Ambassador Kelly Craft
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
September 30, 2019
Thank you, Mr. President.
We welcome the Secretary-General’s announcement that the Syrian Negotiation Commission and the Syrian regime have reached an agreement on a committee that will draft a credible, balanced, and inclusive Constitution. This Constitution must reflect the aspirations of all Syrians, both inside and outside the country.
Lasting peace is not easily or quickly won. It requires commitment, meaningful action, and consistent effort over a sustained period of time.
So with that in mind, Special Envoy Pedersen, the United States would like to extend its thanks for your personal commitment and effort over the last 21 months in helping to form the Constitutional Committee.
I also want to thank our partners in the Small Group—Egypt, France, Germany, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Kingdom—as well as Turkey and Russia for helping us take this encouraging step. A special word of gratitude as well to the leadership and members of the Syrian Negotiation Commission for their cooperation, even as their supporters faced brutal attacks.
Last Thursday, the Syrian Small Group reaffirmed its broad support for the Special Envoy’s efforts to implement all of Resolution 2254. We encouraged the UN to convene this Committee, and we reiterate our belief that there can be no military solution to the conflict. And may I repeat, no military solution to the conflict.
The Committee’s formation is a historic, tangible first step in a political process to solve the Syrian crisis. But if we’re being honest, we know there is hard work ahead for the parties to the conflict and civil society leaders who will be tasked with drafting a new Syrian constitution in accordance with Resolution 2254.
It is essential that the Council vigorously supports their efforts, as well as the efforts of the Special Envoy to convene the first meeting of the Committee on October 30th. When they gather, Committee members must be able to work in safety – free from intimidation at altering the outcome of their work.
Furthermore, it is critical that all parties, including the opposition, the regime, the civil society leaders, engage in good faith in the days ahead, with the aim of ensuring that the legitimate aspirations of all Syrians are represented.
If there is one party that consistently fails to act in good faith, it is Iran. So, it is ironic that the State responsible for much of the carnage in Syria – and for most of the conflicts today in the Middle East –sits before this very Council today presumably to lecture us on the path to peace in Syria.
If Iran genuinely wished to contribute to the 2254 political process, it would leave Syria and remove its militias and their affiliates without delay.
I also wish to be very clear on the following point, the Assad regime and its allies must not use the launch of the Constitutional Committee as a pretext to stall the political process and pursue a military solution to the conflict. The violence in Idlib must cease immediately, and unconditionally. This will protect the lives of innocent civilians and improve the prospects of a political solution on the ground.
At the outset of my remarks, I noted that lasting peace requires commitment and meaningful action.
But it also requires that we tell the truth about what has happened – and what is still happening – in Syria. It is this aspect of peace which I regret to note the regime does not appear comfortable with.
Fellow Council members, bombings continue to terrorize innocent women, men, and children in Idlib. The regime’s campaign has displaced over half of the Syrian population. And thousands of Syrian mothers and fathers have had to bury their own children – a fate no parent should suffer.
To be sure, an agreement to form a Constitutional Committee is an encouraging step. But there are too many leveled neighborhoods and too many shattered lives for anyone here today to act as though the horrors visited upon the Syrian people can now be forgotten.
This Council cannot believe the version of events preferred by some that our work is nearly finished. The United States, for one, will continue to speak the truth about the atrocities committed by this regime, as well as what must be done to right the wrongs committed against the Syrian people.
I want to end my statement today by sharing a brief story. Last week, I had the privilege of meeting with Amina Khoulani, the co-founder of Families for Freedom and a woman of profound courage.
I was deeply disturbed by what she shared with me: nearly 128,000 Syrians – 128,000 – face arbitrary detainment. This practice is unacceptable, and the Assad regime must release detainees and provide international monitors access to detention centers.
But while I was distressed by Amina’s account, I was even more inspired by her spirit. She is advocating – faithfully, cheerfully, and relentlessly – for the dignity of all Syrians. As we seek to build on this first step toward peace in Syria, I hope the Council will adopt that same spirit.