Remarks at a Side Event with UN Member States and Civil Society on the 10th Anniversary of the Syrian Conflict

Ambassador Richard Mills
Deputy U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
March 19, 2021


Let me join others in thanking Liechtenstein and Qatar for organizing this event. The United States is very pleased to co-sponsor, as well.

Let me just open by saying, as always, my German colleague Christof has spoken frankly and spoken truth to power to all of us here, and I certainly want to affirm my support for the remarks he’s just made about the dynamics in the Council and who is enabling the Syrian regime to survive.

Just to be quick, I thought I’d respond to some of the comments that were made in the very useful and practical briefings that I heard over the last hour.

First, Dima’s point. Let me reiterate the United States’ position remains unchanged: the only way to end the conflict is a political solution in accordance’s with Security Council Resolution 2254. And we have continuously called on the regime – and, most importantly, it’s enabler in the Council – to stop obstructing the UN’s efforts to advance the peace process in accordance with the resolution.

I also wanted to flag the importance that we share on the IIM, in an effort to have accountability and to use that mechanism to collect evidence so that there can be long term accountability for the crimes over the last 10 years.

The United States argues hard for the continued viability of the IIM in the Council and to have it funded in the 5th Committee in the UN.

I appreciated Hiba and Mohammed’s comments, in particular, about detainees. On the issue of detainees and missing persons, some of you may have heard Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield – the Perm. Rep. for the United States -– on Monday in the Council where we highlighted this issue. And we pressed for the UN and for the Special Envoy to give detainees and their families higher attention, and to reach out to the families, in particular.

The United States continues to fund UNITAD. Unfortunately, because of the security situation, most of its work is done in Iraq and not in Syria, but we stand ready to expand and fund UNITAD’s efforts exhume graves, account for the detainees, and we hope that it can expand its work to Syria soon.

I would also say that there was mention of the cross-border humanitarian aid, and we share the concern of others – including Richard Gowan – that this doesn’t look good. We will be pressing to maintain at least the one cross-border humanitarian crossing that’s in place – and that was authorized last year – when the renewal comes up for July. We will ask and we will press the Council to consider additional crossing measures as needed. The COVID pandemic makes it even more clear.

But we need civil society’s help. We need civil society to be talking to the people on the Council who are against this, and we need your voices to be heard. So, I would just make that appeal from our side.

I’ll just end by saying that we, as a nation, the United States very much appreciates and welcomes the work of all of the civil society groups that are active on Syria – especially those working on accountability, and reconciliation, and a political process forward.

We don’t want the regime’s abuses, its horrible atrocities, to be forgotten, and we don’t want Syrian people to endure another year of this. So we commend you all for the work you’re doing. And a lot of the ideas I’ve heard, a lot of the suggestions today – especially on detainees – I’ll take back to Washington, and I appreciate people speaking frankly about what they would like to see.

Thank you, Nicola.