Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
August 24, 2021
Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, Special Envoy Pedersen, Under-Secretary-General Griffiths, and Mr. Erksoussi, for your briefings. Today, I’d like to discuss three aspects of the political and humanitarian situation in Syria: the assault on Dara’a and the need for an immediate ceasefire, necessary confidence building measures for peace, and the dire humanitarian situation.
First, we must address the Assad regime’s assault on Dara’a, which has killed civilians and displaced tens of thousands of people. The Assad regime’s blockade on humanitarian aid has left residents struggling to survive without water, food, electricity, and medicine. Humanitarian organizations are standing ready to provide urgently needed assistance, but the Assad regime is keeping them out, and the regime must immediately grant them access to Dara’a so that they can save lives.We urge those parties with influence with the Assad regime to help mediate a solution. This assault is another reason to reiterate our call for an immediate ceasefire in line with Resolution 2254 – not just in Dara’a, but also in northwest Syria where increasing attack by the regimes and its supporters have killed dozens of civilians, including children and humanitarian first-responders.
So, the United States reiterates its full support for the Special Envoy’s tireless efforts to broker a peaceful solution to the conflict in Syria and achieve a lasting, nationwide ceasefire. We strongly support the Special Envoy’s efforts to foster dialogue and bridge gaps between all parties. To that end, there are clear steps the Assad regime can and must take. When it finally meets again, the Constitutional Committee must be allowed to produce results. It is time for the Assad regime to quit stalling and credibly participate. These negotiations are a crucial step in the process toward ending the fighting and achieving lasting peace.
The Syrian regime can take a step forward by addressing the plight of detained and missing persons. Members of this Council have repeatedly expressed this would bolster the political process. The Syrian regime understands this. It occasionally announces purported amnesties. But it has yet to make any meaningful efforts to address this critical issue. The Assad regime should immediately release the tens of thousands of arbitrarily detained men, women, and children in its custody, and share information on the fate of the more than 130,000 Syrians who are reportedly missing or detained after being arbitrarily arrested by the regime.
Finally, today marks the first time that the Security Council has met on the humanitarian situation in Syria since the reauthorization of UN cross-border humanitarian assistance. And thanks to unanimous action by this Council, the vital cross-border lifeline at Bab al-Hawa was restored. Approximately 1,000 trucks a month, filled with food and medicine, including vaccines and equipment to prevent the spread of COVID-19, will continue to reach Syrians – the more than three million Syrians – in desperate need in the northwest for another year. We commend the Security Council and its Member States, which worked tirelessly and constructively to reach agreement, adopted this resolution unanimously, and in the process, saved countless lives. This was an important moment for this Council – it showed we can do more than just talk. We can work together to find solutions and deliver actions on the world’s most pressing challenges. And now is the time to do that again, because Secretary-General Guterres, UN agencies, and dozens of NGOs operating in Syria are all in agreement: we need to do more.
Humanitarian needs in Syria are increasing. Because this Council did not reopen al Yaroubiah and Bab al-Salam crossing, UN convoys are forced to cross more lines of control, negotiate access with more armed opposition groups, and confront more shipping delays and road closures. Regime restrictions have kept essential items – including baby formula – from reaching civilians in areas like northeast Syria. In order to reach more Syrians in need of assistance, the regime must remove barriers and hindrances to aid delivery and facilitate the work of humanitarian organizations.
Meanwhile, the pandemic continues to strain Syria’s already fragile and limited health infrastructure, and exacerbate humanitarian needs across the country. This reinforces the urgency behind improving humanitarian access and ensuring humanitarian actors can deliver unimpeded life-saving assistance to all parts of Syria. To that end, over the coming months this Council should strengthen and expand our humanitarian commitments.
Let me state unequivocally, the United States is committed to supporting all Syrians in need, regardless of where they reside, including under the authority of the Syrian regime. U.S. sanctions are targeted at those who are robbing the Syrian people through their corrupt practices and committing war crimes – and not civilians. We will continue to work with NGOs and the United Nations to ensure that our sanctions do not have unintended consequences.
The United States will not fund largescale reconstruction efforts until irreversible progress on the political track has been made. But the United States is committed to providing aid through all modalities, including both cross-border and cross-line, and investing in early recovery projects. We welcome efforts by humanitarian actors to facilitate cross-line aid, including with the support of, and in corporation with Turkey, and we urge others to do the same.
After more than a decade of conflict, we need to reach a peaceful resolution to the conflict and an end to this war. So, the United States remains committed to Resolution 2254. It provides the only viable path to a political solution to the Syrian conflict. We call on the Assad regime to adhere to a nationwide ceasefire, deliver on confidence-building measures, and fully engage in the political process. And we call on this Council to build on the consensus we recently reached on cross border assistance and expand humanitarian access, and help deliver aid to a people in desperate need.
And response to Mr. Pedersen’s comment, I can assure you that the people of Syria and their plight, have not been forgotten by this Council.
Now, I’ll conclude with a question for Under-Secretary-General Griffiths. Martin, we welcome that you plan to visit the region in the coming months, and I have two questions. What does the UN need to improve access on the ground? And can you update the Council on any progress the UN has made on cross-line deliveries? We understand that aid is crossing, is happening, cross-line aid is happening in northeast Syria, but is not happening in northwest Syria. What are the obstacles that you are experiencing in getting cross-line aid to the Syrian people?