Remarks at a UNSC Briefing on the Humanitarian Situation in Syria

Ambassador Jonathan Cohen

Acting Permanent Representative

U.S. Mission to the United Nations

New York City

January 30, 2019

 

AS DELIVERED

Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, Under-Secretary-General Lowcock, for your briefing and for the important work that OCHA and your partners are doing to support the Syrian people.

Last month, Mr. President, the UN Security Council renewed key provisions of Resolution 2165. A fundamental principle of these provisions was ensuring the safe, immediate, and sustained delivery of humanitarian aid to those in need in the most direct and efficient manner possible. This includes the approval and facilitation of aid deliveries from Damascus to the Rukban IDP camp.

We are aware of reports that the Syrian regime has finally issued verbal approval for delivery of urgently-needed humanitarian aid to Rukban, as Under-Secretary-General Lowcock reported. Preliminary approval of this convoy is a much welcome development. However, we must not lose sight of the fact that what is truly needed is unimpeded, sustained humanitarian access, both in Rukban and throughout Syria.

A second convoy will permit aid workers from the UN and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent to deliver food, medicine, and winterization supplies. This delivery will save lives. We call on Damascus to issue all outstanding written approvals and allow this convoy to move forward without any further delay.

It’s critical that this convoy include all the required assistance, as determined by the UN. As part of this delivery, the UN should also be able to conduct a survey of the Rukban resident intentions. The intentions survey will help facilitate the safe, voluntary, dignified, and informed departures from Rukban of those internally displaced persons who wish to leave the encampment.

We reiterate that any departures of IDPs from Rukban must be safe, dignified, and voluntary. Residents must not be coerced by the regime or its allies in any way. It’s also imperative that IDPs be permitted to relocate at the time of their choosing and to a place of their choosing.

Mr. President, the Syrian regime’s continued disregard for the Security Council’s resolutions authorizing the delivery of humanitarian aid is a reminder that we must remain vigilant and that the Security Council must hold Damascus accountable.

The United States remains committed to cooperating with both the UN and Russia to alleviate humanitarian concerns in Rukban and throughout Syria.

Mr. President, the United States and the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS have provided the necessary security assurances to allow this convoy to move forward, just as we did in advance of the November convoy.

The United States is able to support this effort thanks to the Coalition’s liberation of over 99 percent of the territory once held by ISIS in Syria.

Let me be clear, this doesn’t mean the end of the campaign to defeat ISIS. Nor does it lessen the United States’ commitment to the enduring defeat of ISIS.

We appreciate the contributions and continued commitment from our international partners in the Global Coalition; stabilization assistance is critical to ensuring ISIS’s lasting defeat.

We also value and thank our partners who have worked with us on the ground, and we’ll continue to work with them on stabilization efforts in northeast Syria. There’s much work that needs to be done to help those liberated from ISIS recover, and to prevent the return of ISIS.

Mr. President, the United States continues to closely monitor humanitarian conditions in Idlib province. UN access to Idlib from Damascus remains virtually impossible. Cross-border humanitarian assistance is therefore an essential lifeline, and its delivery to the intended beneficiaries must be allowed and facilitated.

To that end, it’s important that the Council spare no effort to ensure the Turkish-Russian ceasefire agreement in Idlib holds. The United States’ position on Idlib is clear – any military escalation by the regime and its allies in Idlib would, as Under-Secretary-General Lowcock said, be catastrophic for the millions of people there and for the stability of Syria’s neighbors.

We must work together to safeguard the Idlib ceasefire currently protecting three million Syrian civilians.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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