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Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on the Political and Humanitarian Situation in Syria

Ambassador Robert Wood
Alternate Representative for Special Political Affairs
New York, New York
December 21, 2022


Thank you, Madam President. Thank you, Special Envoy Pedersen and Under-Secretary-General Griffiths, for your briefings. We would also like to acknowledge and thank the tireless and principled work of the current penholders, Ireland and Norway.

This is the ninth meeting of the Security Council since the adoption of Resolution 2642 in July – six briefings and three IIDs – where UN leaders and humanitarian officials have repeatedly described for this Council the scale, transparency, and necessity of cross-border deliveries of humanitarian assistance.

Before the authorization for cross-border deliveries ends on January 10, this Council must confirm the extension of the authorization, as envisioned in Resolution 2642.

This is not a complicated issue. The Council recognized in July the need for cross-border deliveries of humanitarian assistance to mitigate the devastating humanitarian situation in Syria, which continues to constitute a threat to peace and security in the region. The Council recognized in July that the need for cross-border deliveries would extend beyond January 10.

The facts that led to that decision in July have not changed. Humanitarian conditions in Syria are worse than they have ever been since the start of the conflict, as Martin mentioned, 15.3 million people will require humanitarian assistance in 2023.

Cross-border humanitarian assistance deliveries are the most cost-effective and most scalable way to provide food, medical supplies, and other essentials to 2.4 million Syrians who are at risk of starvation, disease, and exposure to brutal winter conditions in the northwest. The UN cross-border operation is among the most secure and transparent anywhere in the world. There is simply no substitute for cross-border assistance.

The UN has implemented every element outlined in Resolution 2642, notably increasing cross-line assistance deliveries and continuing the nationwide implementation of early recovery projects. The UN has dispatched four cross-line aid convoys in the five months since we renewed the mandate in July, almost doubling the total of cross-line missions since they began in August 2021.

UN experts have provided the Council a clear and logical accounting of their planning and efforts, which have been carried out consistent with humanitarian principles. The United States has done its part, including funding early recovery projects in all 14 governorates of Syria, and encouraging the provision of cross-line aid, as determined by humanitarian needs.

The continued presence of thousands of third-country nationals in displacement camps and detention centers in Syria further complicates the humanitarian situation in Syria and must be addressed. Violence is prevalent at the camps, and thousands of vulnerable children are growing up there without access to education, protection – including proper documentation, medical care, and other basic services.

Moreover, these camps and detention facilities are targets for attack by ISIS, underscoring the urgency to facilitate durable solutions through voluntary, safe, and dignified returns and repatriations. We call on all states to repatriate their citizens from the camps and detention facilities.

We welcomed the adoption of Resolution 2664 and greatly appreciate Ireland’s close collaboration with us in facilitating discussions with this Council over the last few months. The resolution established a humanitarian carveout to the asset freeze measures across UN sanctions regimes. We note that the applicability of this carve-out to the UNSC’s 1267 ISIL and Al-Qaida sanctions regime will provide important assurances to humanitarian actors in Syria, including those delivering cross-border aid.

Just yesterday, the U.S. Department of the Treasury released a new package of general licenses to implement Resolution 2664 across our domestic sanctions programs, including some of those programs related to Syria where humanitarian authorizations did not otherwise already exist.

These updates to UN and U.S. sanctions facilitate humanitarian aid while maintaining sanctions on bad actors. This is a significant step for UN sanctions related to Syria and builds on significant carve-outs already within U.S. sanctions for humanitarian aid for the Syrian people, including the delivery of food, medicine, and other aid. As we better align these carveouts across UN and U.S. sanctions, we are making clear that our sanctions should not impede humanitarian activity or the provision of assistance to all in need.

Turning to the political situation, we regret there has been no progress on the Constitutional Committee, as its work has been blocked by arbitrary demands from Russia on unrelated issues. We support a Syrian-led, Syrian owned process, and we call on the Assad regime to cooperate with Special Envoy Pedersen’s efforts to reconvene the Constitutional Committee, agree to and implement a comprehensive, nationwide ceasefire, and humanely release the more than 130,000 missing and arbitrarily detained persons.

We remain concerned about the continued violence and recent escalation in northern Syria, which is putting civilians at risk and threatens the progress made in defeating ISIS. We urge all parties to de-escalate immediately and to protect civilians and civilian objects and uphold international humanitarian law.

We welcome Special Envoy Pedersen’s convening of the Ceasefire Task Force in Geneva last Friday and hope the resumption of this format of meetings can help ensure stability on the ground.

The start of a new year presents an opportunity for the Assad regime to begin the process of healing the country it has so thoroughly shattered. We urge the regime to make clear its support for the provision of humanitarian assistance to all in Syria, including through cross-border deliveries, and to make clear its intention to constructively participate in Constitutional Committee meetings in Geneva as soon as Special Envoy Pedersen can convene them.

Thank you, Madam President.