Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis
Acting Deputy Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
July 19, 2023
Mr. President, as General Assembly Resolution 76/262 promotes transparency and accountability in the use of the veto in the Security Council, the United States continues to support its full implementation. This resolution was co-sponsored by more than 80 delegations, including my own. And here we are all again today.
One year ago, Russia vetoed its 16th Security Council resolution on Syria. Last week made it 17. The stakes could not be higher for the Syrian people. Before the devastating February earthquake, the UN assessed needs inside Syria were at an all-time high. And the suffering, and the needs on the ground, have only grown since.
The decision before the Security Council that brings us here today was a straightforward one. The Secretary-General said the UN needed a twelve-month mandate to sustain the vital lifeline to millions of Syrians provided by the cross-border aid mechanism. Under-Secretary-General Griffiths said his humanitarian agencies need twelve months. Ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council called for twelve months, as did Türkiye.
The vast majority of Security Council members were also unified in supporting twelve months. Only Russia stood in the way. And now aid is no longer flowing through Bab al-Hawa. One of the UN’s most complicated and far-reaching operations is frozen in place.
We express our solidarity with the penholders of this resolution, Brazil and Switzerland, who worked tirelessly to find compromise and worked in good faith. The United States preferred a more robust resolution, but we also appreciated the only responsible decision was to extend the mandate. We urge the co-penholders – not former co-penholders, not so-called penholders, but penholders – to continue their work and propose a viable next step to resolve this in the Council.
Russia’s veto, of course, has life-or-death consequences. Syrians, who have suffered unimaginable horrors, have been dealt yet another blow. This reality is unacceptable.
The United States and its partners have contributed billions of dollars in humanitarian assistance and pushed all parties on the ground to facilitate aid to all Syrians in need – no matter where they live. But aid cannot be delivered without this cross-border mechanism.
As we have heard time and again, there is no replacement for the cross-border mechanism. The UN and humanitarian partners on the ground all agree: the proposed way forward announced by the Syrian regime on July 13 is not a workable substitute. Let me repeat that: it is not a workable substitute.
Any acceptance of the regime’s attempt to impose unprecedented constraints on the UN’s humanitarian operations could have grave consequences for humanitarian relief efforts in other locations, and must be rejected.
The United States will continue work with our UN partners and all likeminded countries to prevent the regime from hindering the delivery of essential humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable around the country.
Humanitarian aid must never be used as a bargaining chip. It cannot be conditions-based. We must stand up and denounce these tactics, especially when they are implemented under the cover of a veto by a permanent member of the Security Council. A permanent member that has, time and time again, weaponized food.
The international community must come together and speak out against Russia’s cynical politicization of this purely humanitarian issue. We must act with urgency to reopen the lifeline of Bab al-Hawa. The Syrian people are counting on us to deliver.
Thank you, Mr. President.