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
December 20, 2019


The United States of America voted against the draft resolution authored by the Russian Federation today because it mocks our values and principles; it defies the recommendation of the Secretary-General, OCHA, international NGOs; and, most importantly, it has from the start been a disingenuous attempt to keep this life-saving mechanism functioning for Syrian civilians. Russia’s goal today was simple. They wanted to score political points. They were only interested in a public spectacle, and in tarnishing this Council’s credibility. For them, this was not about saving Syrian lives. In truth, their text was never meant to be good faith compromise. From the start, Russia’s approach to this text was a cynical “take it or leave it.” This resolution failed today because failure is the outcome Russia wanted on the issue of life-saving humanitarian aid to Syria. Let the record clearly reflect that fact. Russia proposed a resolution destined to fail because they would rather see Syrian civilians starve than disappoint Bashar al-Assad.

The United States asked for five crossing points to be authorized for 12 months. This was a position informed by our values – that we have an obligation to the least of these, our brothers and sisters. We wanted more UN aid going to more Syrians through the most direct access routes available. OCHA also supported the [addition] of the fifth crossing point at Tel Abyad on the same humanitarian basis and assessment of need. We fought hard to keep four of the crossing points open on that basis – of more UN access delivery needed aid. Reluctantly, for the sake of maintaining some reasonable amount of aid flows, we were willing to compromise to authorize three crossing points for 12 months. But that compromise was not enough for the Russian Federation or for China. The veto of the co-penholders’ draft resolution shows that the their engagement on this matter was never serious. For them, this was never about saving lives or saving the UN mechanism.

To those members of the Council who argue that the humanitarian situation in Syria has changed, and that the cross-border mandate needs to reflect this change, I ask you today: Will millions of Syrians be fed by shutting off access to their only source of food? Will sick women, men, and children be healed by shutting off access to their only source of medicine? These questions answer themselves. What is not clear is how this Council’s mandate to maintain peace and security will be advanced by today’s vetoes. This is an explanation the Russians owe the Council, the people of Syria, and the international community. We know there is no credible answer that will come from those who have chosen to deny aid to millions of Syrians in need. The outcome of today’s vote is bitterly disappointing, but I want now to speak directly to the Syrian people: the United States remains committed to you. We are committed to defending the voiceless, feeding the hungry, and ensuring that the displaced and the orphaned receive the humanitarian aid they must have to survive. We are the largest humanitarian donor in the world, providing $10.5 billion to the Syrian people, and we will continue to support you.

We are proud of our principled stance to assist every Syrian in need. We will continue to shine a light on those who choose not to help. And moving forward, we will do everything in our power to support principled humanitarian assistance. As I close, I want to be absolutely clear: yes, today is a very sad day. However, today’s vote is not the end of this conversation. We will continue to press for a solution for the Syrian people. We will never cease to defend those who find themselves without food and medicine. And today, we hold onto hope – unwavering hope – that a solution will be found for the Syrian people who need us more than ever today.

Thank you.