Remarks by Ambassador Samantha Power, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, at a Security Council Stakeout Following the Adoption of UNSC Resolution 2139 on Humanitarian Access in Syria,

Samantha Power
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations 
New York, NY
February 22, 2014


Hi everybody.  This resolution constitutes an important, unanimous demand by the Security Council that the barrel bombing and forced starvation of civilians in Syria has got to end.

After three years and more than 130,000 Syrians killed; with 6.8 million in need of aid inside the country, 250,000 of whom are trapped in besieged areas; after the barrel bombs, the arbitrary detentions; the systematic use of torture; and the use of starvation as a weapon of war, today this Council has unanimously articulated a set of demands to alleviate the worst humanitarian crisis of this generation.  And, importantly, the Council has unanimously committed to take additional action in the face of non-compliance.

That commitment is important because, as the Security Council today recognized, there has been no "meaningful progress" implementing this Council's previous presidential statement on humanitarian access.  Instead, the Assad regime responded to the Council's guidance with intensified attacks on civilian targets and increased blockades preventing the starving and the sick from accessing food and medicine.  Bombs have continued to fall; people have continued to die; and overall suffering has intensified dramatically.

Today's unanimous resolution of the Security Council, for the first time, specifically identifies areas where sieges must be lifted; it demands the demilitarization of medical facilities, schools, and other civilian facilities; it demands cross-border humanitarian access so that aid can reach people in need through the most direct routes; it demands the cessation of insidious use of barrel bombs, which seem designed for the very purpose of terrorizing, maiming, and killing civilians.

The Security Council has spoken; it is time now for long overdue action.  As hard as it was to finally achieve a Security Council resolution, passing today's resolution was the easy part.  The hard and desperately necessary part is implementation. The world now needs to stand united on behalf of implementation so that there are no more broken promises, no more delays, no more coupling minor concessions with cruel and shameless attacks on civilians.

Thank you and  I'd be happy to take a few questions.

Reporter:  Thank you, Madam Ambassador.  As a great defender for human rights, do you think that this resolution is going to solve this humanitarian crisis in Syria, and what is your response on Ambassador Churkin saying that you tried many times, to create, to politicize the humanitarian situation in Syria?  Thank you.

Ambassador Power:  I think we should go back to first principles:  the war in Syria has got to end.  That is imperative.  There has to be a political solution, that is why the antics of the Syrian regime in Geneva were so disturbing and so disheartening to so many. Within the context of a war that is ongoing, because the Syrian regime is unwilling to negotiate seriously, this resolution is important for two reasons:  it is the specificity of this resolution that I draw your attention to.  The Security Council is famous for its generalized statements demanding progress and the like.  This creates a set of very specific, implementable provisions, and we will know whether they have been implemented and, or where they have not.  The specificity of each of the besieged areas being named; the specific demand for cross-border - for the Syrian regime to allow cross-border access; the specific reference to barrel bombs - and you know again, we are heartened that our Russian colleagues have joined us in demanding the end of the use of indiscriminate weapons like barrel bombs - the reference to starvation as a weapon of war and how that is illegal under international law, and how the - all parties, but particularly the regime, need to stop using food and medicine as a weapon of war.  I mean these are very, very specific provisions. So I think it is important, but as I said both in the Council and as I will say to you here today, the resolution is just words, it is implementation that matters. And that is what we are starting measuring right now.

Reporter: But are you politicizing the aid as Ambassador Churkin was accusing the United States before?

Ambassador Power:  I'm focused, as I hope everyone in the council is focused, on the fate of the Syrian people and the deplorable suffering that they have undergone, not just for the life of this war, but with particular intensity since the last time the Security Council spoke with its presidential statement in October.

Reporter:  To ensure implementation, what further steps is the Security Council willing to take in the event of non-compliance? And in extension to that, how does this resolution obligate all parties to ensure cross-border access for aid, when there is an existing GA resolution that basically enshrines national sovereignty over agencies - over UN agencies having free access to be able to deliver aid across borders?

Ambassador Power:  Well, first let me say on your, on your first question on enforcement, I mean the language is very specific in this resolution.  It commits to come back to the Council, but commits to take further steps; and as you know, previous resolutions have been vetoed over weaker language than that.  And so we, we believe that that language is actually a significant hook, and a significant commitment by the parties on the Security Council.  In terms of cross-border access, we are pleased, particularly, that our Council colleagues who have significant leverage with the regime, with the Syrian regime that has been denying cross-border access at certain border crossings, that they have signed on to that demand for cross-border access. And so we know that implementation - it's not like, you know, the fairies come out of the sky, and the angels descend, and suddenly, implementation happens.  It happens because those of us who have leverage on various parties on the ground use that leverage; and so we, again, are not naïve. The track record of compliance with any UN product as you point out has been abysmal for the three years of the conflict, but this resolution goes farther than we have been able to get in three years, and you saw that every member of the Council raised their hands in support of the provision demanding cross-border access. I think, as my Australian colleague pointed out, the UN estimates are that if land convoys could move across borders by the most direct routes, more than a million people could be fed and reached who are not being reached today.

Reporter:  Thank you.  Ambassador Gasana had mentioned that it was unfortunate that certain amendments that were proposed in the resolution regarding transfer of arms to the parties in the conflict were not accepted.  What is the U.S. position on those amendments?

Ambassador Power:  All I will say is that we did not object to those amendments and I would refer you to other Council colleagues on that question.


PRN: 2014/025