Thank you, Jonathan. And I also want to thank the sponsors and conveners of the session, as well as the participants, in today’s briefing.
We spend a lot of time here at the United Nations talking about and arguing about abstractions, using statistics and euphemisms to dilute the reality of the horrific situations that people around the world are facing. But this meeting today, this Arria – through the voices that we heard from eastern Ghouta – shows us the human beings behind the euphemisms that we use.
They remind us that people are hiding in basements in Aleppo and Idlib and eastern Ghouta and that these are not just statistics. They are real people who don’t care who’s getting their way in the Security Council or who’s upset in a negotiation. These people hiding in basements, dodging bombs, are too busy trying to survive. They are too consumed with protecting their families and mourning the loss of their children, parents, friends, and neighbors. We can never forget they are the reason we are here. We can never forget that their lives depend on what we do and don’t do at this institution.
In 2015, when we adopted Resolution 2254 – a roadmap for peace in Syria endorsed by every member of the Security Council – the objective was to chart Syria’s course toward a negotiated, political end to this war through direct negotiations between representatives of the Assad regime and the Syrian opposition. The resolution sought to develop a new Syrian constitution and free, credible, UN-monitored presidential and parliamentary elections. As my Swedish colleague said, the Syrian opposition has come to the table; the regime has not.
Our colleagues here from the Syrian Negotiating Commission are working tirelessly on behalf of the Syrian people at the UN-facilitated negotiations. The Assad regime refuses to engage or even acknowledge the political process because it believes that it’s winning on the battlefield. Why talk, they say, when we are winning the war.
This attitude on the part of the Syrian regime is precisely why we need to act.
This morning in the Security Council, we had a briefing on the ceasefire. I don’t need to tell any of you that the situation is not good. The bombing continues and has increased since the ceasefire. Russia, which voted for the ceasefire, has done more than anyone else to violate it. It has been a stunning display of hypocrisy and cynicism.
I want to speak directly to the civilians who continue to suffer from Assad and Russia’s bombs: The United States will not give up on you. We will not give up on holding Assad, Russia, and Iran to account for their reign of terror in Syria. And we will not give up on trying to bring relief to those suffering on the ground. We will introduce a new ceasefire resolution in the Security Council that is tougher and more comprehensive than the one passed 16 days ago. Critically, it will remove the counterterrorism loophole that Russia and Assad have hid behind as they continue to pummel eastern Ghouta.
We will work hard to make this resolution pass and make sure that the ceasefire it will mandate is respected. But in the event this doesn’t occur, we will still not cease our efforts, inside or outside the UN system.
We welcome all nations that are ready to work together with us to finally provide relief to the Syrian people. We warn any nation that is determined to impose its will in Syria through chemical attacks and inhuman suffering. Assad would be gravely ill-advised to continue using chemical weapons. Likewise, Russia and Iran are ill-advised to continue to ignore and enable the Assad regime’s use of such weapons.
Thank you again for being here, all of you, and for putting a human face on this terrible conflict. May God bless and keep you. And may the guns of this horrific war soon be silenced.