Ambassador Richard Mills
Deputy U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
July 21, 2022
Colleagues, we should not be here today. There was no justification, no conceivable reason for Russia’s decision on July 8 to veto a Security Council resolution designed to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance to over four million people suffering from 11 years of war.
These meetings are intended to promote accountability – accountability for the abuse of the very special veto power. And there is no question that, in vetoing a resolution authorizing humanitarian aid to the most vulnerable Syrians, one Council member abused its veto.
Right now, the humanitarian needs in Syria are greater than they have ever been. When the Security Council took up this issue, the Secretary-General asked for more aid. UN agencies asked for more. NGOs asked for more. Tragically, heartbreakingly, the Syrian people asked for more. But one country chose not to put humanitarian needs first. Rather than scaling aid up, that country scaled aid down.
Since the start of the conflict in Syria in 2011, Russia has vetoed 17 Security Council resolutions on Syria. Throughout this time, Russia has only sought to shield the Assad regime – to shield that regime from accountability for its brutal human rights abuses, its chemical weapons use. Russia has propped up the regime’s tattered standing in the international community and forced humanitarian organizations to capitulate to the regime’s whims.
Let us remember that the reason the Security Council has a mandate for cross-border humanitarian aid is because the Assad regime has a well-documented history; a history of corruption, of stealing aid, and of denying it to communities in need.
Beyond its 17 vetoes, Russia has undermined the work of the Security Council on Syria in other ways. Just in the past few days we have seen Russia push the Assad regime to suspend its participation in the ninth round of the Constitutional Committee – a Syrian-led, UN-facilitated process. Russia continues to prioritize narrow Russian interests over finding a political path out of a devastating conflict that has now entered its 11th year. It is far past time the regime and Russia engage constructively in helping to advance a political solution that’s called for in Resolution 2254.
Russia’s veto earlier this month has consequences. The first of the two six-month extensions authorized in Security Council Resolution 2642, as many have said before me, brings us to January, when humanitarian needs will be greatest. That timeline risks leaving Syrians without blankets, without heating fuel, depriving them of a steady supply of basic food items during the coldest of months if the resolution confirming the second sixth-month extension is not adopted.
The scale of the UN cross-border delivery mechanism is immense and requires detailed, long-term planning. Without certainty about the duration of the authorization, the ability of humanitarian organizations to organize supply chains, to retain staff, plan operations will be severely impacted.
Now, the international community, as others have said, must come together and firewall any further politicization of what is a purely humanitarian issue. The United States will work with any and every country that prioritizes delivering aid to the most vulnerable.
In this spirit, let us all redouble our support to the UN and to those NGOs working to deliver the desperately needed assistance to Syria. Let us remember the Syrians who have suffered for over a decade and who are counting on leaders in New York to put Syrian needs ahead of politics. Let us remember that there is a different way to pursue this resolution – one where no vetoes are used, and the entire Council comes together in a spirit of solidarity. We have done this before, and we must return to that path in the future.
We have the power to make that difference. The Syrian people are counting on us to deliver.
Thank you very much.