Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on the Humanitarian Situation in Syria

Ambassador Kelly Craft
Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
September 19, 2019


Thank you, Mr. President.

Assistant Secretary-General

, thank you for your sobering but necessary update on the humanitarian crisis in Syria.

First, let me commend the organizations and individuals providing life-saving assistance to millions of Syrians. Their work is heroic, and the United States proudly supports them.

At the same time, I regret the fact that this Council is yet again hearing reports of medical facilities being targeted by the Assad regime and its allies, civilians being killed, and humanitarians being denied access to desperate populations.

“Business as usual” cannot continue to define these monthly sessions. This Council must hold the regime and its allies accountable for the atrocities it has committed, and we must ensure access for humanitarians wherever aid is needed in Syria

As we have heard, the toll in Idlib these past four months has been gruesome: more than 1,000 people killed – including at least 304 children, 164 women, and 30 humanitarian workers – roughly 2,000 wounded. Nearly all of the 1,089 civilians killed between April and August were attributed to Syrian regime forces and their allies, according to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michele Bachelet.

The Assad regime unilaterally announced a ceasefire on August 30, but this so called “ceasefire,” like others before it, merely offered cover for the regime to regroup, reorganize, and rest before its next attack.

The regime’s despicable, if familiar, practice of launching attacks that damage healthcare facilities has likewise resumed. On September 13, a regime artillery strike hit the Kiwan Hospital in Idlib. This marks the 52nd medical facility struck in the past five months. In the short term these effects are horrific, but the lasting effects are catastrophic and will persist for generations. Meanwhile, in Sfuhen, a White Helmets center was destroyed on September 12.

We welcome the Secretary-General’s decision to establish a Board of Inquiry to investigate attacks that damaged humanitarian facilities in northwest Syria, and that the UN has identified the Board’s members to manage this important accountability effort. We stand ready to support the Board’s work and encourage all Member States to do the same.

Additionally, we call for the Secretary-General to make the Board’s final report public. The intentional targeting of civilians and civilian objects is a violation of international humanitarian law – especially when these persons and objects reside in formally “deconflicted” zones. Issuing a public report will greatly aid in holding responsible parties to account.

The Assad regime and Russia must cease bombardments that wound and kill civilians and devastate civilian infrastructure. As the United States has reiterated time and time again, there is no military solution to this conflict.

With respect to the Rukban settlement, we commend the UN and its partners for completing their assessment mission and delivering critical supplies to nearly 15,000 displaced Syrians.

We urge the Assad regime and Russia to allow sustained deliveries of humanitarian assistance to Rukban from Damascus, and to keep commercial routes to the encampment open as long as civilians choose to remain in the settlement.

The return of internally displaced persons and refugees in Syria must be informed, safe, voluntary, and dignified. We strongly urge all parties to work with the UN to ensure that proposals for return align with the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, and that the displaced persons receive all relevant information so that they may make informed decisions about their movement and safety.

We remain alarmed by reports that the Assad regime has detained thousands of returning Syrians and continues to arrest and torture civilians, including those who signed reconciliation agreements with the regime. We call for an end to the Assad regime’s cruel detention practices.

We welcome the efforts by the members of this body to stop the humanitarian catastrophic unfold in Idlib. To meet this goal, we strongly support the resolution drafted by Kuwait, Belgium, and Germany, which includes a meaningful ceasefire to the ongoing hostilities in Idlib and will protect civilians and provide needed accountability measures. All Council members should support this draft.

Finally, efforts by other members of the Council to promote a separate resolution that denies the people of Syria a full ceasefire will not bring halt to the suffering of Syrians and should not receive support from any members of this Council. I would certainly like to believe that all of you will join me in standing with the people of Syria by supporting the sole resolution that will bring an end to the ongoing regime strikes.

Thank you.