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US Envoy: IS Extremists Resurging      07/23 06:20


   UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- The top U.N. envoy for Syria told the Security 
Council on Monday that the threat of terrorism is "resurging" with attacks by 
Islamic State extremists set to double this year, endangering civilians already 
facing a "protracted state of displacement and dire humanitarian conditions."

   U.N. Special Envoy Geir Pedersen said Syria is "riddled with armed actors, 
listed terrorist groups, foreign armies and front-lines" 13 years after 
President Bashar Assad's crackdown on peaceful protests against his government 
turned to civil war. Nearly a half million people have died in the conflict and 
half the country's pre-war population of 23 million has been displaced.

   The Islamic State group declared a self-styled caliphate in a large swath of 
territory in Syria and Iraq that it seized in 2014. It was declared defeated in 
Iraq in 2017 following a three-year battle that killed tens of thousands of 
people and left cities in ruins, but its sleeper cells remain in both countries.

   Pedersen warned the Security Council of Syria's delicate security situation.

   "The threat of regional conflict cascading over Syria has not abated, 
particularly with an uptick in Israeli strikes on Syria," Pedersen said.

   Israel has attacked targets in Syria linked to Iran for years, but the 
strikes have escalated over the past five months as the war in Gaza and 
conflict between Iran-backed Hezbollah and Israeli forces on the Lebanon-Israel 
border continue.

   U.S. deputy ambassador Robert A. Wood blamed Iran, Assad's greatest regional 
supporter, for the violence in Syria.

   "Iran and its proxies and partners have only brought death and destruction 
and do nothing to help the Syrian people," Wood said, calling on Assad to curb 
Iran's influence.

   The Syrian, Iranian, and Russian ambassadors to the U.N. strongly condemned 
Israel's strikes on Syria.

   Iranian Ambassador Amir Saeed Iravani said the attacks "flagrantly violate 
international humanitarian law" and are a "serious threat to regional peace and 
security." He said Israel's strikes add to the chaos created by Syria's civil 

   Over 16 million people in Syria currently need humanitarian assistance and 
7.2 million remain displaced in the "worst humanitarian crisis since the start 
of the conflict," Ramesh Rajasingham, coordination director in the U,N. 
humanitarian office, told the council.

   He added that "severely reduced humanitarian funding" exacerbates Syrians' 
suffering during months of extreme heat, when rainwater dries up and a lack of 
basic sanitation infrastructure increases the risk of water-borne diseases.

   In rebel-held northwest Syria, over 900,000 people, more than half children, 
are not receiving "critical water and sanitation support," Rajasingham said.

   Rajasingham and Pedersen called for increased humanitarian access to Syria 
and international funding. The 2024 U.N. humanitarian appeal for $4 billion 
remains only 20% funded, "seriously constraining" humanintarian work, 
Rajasingham said.

   On the political front, Pedersen urged the Security Council to pursue 
Syrian-led peace negotiations with the involvement of "all major international 
stakeholders," in line with a unanimously adopted 2015 resolution by the 

   "The conflict is ultimately a political one that can only be resolved when 
the Syrian parties are able to realize their legitimate aspirations," Pedersen 

   Last week, Syria announced that all 185 candidates from Assad's Baath party 
won parliamentary seats in the country's elections, a seven-seat increase to 
the party's majority.

   Pedersen said the elections are "not a substitute" for the political process 
outlined in the 2015 Security Council resolution, while Wood called the 
elections a "sham" and a "rubber stamp on Bashar Al-Assad's continued 

   Wood said the U.S. "will not normalize relations with the Syrian regime or 
lift sanctions absent an authentic and enduring political solution."

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