Explanation of Vote on the UN Security Council Resolution on the Syria Humanitarian Cross-Border Mandate Renewal

Ambassador Kelly Craft
Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
January 10, 2020


Thank you Mr. President.  The United States abstained from this evening’s vote for one reason, and for one reason only: after months of negotiations, this text was the only path forward that would reasonably allow for the delivery of any aid at all to the Syrian people. We could not veto such a measure, as we are committed to supporting innocent Syrians to the greatest extent possible. In abstaining, we are lending a voice to four million Syrians whose welfare has been overlooked for far too long. But I want to be inescapably clear about what just happened.

What we have seen today from the Russian Federation is shocking, comprehensive indifference to human suffering. We are left with a watered-down resolution, wholly inadequate to the needs of the Syrian people, because of the unwillingness of our Russian colleagues to maintain current levels of aid flows. This resolution needlessly places the immediate futures of over one million Syrians in jeopardy. It would be easy to say we were forced into an impossible choice today—a choice between vetoing this measure in a principled stand for aid to all who need it, or sacrificing the principle to secure a small measure of aid for millions of Syrians entering the heart of winter. But this framing lets Russia off the hook far too easily, for it suggests the Council really had no other options.

In truth, we do not find ourselves in this situation because the conditions on the ground no longer allow for aid delivery; as we have heard over and over again from the UN officials, the existing cross-border aid mechanism is working. Nor are we here because of lack of willingness among the other Council members to find a way forward: my Elected-10 colleagues went to great lengths to find a solution that could provide more food and medicine to people. We find ourselves in this situation because the Russian Federation has decided to use deprivation as a weapon against the Syrian people. This is a crisis of Russia’s making. It is theirs to own.

Though we are profoundly disappointed by the intransigence of our Russian colleagues, the United States is not willing to play politics with the lives of innocent Syrians. It is the unambiguous conclusion of the UN officials that the humanitarian situation in Syria is steadily worsening. This is why the United States sought to renew all four of the crossings currently authorized by Resolution 2449, and to add a fifth crossing at Tel Abyad in northeast Syria. It is why we did not obstruct a measure to provide at least some aid to the Syrian people.

The record should reflect that any attempts to characterize the humanitarian situation as improving are gross distortions of the truth. I wish to make it clear, that consent by the Syrian authorities is not required in order for humanitarian assistance to be provided through the border crossings, as in all other prior Syria humanitarian resolutions of the Security Council.

Though we are proud of our principled stand to help every Syrian, we are bitterly disappointed at the Council’s inability to deliver what the Syrian people so plainly need. It is never right to leave even a single life hanging in the balance, but today, we have handed down this fate to one million people. Today’s action is body blow not only to the Council’s credibility, but also to its moral authority. And remember: the UN asked for—and the United States strongly supported—a 12-month extension. Tragically, in six months, we will now be here again. Will Russia try one more time to hold this Council hostage? Will we be faced, once again, with Russian attempts to further erode principled humanitarian action?

Moving forward, the United States will do everything in its power to recover the Council’s moral authority; we will not fail to remind this body of its obligation to maintain peace and security; we will not tire in our defense of humanitarian principles; and we will not cease in our work to provide every last Syrian woman, man, and child with the resources they need to survive.

Thank you.