Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
April 28, 2021
Thank you, Mr. President. And thank you to Special Envoy Pedersen and Under-Secretary-General Lowcock for your briefings.
The United States fully supports the work of the Special Envoy and his team to broker a peaceful solution to the conflict in Syria. Unfortunately, after five rounds of negotiations, and despite the Special Envoy’s active diplomacy with all parties, the Assad regime has blocked the drafting of a new constitution. Failing to draft a new constitution is a sad step backward for the Syrian people.
Last month, I told the General Assembly that we knew the Assad regime would plan to hold elections in May. I warned that these elections would be neither free nor fair and will not be representative of the Syrian people. The failure to enact a new constitution is proof positive that the so-called election on May 26 will be a sham. As this Council has unanimously mandated, elections must occur pursuant to a new constitution and under UN supervision. The Assad regime must take steps to enable the participation of refugees, internally displaced persons, and the diaspora in any Syrian elections. Until then, we will not be fooled.
A new constitution, though, is only one part of the political solution this entire Council agreed on, including Russia. So, we can ask that the Special Envoy continue to brief us on his efforts toward a nationwide ceasefire and the release of arbitrarily detained Syrians. And as a reminder, the United States will not support any reconstruction aid that benefits the regime absent progress in achieving the political reforms called for in Resolution 2254. While the Assad Regime runs their sham elections, the people of Syria – as Under-Secretary-General Lowcock reminded us today – continue to suffer.
The United States recently announced $596 million in humanitarian aid for Syrians in Syria and the region. We encourage all to immediately fulfill their pledges and to increase their support to the Syrian people.
Unfortunately, while vitally important, funds are insufficient to alleviate the suffering inside Syria. Right now, nothing could be more urgent to the Syrian people than receiving life-saving aid through the cross-border mechanism. But the Assad regime continues to hinder and weaponize this delivery. And the need has grown even more dire since the Council failed to reauthorize the crossings at Bab al Salam and at al Yaroubiyah.
Bab al Hawa remains indispensable to ensuring the delivery of food, shelter, and medical supplies, including as part of the UN’s vaccination campaign for northwest Syria. Just look at the numbers. Four million people inside northwest Syria depend on the 1,000 UN trucks that use the crossing each month. There is no alternative. Nothing can match the scope and the scale of the UN cross-border humanitarian mechanism. In fact, it’s quite clear that one sole crossing point is insufficient for the vast needs.
So as Secretary Blinken told this Council last month, we strongly urge the reauthorization of Bab al Hawa for 12 months, and for the reinstatements of crossings at Bab Al Salam and at al Yaroubiyah. Should the UN lose access to cross-border mechanisms, the COVID crisis in Syria will go from dire to disastrous. Northeast Syria desperately needs more COVID-19 testing kits, and the WHO is struggling to get these testing kits to those in need. And there is simply no alternative vaccine distribution plan in northwest Syria. The UN plan hinges on the use of cross-border access.
Finally, we need to talk about the deep moral wrong happening in Rukban. For 16 months, the camp’s residents have been without medical aid because the Assad regime and Russia will not allow the UN to make deliveries to these people in need. We urge the Assad regime and Russia to allow unhindered humanitarian access to the camp. These people are not pawns. Aid cannot be politicized.
The United States stands with these people, and all of the people of Syria. So, we demand the Assad regime adhere to a nationwide ceasefire. We call for a political resolution to the Syrian conflict. And in the meantime, we beseech this Council to support the Syrian people and give them access to the humanitarian aid they so desperately need.