Ambassador Richard Mills
Deputy U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
June 29, 2022
Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, Special Envoy Pedersen, for your briefing and, as always, for all your hard work to encourage a political process that might bring this conflict to an end. I want to extend a special thanks to Mr. Alshogre for his powerful testimony today. It was compelling – it was painful to hear – but it was important, I think, for all of us to hear the voices you brought to us. The only message I hope I can leave you with today, the only possible one I probably can, is that the United States – the country that’s very proud it could take you in after what you experienced – firmly stands with the Syrian people.
We were reminded yesterday of the stark realities of the horror of the Syrian conflict by a number that was released by the UN: 306,887. This is the number of civilians who have been killed since the beginning of the uprising in March 2011 and the end of March 2021. It is, of course, more than a sobering statistic for all of us. These people had hopes, they had dreams, they had hobbies, they had families, and they had many, many loved ones, as we just heard. The human scale of the conflict should shock us all and, of course, we all should be compelled to redouble our efforts to find a solution to the crisis.
The United States fully supports the IIIM and efforts to ensure accountability for all these crimes. We urge enhanced efforts towards the implementation of all aspects of Resolution 2254, including addressing the issue of arbitrarily detained and missing persons. Each month, Mr. President, the United States notes its concern with the more than 30,000* Syrians who are arbitrarily detained or are missing. We appreciate very much, Special Envoy, your focus on this issue. We do take note of the Assad regime’s April 30 amnesty decree. We reiterate our calls for further information on this announcement.
But to be clear, to date, the regime has only released a few hundred prisoners – a small fraction of those who remain detained by the regime. We urge the Assad regime to fully, transparently, and effectively implement this decree so that a much larger proportion of detainees can be released. We also urge the regime to coordinate directly with the International Committee of the Red Cross and other NGOs in ensuring these efforts are humane and transparent.
The amnesty should not be used to justify or encourage refugee returns before there are real conditions in place that facilitate the safe, voluntary, and dignified return of refugees. Safety and security, including concerns over the rule of law, such as the ones we see today, remain major obstacles to any potential returns, and, of course, I think, explain the statistic that the Special Envoy shared with us about the percentage of returnee refugees who want to return.
We reiterate our call for a nationwide ceasefire, which is another key aspect of Resolution 2254. We are also concerned about any potential decision by Türkiye to take military action on the Syrian side of the border. Nothing should be done to break the ceasefire lines that have already been established.
Special Envoy, we appreciate your efforts on the Constitutional Committee. We know that you share our disappointment that, after eight rounds and more than two years, there has been no significant outcomes from these discussions. The clear responsibility for this lack of progress lies solely with the Assad regime as it continues to stall the chance for any fruitful dialogue through its intransigence. It would be helpful to take stock of the process to date and to determine how best to take it forward. We hope the ninth round, next month in Geneva, will be an opportunity for long overdue progress that the Syrian people deserve.
Finally, Mr. President, the United States looks forward to working collaboratively together with other Security Council members in the coming days to reauthorize and expand the mandate for the UN cross-border humanitarian assistance mechanism into Syria. As we heard, the mechanism provides a critical lifeline of assistance. Cutting off this assistance would be devastating for millions of Syrians, so we urge all our fellow members to support and strengthen this essential lifeline for the Syrian people. Ultimately, I conclude by reiterating that the only way to end this dire humanitarian crisis is through a credible, inclusive political process, as is described in Resolution 2254.
Thank you, Mr. President.