Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis
Senior Advisor for Special Political Affairs
New York, New York
September 15, 2021
Thank you, Madam President. Under-Secretary-General Griffiths, thank you for your report on your recent visit to the region. And thank you Amany Qaddour for your urgent reminder of the dire situation on the ground.
It is hard to imagine after more than ten years of conflict, but with each passing month, somehow the situation in Syria gets worse, as we have heard today. Basic services are not being delivered and COVID-19 is running rampant. Resources for diagnosing COVID-19 in Syria remain extremely limited, with international organizations warning that testing materials could be severely depleted in the near term. This widespread suffering is not sustainable. And as the Syrian people head into another winter, we know humanitarian protection needs will spike. We must do everything in our power to support the United Nations and the NGOs in their efforts to deliver lifesaving humanitarian assistance to the millions of Syrians in need.
Today, I’d like to discuss three aspects of that situation: our concerns in Dara’a, the northwest, Rukban, and the Al Hol camp; progress and updates from cross-border aid operations; and our commitment to all modalities to bring aid to Syrians in need.
First: we continue to closely watch the situation in Dara’a. We condemn the Assad regime’s ruthless assault that has killed civilians, displaced thousands, and led to shortages of food and medicine for many more. The regime is reportedly using threats of forced displacement as a pressure tactic in ceasefire negotiations. This is unacceptable. An effective ceasefire requires commitment from all sides and we urge all parties to respect the ceasefire in Dara’a. We are thankful that, at the very least, aid deliveries have resumed. The UN and other humanitarian organizations must have unimpeded access to those in need.
We are similarly concerned with the intensification in airstrikes and shelling in northwestern Syria in recent months, leading to dozens of civilian casualties. All sides must respect the ceasefire, comply with their obligations to protect civilians and medical facilities. Two years have passed since the Syrian regime permitted the last humanitarian convoy into Rukban. The regime and its backers must enable full humanitarian access to the camp and to its residents. Any plans to resettle the nearly 10,000 inhabitants must be safe, voluntary, and dignified. We are also concerned with the ongoing tragedy at Al Hol camp, and call on all parties to facilitate a long-term solution.
Second: On August 30 and 31, the World Food Program was able to dispatch a 14-truck cross-line humanitarian convoy to Sarmada in Idlib, transporting almost 600 metric tons of food. This will help meet the vast needs in the northwest. The United States is proud to have supported this work. Thank you to Turkey, to the UN, the WFP, and all other parties for facilitating this access. Sadly, a Syrian solider was killed while removing mines to allow this convoy to get through. This only underscores the serious dangers and complexities of delivering cross-line aid.
Third and finally: The United States supports all modalities that bring aid to Syrians in need. All of them. We are committed to facilitating more cross-border and cross-line assistance, and early recovery projects that respond to the overwhelming humanitarian needs in Syria. At the same time, we echo what we have heard from the Under-Secretary-General: crossline is not a replacement for cross-border access. To Russia and the Assad regime: it is time to stop politicizing cross-line assistance. Aid should not be used as a cudgel against Syrians who disagree with Assad’s brutal policies. Similarly, one single cross-border point, even when complemented by cross-line assistance, cannot possibly meet all the needs of all Syrians. We must reauthorize the Bab al-Salam and Yaroubiyah crossings to meet the dire needs of the Syrian people.
Immediately, the humanitarian needs are immense. We must address them with vigor. And as we do this difficult work, we must commit ourselves to addressing the root causes of these needs. The only solution is a political solution, in line with Resolution 2254, which represents the only sustainable path to the peace and prosperity the Syrian people deserve.
Thank you, Madam President.