Thank you very much, Mr. de Mistura, for your helpful and informative briefing today. We do appreciate your commitment in this process going forward.
Last week, Bashar al-Assad yet again terrorized his own people with one of the world’s most horrific weapons. Assad’s murderous attack shook every one of us to our core. It once again showed the world that Assad is not a partner for peace. It showed what happens when Assad’s allies – Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah – decide to lend their support to a barbaric regime, instead of joining the world to stop it.
When Assad’s planes dropped chemical weapons, his regime violated a resolution from this very Council and the Chemical Weapons Convention. Assad mocked every assurance the Russians gave us that there were no chemical weapons in Syria. The United States was compelled to act. We will not allow the use of chemical weapons to go unanswered. We are not going to look the other way. We are watching the regime’s actions carefully.
To my colleagues from Russia, you are isolating yourselves from the international community every time one of Assad’s planes drop another barrel bomb on civilians and every time Assad tries to starve another community to death.
People not just in the West, but across the Middle East and the world, are speaking out against Assad’s brutality. It is long past time for Russia to stop covering for Assad. It is long past time for Russia to push seriously for peace and not continue to be part of the problem.
The road to peace is long. We won’t get a political solution overnight. But we can start by working together to actually de-escalate the conflict.
For Russia, getting serious about peace starts by fulfilling its commitment to get chemical weapons out of Syria. We urge Russia to use its influence to make Assad actually live up to his international obligations. That means giving investigators – who are already mandated through existing mechanisms – full access to the bases where the regime launched its chemical weapons attacks and access to anyone who might have been involved.
Russia talks about its commitment to a political solution. They must commit to the Geneva talks. Now is the time Russia needs to show the world whether they genuinely want to be a part of the political process.
We need to see a real ceasefire on the ground. We need to see a credible political process through which Syrians can chart their future. We need to see Russia choose to side with the civilized world over an Assad government that brutally terrorizes its own people.
The United States is ready to do our part. Russia, too, needs to do its part.
Getting serious about peace also means we have to be honest about Iran’s role in Syria. Iran is Assad’s chief accomplice in the regime’s horrific acts. Standing next to Assad’s generals are Iranian advisers whispering in their ears or giving orders. Standing next to Assad’s soldiers are Hezbollah militias with weapons courtesy of Iran and the power to overrule the Syrian military.
Iran is dumping fuel on the flames of this war in Syria so it can expand its own reach. This Council needs to bring attention to Iran’s barbaric acts in Syria. We need to collectively demand that Iran stop. We need to make sure Iran cannot use Syria as a base to keep terrorizing the Syrian people and the entire region.
This Council needs to be serious about peace in Syria too. Month after month, we all repeat the same points in this chamber. We all say there is no military solution to this conflict, but look at what actually happens on the ground. This Council’s relevance depends on taking action to condemn those responsible for violence and to hold them accountable for defying this Council’s demands. This Council should not just say it’s for a political solution but also actively pressure the parties to prove it. That means adopting resolutions that say what we mean – resolutions that we are all willing to uphold.
So what happens next in Syria depends on what all parties choose to do. For our part, the United States will continue to use influence over any party to push for peace. We will encourage our allies to use their influence on any and all opposition groups too.
We will not support a process that gives cover to Assad while he stalls for time and his forces slaughter the Syrian people. And as we showed last week, we will not stand for continued use of chemical weapons. There are actions by the Assad regime that we simply won’t tolerate.
The United States firmly believes that a political process can work, despite the odds. We remain committed to the Geneva process. We are ready to throw our weight and resources behind diplomacy. We are ready to help bring this conflict to an end.
But our commitment is not enough. The United States is looking for partners who are serious about using their influence over the Assad regime and towards defeating ISIS. Every country needs to do its part. All of us must commit in not just words but also actions towards the same goal: peace in Syria. Thank you.