Ambassador Jeffrey’s Intervention at Brussels IV
Tuesday, June 30
As prepared for delivery
Good Morning, thank you to the EU, High Representative Borrell, UNSE Pedersen, and UNSG Lowcock for convening this session.
We all know the sobering circumstances in Syria, with more than 11 million people in need of continual humanitarian assistance. The COVID-19 virus is worsening the existing humanitarian crisis, further exacerbated by displacement, high population density, and inadequate humanitarian access in Syria. The root cause for this needless suffering remains the Assad regime’s relentless pursuit of war against the Syrian people.
Today, to support the people of Syria, the United States is pleased to announce more than $696 million USD in humanitarian assistance for vulnerable and conflict-affected Syrians. This includes over $272 million of humanitarian assistance inside Syria, and over $423 million for refugee hosting countries in the region. This funding is in addition to the more than $108 million in humanitarian assistance announced earlier this year and the nearly $84 million the United States provided for the COVID response for Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey. These funds will ensure life-saving assistance reaches those most in need. To name a few examples, our programs support mobile medical units and static health facilities so people can still get healthcare in a shattered Syrian health system; provide water and sanitation, servicing the most vulnerable host communities and IDP camps; assist with psychosocial support to children impacted by conflict; and provide food parcels to those who have lost their livelihoods.
These funds brings the total United States funding for the Syria response to more than $11.3 billion in humanitarian assistance and over $1.3 billion in non-humanitarian and stabilization assistance across Syria since the conflict began. This year’s contribution is our largest single contribution to date – and is part of our ongoing efforts to provide life-saving food, safe drinking water, shelter, education, medical care, mental health and psychosocial support, livelihoods, hygiene supplies, and improved sanitation to assist millions of Syrians in need.
While the international community stands ready to support, the regime and its enablers are blocking access to these critical goods. To ensure humanitarian assistance reaches those most in need, UNSCR 2504 must be renewed for 12 months and authorization must be restored for the UN to ship cross-border into north east Syria at the al-Yarubiyah crossing, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. UN cross-border humanitarian assistance provides over 2.8 million Syrians with life-saving assistance. Four million Syrians depend on this aid for their families to survive. There is no alternative to the UN cross-border mechanism. We must protect it and renew it in full to reach as many Syrians as possible.
Continuing the delivery of cross-border assistance is critical to respond to the COVID pandemic and to support UN Special Envoy Geir Pedersen’s call for a nationwide ceasefire in Syria, as well as his work to achieve a lasting political solution to the conflict in line with resolution 2254. Without – or with significantly diminished – UN cross-border humanitarian assistance, we would face an increasingly dire and destabilizing humanitarian crisis, not just in Syria, but throughout the region.
Humanitarian assistance is just one part of the response to this crisis. We must continue to pursue diplomatic solutions to this conflict. To that end, our policy objectives in Syria have been consistent. We are working closely with our international partners and with UN Special Envoy Pedersen to advance the political process in support of UNSCR 2254.
For more than nine years, the Assad regime has waged a bloody war against the Syrian people and committed innumerable atrocities, some of which rise to the level of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including killings, torture, enforced disappearances, and the use of chemical weapons.
On Friday, we co-hosted with Italy and Belgium a side event focused on accountability and civilian protection in Syria where we heard from the UN Commission of Inquiry and a number of civil society voices who discussed the scale and severity of the abuses being committed against civilians across Syria, both within and outside of areas under the regime’s control. The United States is committed to providing the political, diplomatic, and financial support to ensure there are real consequences for atrocities committed in Syria. As one example, we have been supporting the work of the IIIM, gathering evidence of regime atrocities for future prosecution.
We are at a critical juncture. Together, the international community must stand firm that there will be no diplomatic or economic normalization of the Assad regime until there is a political solution to the conflict in line with UN Security Council Resolution 2254.
Recently, we announced new sanctions under the Caesar Act, which are intended to increase the pressure on the Assad regime to end the suffering of the Syrian people and work towards a political solution as outlined in UNSCR 2254. Our Syria sanctions contain clear measures that protect many legitimate humanitarian activities in all parts of Syria, even those under Assad’s control.
We have been clear. To suspend the imposition of sanctions under the Caesar Act the Government of Syria must meet certain conditions, including that Syrian airspace is not used by the Assad regime and its enablers to target civilian populations; political prisoners are released; humanitarian assistance reaches all besieged areas of Syria; displaced persons can return to their homes safely, voluntarily, and with dignity; and there is meaningful accountability for perpetrators of war crimes.
It is time for Assad’s needless, brutal war to end. The United States will continue to work with our partners and allies to support the Syrian people and work towards a political solution to the conflict. To that end, we thank the European Union for hosting this conference and appreciate all the donors who made funding commitments today.