Delivered by Gerard van Bohemen, Permanent Representative of New Zealand to the United Nations, 25 July 2016.

Thank you Mr. President, and I thank Stephen O’Brien for his briefing.

As Stephen O’Brien has described, the humanitarian situation in Syria is devastating. The numbers verge on incomprehensible; although we know that for Syrians their ordeal is all too real.

And as Mr O’Brien has confirmed, despite the improvements that have been made in recent months in relation to access, the overall humanitarian situation is worse. This humanitarian catastrophe is not just a product of indifference by the parties and their backers to the suffering of the Syrian people. In many cases it is deliberate. Humanitarian access is manipulated for military advantage. Hospitals are routinely targeted. The fight against terrorism is used to justify indiscriminate attacks on civilians and any group that opposes the regime.

It is completely unacceptable that ‘siege and starvation’ continues to be employed as a method of warfare.

The recent closure of Castello Road is particularly concerning, putting up to 300,000 more civilians in eastern Aleppo at risk of starvation. In this regard, we fully endorse Stephen O’Brien’s call for a 48 humanitarian pause, in and around Aleppo.

It is also unacceptable that civilian neighbourhoods are being shelled and medical facilities bombed.

In many cases it appears they are deliberately targeted, in blatant violation of international law and Council Resolution 2286.

As we have heard, five medical clinics were hit in Aleppo province on 24 July alone.

The growing humanitarian situation on the Jordan-Syria border is also of great concern. Over 100,000 people are now in need of ongoing assistance.

It is a bleak picture; bleaker still because every bomb and blockade takes us further away from the political solution to this brutal conflict.

There has been progress. We acknowledge Syria’s positive response to the United Nations’ June and July plans.

We welcome the efforts of the United States and Russia, as humanitarian co-leads for the International Syria Support Group, to get aid to the people who need it. We acknowledge the extensive effort that Russia has been making on the ground to facilitate access and to ensure that agreements made by the Syrian regime are kept.

But while the level of approvals in July represents a slight improvement, it still only provides for assistance to less than fifty percent of Syrians in need.

And that’s if all the aid gets through, which it regularly does not.

Too often we see the Syrian Government using administrative obstacles to block humanitarian access.

We agree with the Secretary General that humanitarian access must not be a one-off or occasional event. It cannot be limited to particular segments of the population or specific kinds of aid. It is not a favour, or a bargaining chip for negotiations. It is an obligation under international law.

There are 5.47 million people living in besieged, hard to reach and priority cross-line locations. Providing intermittent, symbolic access to a few of these areas each month is not enough.

We call on the Syrian Government to fully implement the July plan, based on the needs assessment conducted by the United Nations.

The continued removed of items, including medical supplies is unacceptable. What possible justification can there be for removing paediatric kits and diarrheal disease sets from convoys?

We also call on all parties to the conflict to take all feasible measures to protect civilians, as required under international humanitarian law and reaffirmed in various Council resolutions, including resolution 2258, in order to safeguard the lives of all civilians living in Aleppo city and elsewhere in Syria.

We all need to pressure the parties and their backers to prioritise ending the suffering of the Syrian people over their own narrow aims.

This means getting the cessation of hostilities back on track, ending the brutal and cynical attacks on civilians and hospitals, and getting humanitarian assistance to the millions that need it.

Tangible improvements on the ground are a humanitarian imperative.

They can also help create the space and momentum needed for a successful resumption of intra-Syrian talks and progress towards the sustainable political resolution to this conflict that the Syrian people so desperately need.

I thank you.