November 29, 2022
Thank you, Madam President. And thank you, Special Envoy Pedersen and Under-Secretary-General Griffiths, for your briefings.
Today, I would like to focus my remarks on four pressing challenges in Syria: the stalled effort to reach a political solution, the need for a nationwide ceasefire, the acute humanitarian crisis, and the urgency of renewing the cross-border mandate.
First, we note Special Envoy Pedersen’s efforts to reconvene the Constitutional Committee. It is long past due to achieve a political solution to this conflict in line with Security Council Resolution 2254. One would hope that our Russian colleagues would share that goal, but their actions suggest otherwise. Russia continues to obstruct progress by protesting arbitrary details, and these complaints give cover to the Assad regime, which seems all too happy to maintain the status quo. The people of Syria, who have endured far too much pain and violence, deserve better. They deserve peace. We call on the Assad regime to commit to engage in the Constitutional Committee meetings in good faith.
Second, we reiterate our call for a cessation of violence in northwest Syria. The so-far sporadic incidents between rival factions risk spiraling into widespread fighting. It is incumbent on all sides to agree to and implement a comprehensive, nationwide ceasefire that protects civilians from violence. The United States urges an immediate de-escalation in northern Syria. We are deeply concerned by recent military actions that destabilizes the region, threatens our shared goal to fight ISIS, and endangers civilians and U.S. personnel.
As we work toward a sustained peace, we must address the situation at al-Hol and Roj camps, homes to thousands of third-country nationals and detention centers in northeast Syria. As we just heard, reported by the Special Envoy, these camps are plagued by violence. And thousands of vulnerable children are growing up without access to education and other basic services. We also know that these camps and detention facilities are targets for ISIS, underscoring the urgency to facilitate voluntary, safe, and dignified returns and repatriation – which we call upon all states to support.
Third, this Council has a solemn responsibility to address the humanitarian crisis in Syria. A humanitarian crisis that has, 11 years into this conflict, never been more dire. A humanitarian crisis that has been exacerbated by the intensification of violence across the country, the growing cholera outbreak, and the onset of winter. We know that cross-border and crossline aid, and early recovery efforts are critical to meeting the needs on the ground. And we welcome reports from UN humanitarian officials that the cross-border delivery of humanitarian assistance is reaching the most vulnerable – and that cross-line deliveries have increased in both frequency and scale. We also welcomed reports of the nationwide implementation of early recovery projects designed to more efficiently increase vulnerable Syrians’ access to basic services.
The U.S. has delivered on our commitment to fund early recovery activities, including through contributions to the UN Pooled Fund. Between January and September of this year, the UN has worked to program over $500 million toward 374 early recovery projects. These projects were in all 14 governorates of Syria – all 14. There is no denying this represents real progress in early recovery. Over 2.4 million Syrians have directly benefited from this work.
Unfounded claims attributing the humanitarian crisis to sanctions, allegedly lackluster Western funding, and supposed shortcomings in early recovery programs are deliberate misinformation and malicious in intent. This is nothing but a dangerous distraction – one designed to steer the conversation away from the real issue at hand: renewing the cross-border mechanism in Syria.
Finally, as the cholera outbreak spreads and a cold winter sets in, the cross-border mechanism has never been more vital. If we come together and do the right thing, we will save lives. Plain and simple. We must ensure the continued transparent, efficient, apolitical delivery of humanitarian assistance to millions of Syrians in dire need. This is not a political decision. This is a decision based on the needs on the ground.
We have heard, time and again, from experts inside and outside of Syria, how the cross-border operation is the difference between life and death. Its continuation is a moral imperative, as the Secretary-General rightly told this Council this summer. We cannot allow attempts to make noise on issues unrelated to the delivery of humanitarian aid to cloud the clarity of this choice. This Council will need to act in the next six weeks to continue the mechanism, in accordance with Security Council Resolution 2642.
Colleagues, the four challenges I laid out today will not be resolved overnight. But, as members of this Council, we have a responsibility to do everything in our power to push progress forward and to build a more just, peaceful, and secure future for the Syrian people.
Thank you, Madam President.