Mr. President, thank you for your steady and very efficient stewardship of the Council this month; the Rwandan coffee you shared with us at the beginning of July has held us in good stead. To the delegation of the United Kingdom, we wish you a successful month of August and look forward to working with you. You have our full support.
Today, I’d like to address areas where the Security Council has been productive during this very eventful month of July. I would also like to look ahead and touch a few issues the Council will need to continue to track closely in August and beyond.
First, I thank the delegation of Rwanda for organizing an open debate two days ago on peacekeeping and partnership with regional and sub-regional organizations. The Council’s adoption of the Rwandan-sponsored resolution helped remind us of the essential role regional organizations play in peacekeeping, not only in Africa, but elsewhere. These groupings are often the first responders for severe crises – crises that do not happen in a vacuum, that have repercussions across borders. Monday’s session was timely as the United Nations and many member states are rightly taking a fresh look at how to strengthen UN peacekeeping to better meet contemporary challenges; in this regard, we look forward to the comprehensive review of UN peacekeeping the Secretary-General announced here last month and touched on again Monday.
Mr. President, as I said, July has been an eventful – and at times a very tragic – month. The Council united on July 21 to adopt resolution 2166 on the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in Ukraine. This was an important step in our efforts to determine who was responsible for this horrific incident and to bring them to justice. The Netherlands has proposed to lead an international investigation, and the Netherlands and Australia have offered police to help secure the crash site. Malaysia is also working closely with other affected countries to send security and other personnel.
The Dutch-led investigation will enable expert analysis of the evidence and, we hope, provide the answers to the questions citizens and governments, and of course families, are asking about flight MH17.
To this end, the United States has offered assistance – representatives from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Transportation and Safety Board are already in Ukraine, ready to work with investigators. Further on Ukraine, the High Commissioner for Human Rights report on Ukraine notes that a total breakdown of law and order and a reign of fear and terror have been inflicted by armed groups on the population of eastern Ukraine. The United States is committed to a diplomatic solution to the situation; and we remain concerned about Russia’s support for pro-Russian separatists, including the flow of heavy weapons and rocket and artillery fire from Russia into Ukraine.
Turning to Syria, the Council came together to support a new resolution to address the ongoing humanitarian crisis. Resolution 2165 opened four crossings on the Syrian border that will allow UN humanitarian agencies and their implementing partners to enter the country without needing a green light from the regime. If implemented fully, the resolution will allow critical aid to reach over two million Syrians who have been suffering terribly without essential assistance over the past year. We’re pleased to see the first of such convoys cross into Syria from Turkey last week. Proof of the dire situation in Syria was on prime display last Friday, when the United Kingdom hosted an Arria-formula meeting with the Commission of Inquiry on Syria.
As the Commission’s report made clear, we need to maintain our focus on Syria as the regime continues to imprison tens of thousands of Syrians – including women, children, doctors, humanitarian aid workers, and journalists – subjecting them to torture, sexual violence, and inhumane treatment.
Mr. President, although the Assad regime is the most egregious perpetrator of violations and abuses of international humanitarian and human rights law in Syria, the rapid gains of violent extremist groups in Syria, particularly ISIL, are alarming. In this context, we welcome the adoption of a Presidential Statement last Monday on the terrorist oil trade in Syria and Iraq.
In the coming weeks and months, Syria must remain front and center. The Council must continue to press for a political solution to the conflict, for accountability for violations of human rights and abuses of human right, and to hold Syria to its commitment to completely eliminate its chemical weapons program including materials and facilities.
Also, Mr. President, the ISIL threat merits our full attention. The Council and regional and international partners must remain focused on supporting the Government of Iraq as it combats ISIL and other violent extremist groups.
This means working together to support a sound counterterrorism strategy against these groups. It also means supporting the efforts of Iraq’s elected representatives to form a new government that reflects a broad national consensus. In this regard, we were pleased to adopt, just this morning, the one-year extension of the UNAMI mandate, whose work remains absolutely essential to all of these efforts.
Elsewhere in the Middle East, the situation related to Gaza will require our focus. In his meetings in the region aimed at securing a cease-fire, Secretary Kerry expressed support for Israel’s right to defend itself and called for the end of Hamas rocket fire, yet he also expressed our deep concern for civilians, especially women and children, on both sides affected by the hostilities.
We continue to call on the parties to comply with international humanitarian law, including the respect for and protection of civilians as well as civilian and humanitarian facilities. We condemn Hamas’s use of civilian facilities for military purposes, and we reiterate the inviolability of UN facilities. The United States has been clear – President Obama and Secretary Kerry have both called for an immediate and unconditional humanitarian cease fire. A prolonged humanitarian ceasefire would significantly deescalate the situation, allow for the distribution of urgently needed humanitarian assistance, including medicine and food, and allow for serious negotiations to restore a permanent cessation of hostilities.
Any process aimed at achieving a lasting and meaningful resolution to the crisis related to Gaza must also result in the disarmament of Hamas and other terrorist groups. We will work closely with the international community in support of this goal.
Finally Mr. President, we look forward to the Security Council trip that is coming up next month. The swiftly unfolding crises we face today do not allow us many moments to reflect, but taking some time to consider events leading to, and the horrors of, the First World War should give us new impetus as we strive to help end these conflicts. The second part of the trip, to Somalia and South Sudan, will offer us an important chance to push for peace in places where conflict has persisted for far too long.
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