Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
July 6, 2021
Thank you so much Bob. And let me just start by thanking you and your amazing team at the Canadian Mission, for putting together this very thoughtful, informative and absolutely timely event because today, as you noted, the Security Council was addressing this issue. And in just four days, the current cross-border resolution expires. So, it is important that we are having this discussion today.
I also want to thank your co-hosts, the Dominican Republic, Turkey, and Qatar for participating. And truly thank you to Amany and Farida for providing such powerful testimony of the situation on the ground. There is just no comparison to hearing your voices concerning this situation.
And Mark, again, I so appreciated meeting with you and your team at the UN cross-border operation when I visited Turkey a few weeks ago. I’m so glad that my colleagues could hear directly from you, and I again want to thank you and all of the humanitarian workers – UN, NGOs – who are doing extraordinary work to bring assistance across the border to Syria. Your work is absolutely essential to the efforts that we are all making, and it is lifesaving.
Over the weekend, UNICEF confirmed six children were killed in attacks on three villages in the northwest of Syria. These latest heartbreaking reports underscore the urgent need for a political solution to the conflict, and for all parties to stop attacks on vulnerable children and civilians, and for expanded humanitarian access in the region.
Our collective message today is clear: We must reauthorize and expand the UN cross-border humanitarian aid mechanism in Syria. And we must do everything possible to maximize the amount of aid that reaches the Syrian people. This is why the United States is the single largest humanitarian donor to Syria. And it’s why we support the delivery of aid through all modalities, cross-border as well as cross-line. And we are prepared to facilitate the latter.
As you all have said, however, there is no substitute for cross-border aid. Cross-line cannot provide everything that is needed. Again, we only have four days to ensure that the literal lifeline to women and children does not get shut down. And as a mother and as a grandmother, I cannot imagine what it would be like to be not able to provide food, health care, and shelter to my own children and grandchildren. I also can’t imagine what it is like for us not to make that decision that we have to make. And that is what we have to do in the Council over the next three to four days.
We had four border crossings, now we only have one. Crossings came down. Needs shot up. And COVID has made the situation that much worse. I’m urging my fellow Security Council members to do the right thing. The most important thing that we can do is re-authorize Bab al-Hawa for 12 months, although we have asked that all three borders – two that were closed last year – also be reopened. But at a minimum, we have to reauthorize Bab al-Hawa for 12 months.
We’ve heard from you all, we’ve heard from NGOs on the ground, that a 12-month reauthorization is necessary to provide humanitarian organizations the predictability they need to manage lengthy procurement processes. This is something we’d hope that we can all agree is needed, and at a minimum, to facilitate the flow of humanitarian assistance and COVID-19 vaccines into the country.
To my other colleagues from UN Member States and UN Agencies, I implore you to engage Council members, both in New York and in capitals to urge them to vote for the renewal, and to vote for the expansion. To those of you who are on the front lines of this humanitarian effort, again, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for fighting for the needs of millions of people across the region. I can say without any hesitation the United States has your back, and we will do everything within our power to ensure that the resolution is extended.
Thank you very much.