Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on the Situation in Northwest Syria

Ambassador Kelly Craft
Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
February 6, 2020


Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, Geir and thank you, Mark, for your presentation. The United States joined the United Kingdom and France to call for today’s meeting because we are appalled at the Assad regime’s escalation of violence in northwest Syria.

The Trump Administration condemns, in the strongest possible terms, the Assad regime, Iran, Hezbollah, and Russia’s barbaric and unjustified military offensive. To be quite clear, what we are witnessing is deliberate, lethal violence against thousands of innocent children, women, and men. It is violence only to terrorize and subdue, and it sends a chilling message: the Assad regime and its allies are rejecting this Council’s efforts to restore stability in Syria through a UN-facilitated political process. In response to this message, we come here today with a message of our own. Because here in this chamber, if this body is to retain even a shred of credibility, we simply cannot ignore the resolutions we adopt. In 2015, the Council did just, did not just adopt Resolution 2254; it did so unanimously. Today, all elements of 2254, including the Constitutional Committee, are in the crosshairs. And so, our message today is this: The situation in northwest Syria demands an immediate, comprehensive, and verifiable ceasefire.

If there is one thing we know, however, it is that the Astana Forum cannot be trusted to deliver such a ceasefire. We know this because it is Russian warplanes that have routinely terminated Russian-brokered “ceasefires.” We know this because it is the Russian bombs that have destroyed Syrian hospitals and driven Syrian children from their homes. The sheer scale of destruction both endorsed and facilitated by Russia shows that neither they, nor Iran, nor the Assad regime can be trusted to deliver a ceasefire, let alone a political solution. With faith whatsoever, no faith whatsoever in the Astana Forum, we therefore call on the Office of the Special Envoy to turn its attention to securing an immediate, comprehensive, and verifiable ceasefire in the northwest Syria as a means of preserving the progress of the Constitutional Committee’s vital work.

It is essential for all parties to move forward on the full implementation of 2254. The first step is to lend our full support to the UN’s immediate efforts to establish a nationwide ceasefire and ensure that vital UN cross-border humanitarian assistance – authorized by resolution 2504 – can continue to reach the millions of civilians trapped by the Assad regime’s assault. The U.S. believes the UN should use its neutrality and impartiality to secure a ceasefire in northwest Syria. In launching this assault, the Assad regime has not only exacerbated a dire humanitarian situation in the region, but also risked a wider escalation of the conflict. This only puts more Syrian lives in danger and threatens the hope for a political solution in line with resolution 2254. For months, the UN warned Council members of an impending humanitarian catastrophe in northwest Syria if violence continued unabated. That catastrophe has now arrived. Up to 700,000 people have been displaced by Syrian and Russian attacks in northwest Syria since September 2018. More than 500 civilians have been killed since the beginning of April. Barring drastic change, it will get worse.

While the regime appears to be fully inoculated against any sense of shame or guilt for the misery it has caused, it should be under no illusions that cruelty and violence will go unanswered. For one, Turkey, as our NATO ally, has the full support of the United States to respond in self-defense to the Assad regime’s unjustified attacks on Turkish observation posts that resulted in the deaths of Turkish personnel. For our part, the United States will continue to withhold reconstruction funding in regime areas of Syria. And I am here to say here and now that the Trump Administration will spare no effort in our campaign to isolate the Assad regime both economically and diplomatically, for as long as it continues to reject the political process outlined in 2254.

I want to close now by speaking directly to the Syrian people: Yes, these are dark days; of that, there can be no doubt. But you are not alone and you are not forgotten. And for as long as Donald Trump is President and I am the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, you will have an untiring and unflinching support of the United States of America.

Thank you.