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Remarks by Amb Linda Thomas-Greenfield at a UNSC Briefing on the Political and Humanitarian Situation in Syria

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
November 28, 2023


Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, Deputy Special Envoy Rochdi and Director Wosornu for your briefings, and for your unwavering commitment to bring a sustainable peace to the people of Syria.

During last month’s briefing, we expressed concern about multiple recent attacks by the Syrian regime and Russian forces in northern Syria. These attacks killed scores of civilians, displaced over 120,000 people, and destroyed vital infrastructure.

It was my great hope that this briefing would be different. That we would not have to discuss more bloodshed, more displacement, more brutality. And yet, sadly, the Syrian regime’s ruthless bombing campaigns in Idlib and Aleppo governorates continue, killing hundreds more civilians.

What’s more, Assad regime-led attacks, supported by Russian airstrikes concentrated in western portions of Idlib, have destroyed tents of displaced persons.

We also condemn the attacks by Iranian-aligned militia groups on U.S. personnel and facilities in Iraq and Syria. The mission of these U.S. forces remains to lead the international effort to defeat Da’esh.

Just like any other Member State, the United States has the right to self-defense, as outlined in Article 51 of the UN Charter. We have, therefore, conducted targeted response strikes. And we stand ready to take further action, as necessary and appropriate, to address further threats of attacks.

It is in the interest of national defense that earlier this month, we also designated Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada and its Secretary-General as Specially Designated Global Terrorists. This terrorist group has threatened the lives of both U.S. and Global Coalition personnel in Iraq and Syria.

Additionally, we designated six individuals affiliated with the Iran-aligned militia [group] Kata’ib Hizballah. Iran, through the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force, has supported these and other militant groups. It has supplied them with training, funding, and sophisticated weapons, including increasingly accurate and lethal unmanned aerial systems. This escalatory behavior is unacceptable. And it does nothing to address the oppressive and dire economic conditions facing Syrian civilians today.

To that end, we cannot allow the Assad regime to distract our attention from protests in Al-Suwaida, where for months Syrian people have exercised their rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression, and called for peace, dignity, security, and justice.

Colleagues, we support peaceful assembly and these protesters exemplify the need for a Syrian-focused and Syrian-led solution to the conflict, in line with Resolution 2254. Unfortunately, the Syrian regime has obstructed all attempts to achieve progress on the political track.

As a result, the Syrian people continue to flee their homes in droves, with refugees showing no indication of a wish to return. Not because of economic conditions, as the regime maintains, but because they fear regime oppression, and torture, arbitrary detention, and enforced disappearance; mandatory conscription, and sexual and gender-based violence.

We welcome the provisional measures issued by the International Court of Justice earlier this month, which order Syria to prevent acts of torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment, and prevent the destruction of evidence of such acts. This is a vitally important step in holding the Assad regime accountable for acts of torture.

On that note, we also continue to call upon the Assad regime to release – or at the very least clarify the fate – of the more than 150,000 people it has arbitrarily detained or forcibly disappeared. That includes extending amnesty to not only those charged with petty crimes, but also those imprisoned for politically motivated reasons.

Finally, we welcome the six-month* extensions for UN access through the Bab al-Salam and al-Rai crossings. That said, we call on the regime to extend authorization for the Bab al-Hawa crossing before it expires in January. Failing to do so makes planning, staffing, and procurement less efficient. It raises costs for UN agencies and aid partners on the ground. And it leaves the humanitarian needs of thousands of Syrian civilians hanging in the balance during the cold winter months.

Colleagues, there is no shortage of humanitarian crises on our agenda. Still, we must not forget about the plight of the Syrian people. I met yesterday with a group of Syrian women, who appealed to me for the Council’s support. So, we must do more and we must give more. As the largest donor to the humanitarian response plan, the United States calls on all UN Member States to support this appeal. Most of all, we call on this Council to stand with the Syrian people as they fight for their fundamental freedoms and a more just and peaceful future.

Thank you, Mr. President.