USA on Syria - Security Council Media Stakeout (6 July 2021)
US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield delivers brief remarks on the Humanitarian situation in Syria.
United States ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield urged the Security Council to "renew and expand" cross-border humanitarian access in Syria for 12 months adding that "anything less" could "severely complicate" reliable delivery of aid.
Speaking to reporters in New York today (06 Jul), Thomas-Greenfield said, in a visit to the Syrian-Turkish border last month, she saw first have the hardship faced by Syrian refugees and displaced persons who told her that the Bab Al Hawa border crossing is a lifeline. She said millions of people rely on the 1,000 trucks that come through that crossing with aid every single month, adding that, without it, severely malnourished children may face famine.
The US ambassador said, "We have four days – just four days left before the cross-border access officially expires risking millions of lives. And today, I once again urge the Security Council to renew and expand this humanitarian access for 12 months. Anything, anything less than 12 months could severely complicate the ability of NGOs and the UN to reliably deliver aid while managing a very lengthy and complicated procurement process."
Thomas-Greenfield noted that the UN Secretary-General and UN agencies have said repeatedly that there is no substitute for the cross-border mechanism. She said cross-line aid cannot meet the needs of Syrians, which have risen in the past year with COVID-19.
She said the US supports all modalities of humanitarian aid in Syria and offered to support expanding cross-line aid. She added that this is a moment for serious humanitarian initiatives, but what is needed is full, safe humanitarian access without delay.
The US ambassador said, "The UN Security Council should not delay the deployment of COVID vaccines in northeast and northwest Syria. In the midst of a pandemic, how can we possibly justify closing a reliable delivery route for vaccines? How can we justify cutting off innocent children, or anyone for that matter, from food, from clean water, and from medicine? And the answer to this is simple; we can't. We must renew this mandate."
Asked if the US was prepared to offer concessions on sanctions in return for keeping the cross-border route open, Thomas-Greenfield said, "This is not a discussion about sanctions. It is a question of the humanitarian needs. The sanctions that we have are targeted towards the Assad regime, and we have made every effort, and quite successfully, to provide options for getting assistance even into the areas - where people are in areas held by the Assad regime."
The US ambassador said cross-line aid has always been on the table, but there has been difficulty receiving approval by the Syrian Government to move some materials.
She said, "What we asked for and continue to support is three border crossings, but we cannot accept less than what we have today; and that's one border crossing for 12 months that's providing support for millions of Syrians. And so, we will continue to push for the maximum, but we will not, we can't accept less than what we have now."
Asked about the repercussions of a Russian and Chinese veto on renewing the mandate even for a single border crossing, the US ambassador said, "I think the repercussions are obvious. People will starve to death. Right now, Bab Al Hawa is a lifeline to millions of people living on the other side of the border. If that border crossing is closed, we know what the consequences are, and we have to do everything to ensure that that doesn't happen."