Ambassador Richard Mills
U.S. Deputy Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
September 28, 2021
Thank you, Madam President. And thank you, Special Envoy for your briefing and, as always, for your tireless efforts. A special welcome and thanks to Ms. Mhaissen, as well. We know your organization is doing invaluable work to empower Syrian refugees and promote the dignity of all Syrians, so thank you for your insights today.
Last week, after a decade of conflict in Syria, one number stood out for my delegation, as it did for the Special Envoy: 350,209. This was the number that the High Commissioner for Human Rights released after the UN’s painstaking research to identify all those who have been killed since the beginning of the uprising – 350,000. And as the Special Envoy noted, this is most certainly an under-count, given the incredible difficulty of obtaining data during an active conflict.
These were people who had families, hopes, dreams, full lives. They were no different from us, except that they were unlucky enough to live and die under the horrific Assad regime. While we cannot bring back those who have died, there’s another number the Assad regime could do something about right now: 149,000. That’s the estimated number of Syrians suffering in arbitrary detention or whose whereabouts are unknown. I’m glad to hear the Special Envoy highlight this issue this morning. And we reiterate our call for the Syrian regime to unilaterally and immediately release the tens of thousands of arbitrarily detained men, women, and children in its custody and share information on the fate of those that are missing.
We certainly agree with what we heard from the Special Envoy this morning – that progress on the detainee issue could serve as a confidence-building measure that would bolster the political process. We have not yet seen meaningful efforts from the Syrian regime, despite its occasional announcements of alleged amnesties. So, the United States reiterates its support for the Office of the Special Envoy’s continued efforts to address this protracted issue, and we call for those with influence over the regime to use it.
In Dara’a, we are cautiously hopeful the September ceasefire will hold. And we are encouraged by reports that some bakeries and other businesses have reopened and that the World Food Program was able to deliver emergency food assistance in the region. We urge all the parties to abide by the ceasefire and for the regime to allow unhindered, regular access to Dara’a for UN humanitarian assistance.
Similarly, we are deeply concerned about the potential for a resurgence of violence in Idlib. Over the past few weeks, as we’ve heard, the number of civilians killed and injured in the region has increased. We encourage all states, especially members of the Security Council, to take any and all possible action to stem this violence through diplomatic negotiations.
Finally, we have lamented in this Council that it’s been two years since the inauguration of the Constitutional Committee, and we have yet to see the members actually discuss a single clause or a single sentence of the constitution. So, we very much welcome the news today on progress and holding a new round of the Constitutional Committee. We now urge all sides to participate in good faith at this sixth round of the drafting group in October. And we call on the Assad regime to stop stalling the process and meaningfully participate.
Madam President, in conclusion, there is only one way forward for peace and stability in Syria, and that’s a peaceful resolution to the conflict and an end to this war. It is time for the Assad regime and all parties involved to come to the table, follow the path that has been laid out in Resolution 2254, and put an end to the Syrian conflict once and for all.
Thank you, Madam President.