Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
June 8, 2023
Thank you, Minister Shaheen, and thank you for bringing us together today to discuss this important topic. I also want to thank Under-Secretary-General DiCarlo for your briefing. Dr. Omrani, the Council really appreciates your coming before us today. Your leadership gives me tremendous hope for the future. I also want to welcome Secretary-General of the League of Arab States Aboul Gheit to this dialogue with the Security Council.
The United States believes strongly the Arab League is vital to both regional and international peace and security. And by working with UN entities, including those established by the Security Council, we believe the League can meaningfully accelerate the path toward stability. Today, I want to highlight the Arab League’s critical role across five conflicts.
First, in Yemen, we see a window of opportunity to achieve durable peace. We recognize the efforts of Arab states to facilitate dialogue. And we encourage Arab League members to closely coordinate with UN Special Envoy Grundberg as we work toward a lasting resolution of the conflict.
Second, over the past few months in Sudan, we have seen conflict upend the lives of the Sudanese people. And I want to take this opportunity to express condolences for the ten Democratic Republic of Congo students who were recently killed. The United States appreciates the Arab League’s efforts to facilitate humanitarian access, a cessation of hostilities, and a resumption of an inclusive political process in Sudan.
We echo Under-Secretary-General DiCarlo’s comments on the key role the League plays here. We particularly welcome the Arab League’s participation in the Expanded Mechanism for Sudan alongside the AU, the UN, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, and others.
Third, in Libya, we encourage the Arab League to support the Libyan people’s call for long-overdue elections. We should all back UN Representative Bathily’s push to establish a framework and timeline for elections. We also encourage the Arab League to support the withdrawal of foreign fighters in Libya, and their rehabilitation and reintegration in their home countries.
Fourth, on the issue of Syria, it is no secret that we disagree about Syria’s re-admission into the Arab League. Simply put, we do not believe Assad has earned his place there, and the United States will not normalize relations with the regime, or lift our sanctions, until there is progress toward a political solution. However, we do have shared goals and we want to work with the Arab League to defend the human rights of the Syrian people, and address humanitarian and security issues on the ground.
The bottom line is this: the needs of the Syrian people should be front and center in any and all engagements with the regime. To that end, the Arab League should press for progress on the many Syria-related issues before the Council, including good-faith participation in the political process outlined in Resolution 2254 and Syria’s obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention.
It is also critical that we urge the regime to accept a 12-month renewal in July of the Security Council’s authorization of the cross-border aid mechanism. As we’ve said before, we must ensure that all three current border crossing remain open. Such an authorization would fulfill the Arab League’s pursuit of guarantees of full and unhindered humanitarian access, including cross-border access to all areas of the country. It would also allow the UN and NGOs the time they need to plan and coordinate the delivery of assistance. We encourage you to press the Syrian regime to support these guarantees.
Although the Assad regime claims it is ready to work with regional actors to receive refugees, we see no indication that it is committed to ending its harassment, arbitrary detention, torture, and ill-treatment of returnees. We must also press the Assad regime to create the conditions for safe, voluntary, and dignified returns of refugees. And countries that have generously hosted millions of refugees must refrain from prematurely pushing them to return. We will continue to press the Assad regime for the humane release of those arbitrarily detained, and for a full accounting of those missing or those who have died in Assad’s prisons.
Fifth, we applaud the Arab League’s invitation of Ukrainian president Zelenskyy to address the Arab League Summit. We all know that Arab states have felt the effects of Russia’s brutal, full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Russia has used food as a weapon of war, and by doing so, they have increased global food prices and exacerbated food insecurity.
And despite its commitments under the Black Sea Grain Initiative, Moscow continues to hinder ships’ ability to get food out to the rest of the world. We encourage Arab states to call out Moscow’s cynical efforts to undermine this initiative, and we encourage Arab states to stand with Ukraine as it defends itself from Russian aggression. We also encourage Arab League States to join the rest of the world in condemning Russia’s use of Iranian drones to harm civilians in Ukraine.
Colleagues, the League of Arab States shoulder a weighty responsibility. So many of these conflicts are deeply complex and protracted. But I want the League of Arab States to know they have a strong partner in the United States and in the United Nations. We are committed to working with you to find creative solutions to today’s most pressing challenges. Let us build a more secure, peaceful, and prosperous future for all. And let us do that together.
Thank you very much, Mr. President.