Ambassador Kelly Craft
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
November 14, 2019
Thank you, Madam President. Thank you Under-Secretary Lowcock, for your briefing.
This Council has gathered scores of times to discuss the humanitarian crisis in Syria. After so many meetings, one might begin to believe this crisis has always been with us, and that it always will be, like a problem we can analyze but we can’t address. But colleagues, we cannot be content with merely observing this problem. In fact, the Council has an obligation to the Syrian people – an obligation to respond to the deliberate choices of the Assad regime that has left [half] a million Syrians dead and another 12 million displaced. This is an obligation the United States is prepared to meet.
Mr. Under-Secretary-General, we stand firmly behind your call for the continuation of the life-saving UN cross-border humanitarian aid mechanism – resolution 2165 – for an additional 12 months. This is because the mechanism is working. The UN has reached more people in 2019 through the cross-border mechanism than at any time since the Council adopted resolution 2165 in 2014. We also support the mechanism because it is transparent, reliable, and, most importantly, indispensable to millions of Syrians. We call on all Council members to support a technical rollover of the resolution for another 12 months.
The importance of the resolution’s renewal cannot be overstated, and it will ensure, under its terms, that vital supplies continue to flow through all four crossing points. In the first instance, we are grateful to the UN and humanitarian organizations that have provided basic necessities and life-saving medicines through the Al-Yourabia border crossing. This integral crossing point must remain open. In northwest Syria, brazen and heinous military operations conducted by the regime have made civilian communities in Idlib and northern Hama fully reliant on UN cross-border aid deliveries through the Bab Al Hawa and the Bab Al Salame crossings, excuse me.
We strongly condemn the Assad regime’s escalation of these airstrikes that have – with Russian support – killed and injured civilians and humanitarian workers. These repulsive attacks have deliberately targeted civilians and civilian infrastructure – including two medical facilities operated by the humanitarian coalition UOSSM – in violation of resolution 2286. The United States seeks full accountability for those responsible for the attacks on hospitals, schools, and civilian homes. We therefore fully support the work of the UN Board of Inquiry to investigate attacks on UN-supported medical facilities in northwest Syria. A public accounting of the Board’s findings is essential for accountability and the deterrence of future attacks. We call for an immediate end to these attacks by Syrian and Russian forces in order to end the humanitarian crisis and move the UN-led political process forward in line with resolution 2254. But these attacks are not all that must end; the regime must also cease using humanitarian aid to punish its political rivals. Aid must go wherever it is needed, without exception.
Yet as we speak, the regime is blocking UN humanitarian aid and access in Eastern Ghouta Rukban, and southern Syria. The fragility of the security situation, especially in southern Syria, even prevents the UN from utilizing the al-Ramtha crossing authorized by use for this Council. We urge the UN to remain prepared to utilize the al-Ramtha crossing as soon as security conditions in southern Syria allow. When they do, it is our firm belief that purely humanitarian aid – including $9 billion given by the United States since this conflict began – should go to all Syrians in need.
While the choices of the Syrian regime embody the very quality of dishonor, there are those whose choices merit this Council’s praise. And so, I conclude today by saluting the humanitarian workers who risk their lives for the Syrian people every day. We remember, with admiration and gratitude, Mr. James Le Mesurier, the founder and director of the Mayday Rescue group, and we offer our deepest condolences to his family and his loved ones. In his humanitarian efforts, James worked to save the lives of civilians threatened by Syrian and Russian airstrikes. It is James’ commitment to the Syrian people that led him to support the creation of the White Helmets, whose life-saving work we are so very proud to support.
Fellow Council members, the Syrian people have suffered at the hands of the Assad regime since 2011. But we have the power to relieve this suffering. Indeed, we are obligated to relieve it. May we delay no further in doing so. And as Mark stated, there is no plan B.