Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on the Political and Humanitarian Situations in Syria

Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis
Acting Deputy Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
April 27, 2023


Thank you, Special Envoy Pedersen and Director Doughten, for your briefings.

Thirteen years ago, Bashar al Assad responded to peaceful protests with a brutal crackdown. His regime has detained, tortured, and murdered civilians – including children – and rejected diplomatic efforts to end a war that has claimed more than 500,000 lives, destroyed Syria’s economy, and forced millions from their homes.

This Council and the international community have an agreed pathway to end this conflict through Resolution 2254. Despite the diligent efforts of the Special Envoy and his team, the Assad regime refused direct negotiations and has undermined the work of the Constitutional Committee for years.

Russia claims to support a Syrian-led political process, yet it has thrown up additional roadblocks to the Constitutional Committee for reasons that have nothing to do with Syria or the Syrian people.

As a result of the lack of political progress, the Syrian people continue to face immense challenges. More than 130,000 Syrians are unaccounted for, languishing in regime prisons or detention centers, or missing and believed murdered by the regime, terrorist groups like Da’esh, and other parties to the conflict.

Assad’s April 2022 amnesty, which we hoped would be followed by additional releases, instead resulted in the release of only 500 people, many of whom were emaciated, with some having reportedly lost their memories or suffered from trauma or mental illness, while others sustained physical injuries.

Since the release last year, the brutal practice of arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance of innocent men, women, and children has not stopped.

Syria continues to radiate instability to the broader region. The regime has allowed Russia to use Syria as a logistics node to export its destabilizing activities to Africa and has flooded the region with illicit drugs.

Amidst this backdrop, the United States will not normalize our relationship with Assad, and we have strongly discouraged others from doing so.

We will not lift our sanctions on Assad or support reconstruction absent genuine, comprehensive, and enduring reforms and progress on the political process.

We renew our call for a nationwide ceasefire and the humane release of the unjustly detained and to clarify the fate of the missing, including those who are deceased, and for the Assad regime to finally engage the political process in good faith.

On the humanitarian front, the needs of the Syrian people are at their greatest since the beginning of the conflict.

As we heard today, millions of Syrians remain internally displaced or have sought refuge in neighboring countries or further afield.

We welcome reports that the UN has scaled-up its cross-border operation back to pre-earthquake levels and that UN assistance once again reaches millions of people in northwest Syria with food, health, shelter, and water, and hygiene supplies transported across the border.

Clearly, this expanded access is having a positive impact for the Syrian people. It remains clear that there is no substitute for cross-border access.

We are committed to supporting the implementation of Security Council Resolution 2672, including delivering assistance cross-line. We urge all parties to remove obstructions to cross-line humanitarian deliveries to all parts of Syria.

Finally, United States continues to reject any suggestion that humanitarian assistance is blocked by U.S. sanctions. We maintain robust humanitarian exceptions for U.S. sanctions and welcome good faith discussions with the UN and others to address any specific instances where humanitarian actors have been unable to pursue humanitarian activities due to U.S.

Thank you.