Remarks at a UN Security Briefing on the Political Situation in Syria Richard Mills
Deputy U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
January 26, 2022


Thank you, Madam President.  Thank you, Special Envoy Pedersen, for your tireless and ongoing efforts to find a political solution to this protracted and devastating conflict. And a special thanks to Ms. Thuraya Hijazi. Though it can often be painful to hear, and the message is often pointed, we applaud Syrian civil society actors, like yourself, for their courageous work. The United States also supports the engagement of the Women’s Advisory Board, and we call for implementation of Resolution 1325 and the women, peace, and security agenda.

As we approach the 11th anniversary of the Syrian uprising, the United States stands with the Syrian people, and continues to advance multiple objectives to pursue a peaceful and lasting solution to the conflict.

First of these objectives is sustaining the United States and Coalition campaign to prevent the resurgence of ISIS, which we view as a cornerstone of our counterterrorism efforts in the region.  The ongoing situation at the detention center in Hasakah, which Geir referenced, is a stark reminder that ISIS remains a real threat.

The second objective is sustaining local ceasefires across the country, which is key to keeping the levels of violence down throughout Syria.

Third, we are working to support the expansion of full, unhindered humanitarian access throughout Syria.  We will continue to urge the Council not just to re-authorize Bab al-Hawa, but to reopen border crossings at al-Yaroubiyah and Bab al-Salaam to allow access for the delivery of humanitarian assistance.  These actions are essential to meeting the ever-growing emergency needs of the Syrian people across the country.

Fourth, the United States continues to press for accountability, particularly for chemical weapons violations, crimes against humanity and war crimes, and respect for human rights.

Finally, we are working to support a political process, one led by the Syrian people, as envisioned and agreed by this Council in Resolution 2254.  As the Special Envoy has indicated, it is only through this inclusive political process, and the participation of the Syrian people, that we can reach a durable solution to this conflict.

Special Envoy, we understand some states have offered less than constructive comments about your efforts to advance political dialogue. Last week, regime Foreign Minister Mekdad publicly stated that “the steps-for-steps model as a way to resolve the crisis in Syria is unacceptable for us.”  We encourage all stakeholders, especially the direct parties to the conflict, to support your efforts to facilitate a political resolution to the crisis in Syria.

We share the Special Envoy’s frustration with the lack of progress in the Syrian Constitutional Committee and agree that any future meetings of the small drafting group should be based on an agreement between the sides on the modalities for discussing draft texts and their revisions.  We are disappointed with the Assad regime participants’ unwillingness to make progress toward this end, including in the sixth round.

We remain deeply concerned about the tens of thousands of Syrians believed to be arbitrarily detained or forcibly disappeared by the Assad regime. Special Envoy Pedersen, we encourage you to focus on promoting large-scale and unconditional detainee releases in coordination with the UN Commission of Inquiry for Syria, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and families of the missing and detained.  We also ask that you do all you can to push the Assad regime to provide information to families about the status of their missing and detained loved ones.

We are also alarmed by reports of repeated and continued attacks impacting healthcare workers and medical facilities in Syria by the regime and its allies.  Among the health care professionals reportedly targeted are the workers who responded to the regime’s chemical weapons attacks in Eastern Ghouta and the workers who are trying to stop the spread of COVID.  We call on all parties to cease attacks impacting healthcare workers and medical facilities, and we demand accountability for these actions.

We condemn reported attacks by the Russian military in Idlib, particularly those impacting civilians and civilian infrastructure, including the January 2 bombing that damaged a water station near Idlib, that has cut off water access for nearly a quarter million Syrians.  As the UN Deputy Regional Humanitarian Coordinator in Syria said earlier this month, continued destruction of civilian infrastructure will only cause more civilian suffering.  We urge the regime and its Russian backers to cease attacks, particularly attacks impacting civilians, in this vulnerable region.

Finally, Madam President, there can be no lasting peace in Syria without accountability for the regime’s atrocities, some of which constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity.  The United States supports efforts to collect, consolidate, preserve, and analyze evidence of abuses committed in Syria.  This work is critical to supporting justice and accountability efforts that pave the way for a stable and enduring peace.

Thank you, Madam President.