Ambassador Cherith Norman Chalet
Acting Deputy Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
April 29, 2020
Thank you, Mr. President. And thank you Special Representative Geir for your continued work on this important file and for your briefing today. It’s good to see you here today and I hope you’re staying safe and healthy in these challenging times.
Today, the United States reaffirms its support for the Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire. We agree wholeheartedly with Special Envoy Pedersen that there should be a complete and immediate nationwide ceasefire in Syria. This kind of ceasefire is necessary to enable an all-out effort to suppress the spread of COVID-19 among some of the most vulnerable people in the world. The spread of COVID-19, especially in northwest and northeast Syria, only increases the urgency of securing a sustained ceasefire to ensure effective responses.
While we note that the so-called “Astana Guarantors” had held a teleconference last week to discuss the peace process in Syria, we firmly believe it is the United Nations that must be at the center of any effort to establish a comprehensive, enduring, and verifiable nationwide ceasefire. Special Envoy Pedersen has the authority to monitor existing lines of contact to ensure that ceasefire agreements are honored, and it is the UN’s responsibility to advance stability in Syria – with the aim of achieving a political solution in line with Resolution 2254. This Council should do everything in its power to support the UN in this endeavor.
In its report released on April 6th, the UN Board of Inquiry found it was “highly probable” that the Assad regime and its allies launched attacks that destroyed medical facilities – an utterly inexcusable action. We also note and welcome the Secretary-General’s stated intention to appoint a senior independent advisor to address the recommendations of the Board of Inquiry. The Council must hold those who threaten Syria’s peace and stability accountable. To that end, it is vital that the Board of Inquiry’s evidence be shared with the UN Commission of Inquiry and the IIIM. If justice means anything to us, every Council member should support the Secretary-General’s pursuit of it.
To conclude, the United States reiterates its call for the Assad regime to protect the fate of thousands of civilians held arbitrarily in detention centers. In these centers, crowded and inhumane conditions are prime for the rapid spread of COVID-19 – an outcome we can and must work to avoid. We demand the immediate release of all civilians detained arbitrarily – including women, children, and the elderly. Moreover, the Assad regime must immediately grant impartial and independent entities – including medical and health organizations – access to regime detention facilities. And this is more necessary than ever as we work to combat the spread of COVID-19.
While these times are uncertain, the Syrian people can rest assured that the Trump administration’s commitment to them has never been stronger. In the days ahead, we urge each member of this Council to take the steps that will help the Syrian people move toward greater safety, prosperity, and dignity. This is the future they have been asking for – and it is the future we all have the responsibility to help deliver.