Thank you Mr. President.
As we sit here today, nearly 11 million Syrians are struggling to survive the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.
I met with some of them last month when I visited the massive and ever-expanding refugee camps along Syria’s border with Turkey. One family after another shared harrowing stories of their communities being bombarded from the air by the Assad regime and their families being deliberately denied humanitarian aid simply because they lived in areas controlled by the opposition. I met children whose parents had fled with them to Turkey because those kids were gravely malnourished, inhumanly denied food and medicine by the Syrian regime.
The Assad regime has, until now, refused to allow United Nations humanitarian assistance to flow through border crossings it does not control, something members of this Security Council address with this resolution. By adopting this resolution, the Council has opened four crossings to UN humanitarian agencies and their implementing partners without the need for approval from the regime. These humanitarian agencies will increase the supply of life-saving aid, including food to eat and medicine to care for the sick and injured. If implemented fully, this resolution will allow critical aid to reach up to two million Syrians who have been denied adequate assistance for the past year, and suffered immeasurably as a result. This resolution also authorizes the UN to cross conflict lines between regime and opposition forces to deliver aid, and the Syrian regime, which is systematically denying cross line humanitarian assistance, must heed this obligation.
In addition, the resolution adopted today establishes a UN monitoring mechanism under the authority of the Secretary-General, and with the consent of Syria’s neighbors, to monitor the UN’s aid consignments in order to confirm that they indeed contain humanitarian aid. This mechanism conforms with the Secretary General’s proposal, and the resolution stipulates that inspections will occur at the facilities in neighboring countries. We are grateful to Syria’s neighbors for their crucial cooperation in this effort, and their tremendous generosity in helping respond to this massive humanitarian crisis.
Yet even as we recognize the promise this resolution holds for reaching more people in need, we must not forget that it should have never required a Security Council resolution for a government to allow food and medicine to reach millions of families whose lives have been hanging in the balance. Yet when the UN requested such permission over the last year, their letters went unanswered, their requests rejected. The Assad regime has seized every opportunity to make it more – and not less – difficult to provide such crucial assistance to civilians in dire need. Instead of opening paths for aid, it has deliberately closed them. Rather than providing free and unfettered humanitarian access to all Syrians, it has used the denial of aid – and the starvation, sickness, and misery it imposes – as yet another weapon in its cruel and devastating arsenal against opposition-held areas.
The effectiveness of today’s resolution will depend on the efforts and cooperation of many parties. Those parties include the United Nations and international humanitarian agencies, which have made clear their interest in using these crossings. They also include us as members of the Security Council, who must ensure that this resolution is fully enforced. This Council must be prepared to take decisive action should the parties to the conflict, particularly the Assad regime, fail to comply with it.
To this end, I would remind the Syrian regime that, under article 25 of the UN Charter, Syria is obligated to accept and carry out the decisions made by the Security Council in this resolution.
At a time when many are raising questions about the ability of this Council to fulfill its purpose regarding Syria, we have shown again today that we can come together and take action against the horrific crisis in Syria.
In September of last year, we stood together in demanding that the Assad regime end its use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people. Today, 100 percent of declared chemical weapons in Syria have been removed from the country.
In February, we stood together in calling on the Syrian regime to allow free and unfettered access for humanitarian assistance and to end the systematic besieging of civilian areas, yet this resolution went largely unheeded.
Today, we are taking steps to ensure that our resolution from February has a real impact on the ground unlocking the impediments that stand in the way of cross-border assistance. There is other unfinished work from that resolution including ending the systematic targeting of medical facilities and schools and the monstrous use of barrel bombs against civilian areas.
The Council must now take the cooperation and unity we have shown today and bring it to bear in ensuring the end of the horrors being perpetrated against the Syrian people.
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