Syrians in restoring peaceful life and national unity, as well as to hinder resolution of the problem of millions of the Syrian citizens who cannot return to their homes – as being inhuman and non-constructive.