Ambassador Kelly Craft
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
July 7, 2020
Today the United States voted in favor of Belgium and Germany’s draft resolution to renew the UN Security Council’s authorization of the cross-border humanitarian life-line into northwest Syria. In the midst of a global pandemic, this draft resolution would have made it possible for the United Nations and its implementing partners to continue to provide life-saving humanitarian aid through the Bab al-Hawa and Bab al-Salaam border crossings in northwest Syria, reaching nearly three million people over the next year.
Although the resolution falls short of meeting the needs of the millions of Syrian people who rely on humanitarian assistance, the United States supported it because we will not play a game of dangerous brinkmanship at the behest of Russia and at the expense of Syrian lives. If adopted, this draft resolution would have provided reassurance to the Syrian people who rely on UN cross-border shipments for food, shelter, and medicine that they will not go hungry for the next year, that they will have tents and blankets to protect them against the summer heat or the winter cold, and that they will have immunizations for infants and support for those fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. In short, it would have saved lives.
We vote today with the overwhelming majority of Council members to take a principled humanitarian stand in support of the UN’s impartial, apolitical, and needs-based recommendation to this Council to re-authorize the existing cross-border mechanism – two crossings in the northwest – for 12 months. This is, more importantly, a vote for the Syrian people in Idlib, Azaz, Tel Rifat, and throughout northwest Syria, people who have reason to expect that the UN Security Council will act in the interests of innocent civilians.
Unfortunately, the Council failed the Syrian people today. Through its vetoes today, Russia and China have chosen to ignore the facts on the ground and disregard the call for collective Council action to respond to the worsening humanitarian crisis in Syria. On numerous occasions over the past several months, the Council has received actionable information from trusted, credible, and impartial sources – including the Secretary General – who have described in great and tragic detail the severity of the humanitarian situation in Syria and the insufficiency of cross-line assistance to meet the needs of the Syrian people.
To be clear, there is no alternative to the UN’s cross-border operations through the Bab al-Hawa and Bab al-Salaam crossing points. In his second UNSCR 2504 mandated report released on May 13, 2020, Secretary-General Guterres wrote on the northwest, it is “simply impossible to replicate with cross-line assistance what is being delivered through the cross-border operation.” The report further noted that: “This must entail a renewal of the cross-border authorization for the use of Bab al Salaam and Bab al Hawa crossings for an additional 12 months.” As Under-Secretary-General Mark Lowcock noted in his remarks before the Council just last week, cross-border assistance into northwest Syria provides a critical lifeline for 2.8 million of the most vulnerable people in all of Syria. The Under-Secretary-General rightly called for cross-border assistance to be scaled up, and noted that a failure to renew the resolution would undoubtedly cause suffering and death.
There is no justification for Russia’s and China’s veto today, and this action cannot be spun into false choices between humanitarian aid, sovereignty, and sanctions. Put simply, rather than voting to save the lives of the Syrian people, Russia and China voted today to save Assad. We should all be saddened, outraged, and more determined than ever to hold Russia and China accountable as an accomplice to Assad’s reign of death and destruction.
The United States fundamentally believes that this draft resolution actually did not go far enough. A temporary re-authorization of the al-Yaroubia border crossing in the northeast is warranted, but this was a principled compromise in light of Russia’s politically motivated rejection of any consideration of re-opening al-Yaroubia.
The United States remains committed to helping the voiceless, the hungry, the displaced, and the orphaned receive the humanitarian aid they require to survive. As the largest humanitarian donor in the world, the United States has provided more than $11.3 billion to displaced and conflict-affected Syrians in Syria and the region. During the COVID-19 crisis, the United States has been working tirelessly with partners on the ground to combat the virus. We are proud of our principled stance to help every Syrian in need, regardless of location or affiliation.
Just this morning, I had the opportunity to speak with a brave and bright young woman in Idlib, who shared with me the story of her family and articulated the real human costs on the ground of failing to renew access to these border crossings. I promised her I would carry her with me into this vote in the Council today, that I would carry her voice, her story, and her family’s story with me.
I hope my Council colleagues remember that this vote is not just a bureaucratic procedure to be filed away, but that there are millions of families and lives counting on our action. We have a moral obligation to ensure our actions here today spare these lives. And to repeat – we have failed them.