Ambassador Kelly Craft
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
May 18, 2020
Thank you, Sven.
Thank you, Special Envoy Geir Pedersen for your statements today and the United States agrees fully with you that there should be an immediate nationwide ceasefire in Syria. A ceasefire is not just an essential element of Resolution 2254; it would also enable efforts to suppress the spread of COVID-19. I want to reiterate here again that the UN must be at the center of any effort to establish a ceasefire, and that Special Envoy Pedersen has the authority to monitor lines of contact to ensure the ceasefire agreements are honored.
What is becoming increasingly clear is that the Assad regime is intent on exploiting the COVID-19 crisis to its own strategic political and military advantage. When Russia and China forced the reduction of cross-border aid points from four to two, they said that the UN should engage the regime to facilitate cross-line aid from Damascus to Syrian civilians.
The UN has engaged. But since then, the Secretary-General has reported that efforts to gain approval from the regime to deliver medical aid to COVID-19 hotspots are taking months. This, from a regime that has already used chemical weapons against its own people; deprived its people of food and water; and destroyed medical facilities. Years of such appalling behavior demonstrate that the Assad regime will stop at nothing to pursue a military victory – even if it means refusing to deliver medical supplies that are essential for suppressing COVID-19.
In light of these dreadful, irrefutable facts, we must collectively ask how the Council can help restore stability to Syria. The answer lies in advancing all tracks of Resolution 2254. This Council must make every effort to ensure the Assad regime reverses its destructive pattern of behavior against its own people and agrees to a comprehensive, enduring, and verifiable nationwide ceasefire. Equally important is the progress on the Constitutional Committee, whose stakeholders have agreed on an agenda but has not met because of the regime co-chair’s unwillingness to convene virtually.
The Trump Administration once again calls for the Assad regime to protect the fate of thousands of civilians held arbitrarily in detention centers. As we have noted before, the crowded and inhumane conditions of these centers dramatically increase the risk of a rapid spread of COVID-19. We demand the immediate release of all civilians detained arbitrarily – especially women, children, and the elderly. The Assad regime must also immediately grant impartial and independent entities – including medical and health organizations – access to regime detention facilities in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
There is one way forward, and it bears repeating here today: full implementation of Resolution 2254. Again, full implementation of Resolution 2254. That is what will move Syria toward a future of peace, prosperity, and dignity for all its people. And so, that is what we must pursue as a Council.