Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis
Acting Deputy Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
June 29, 2023
Thank you, President. And thank you, Deputy Special Envoy Rochdi and Under-Secretary-General Griffiths for your briefings.
As the Under-Secretary-General underscored, the authorization for UN cross-border deliveries of humanitarian assistance through Bab al-Hawa expires in just 11 days.
Last month in this Chamber, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield called on the Council to extend and expand this mandate for 12 months, and to include the border crossings at Bab al-Hawa, Bab al-Salam and al-Rai. This is the only way to ensure the Syrian people receive the assistance they need.
Since then, several important voices have endorsed three crossings – notably, the foreign ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council. The June 8 statement “expressed support for including all currently open border crossing points – Bab al-Hawa, Bab al-Salaam, and al-Rai – in a Security Council resolution to be passed this July.” Their words carry weight.
The Secretary-General’s June 10 standalone report makes clear that the humanitarian needs in northwest Syria have never been greater and that any authorization short of 12 months would be inadequate. We hear the Under-Secretary-General just reiterate this point. As the Secretary-General stated, it “remains a moral and humanitarian imperative.” The report also underscores that early recovery projects require more than six months to plan and implement.
OCHA’s recent reporting also highlights that over the last 18 months, more than $750 million has gone to early recovery across 14 governorates in Syria. This includes over $112 million for early recovery in the last two months alone. NGOs have also indicated that 90% of the 4.5 million people of northwest Syria are in need of humanitarian assistance to survive.
We have supported all aspects of Resolution 2672, and we welcome last week’s successful cross-line delivery to the northwest, as well as last month’s successful cross-line mission to Tel Abyad, the first since 2019. We applaud the UN for its unrelenting advocacy with the parties on the ground. Even as we encourage further cross-line aid to all parts of Syria, it is obvious that cross-border aid remains essential.
To be clear: the Assad regime has chosen to make the UN’s access unpredictable and the Syrian people are suffering the consequences. The regime also has not shown any indication that it intends to commit to an indefinite extension of UN access.
That is why a Security Council Resolution that includes a 12-month extension including for all three crossings – Bab al-Hawa, Bab al-Salam, and al-Rai – is essential. The humanitarian community needs the predictability such a resolution would provide.
Donors, including the United States and other countries here today, have stepped up to meet needs. On June 15, they pledged nearly $10 billion at the Brussels VII conference. The United States announced an additional contribution of $920 million – our largest ever. Last year, the international community pledged nearly $7 billion. The year before, it was nearly $6 billion. Given these needs, we encourage other countries to match their rhetorical support with financial contributions.
These funds have helped sustain the Syrian people, who have experienced more than a decade of insufficient food, inadequate shelter, attacks on health and education facilities, and diminished services as a direct result of Assad’s war on the Syrian people. But donations alone are not enough.
Beyond donor support, it is incumbent upon the Security Council to ensure that aid reaches those in need. The best and most cost-effective option to provide certainty and flexibility for humanitarian operations is a 12-month extension including all three crossings – Bab al-Hawa, Bab al-Salam, and al-Rai.
The Assad regime remains a major obstacle to the humanitarian response, undermining the cross-border mechanism and preventing cross-line deliveries to Rukban. The regime and its Russian backers have also continued to strike hospitals and other civilian sites – including attacks just last week that injured displaced civilians in Idlib. Russia’s role in the recent upswing in violent attacks in Idlib is a grim reminder of its long history of brutality against the Syrian people throughout this 12-year conflict.
We are concerned by the recent violence in northwest and northeast Syria. We condemn any attacks targeting civilians and urge all parties to condemn attacks targeting civilians in violation of international law.
The Syrian people do not need more violence, they need more constructive dialogue. We note with frustration that Constitutional Committee last met 13 months ago. We urge the regime to resume the Constitutional Committee meetings in Geneva and participate in good faith.
Amidst this situation, conditions are still not in place for safe, voluntary, and dignified refugee returns and will not be until the Assad regime ceases its killings, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, torture, and other ill-treatment of the Syrian people, including refugee returnees.
We urge Russia and the League of Arab States to press the regime to contribute to the necessary conditions for returns by clarifying the status of 135,000 missing persons, waiving conscription requirements, and addressing uncertainty around housing, land, and property issues.
The only way to end the suffering of the Syrian people remains a political solution in line with UN Security Council Resolution 2254. We encourage Syria’s neighbors to push Assad to meaningfully engage in the UN facilitated process, and to join us in supporting civil society in its pursuit of justice and accountability for human rights violations and abuses.
Thank you, Madam President.