Ambassador Power Talks About Syria

Apr 13, 2016
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Category: UN-INT-EN

Remarks by Ambassador Samantha Power, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Following UN Security Council Consultations on Syria, April 12, 2016

So I’m just leaving the briefing that Staffan de Mistura offered the Council in advance of his effort to reconvene the parties around political talks. What was very clear was the inextricable linkage between the political transition negotiations – which of course urgently have to take place – the deterioration in humanitarian access, and the escalation of violence on the ground, which is having a very negative bearing on the cessation of hostilities, which had reduced violence substantially.

I was here a week ago talking to you about the last humanitarian briefing. And I’m sorry to say that none of the issues that I or other Council members raised in that session have been addressed. There’s still been no access to Daraya which has not been reached since 2012. There are reports of kids walking around looking like skeletons; WFP, as I mentioned last week, has reported that some people are eating grass. And in the month of April, there’ve only been two interagency UN convoys that have actually reached their destination. So there’s been a real reduction in humanitarian access, and that not only affects people’s lives and endangers people’s lives, but of course is linked to what Staffan de Mistura is trying to do on the political track.

One of the most ghastly statistics related to humanitarian access is that in March, the four towns convoy that the UN arranged saw 4.5 metric tons of medical supplies removed from convoys – 4.5 metric tons! So that is just a striking testament to the negative political will that the Syrian regime is bringing to bear. And on the cessation of hostilities, we’re very alarmed by the Syrian prime minister’s public announcement that he and the Russian Federation are going to launch an offensive around Aleppo – that would be devastating for the people of Aleppo of course, but also to this intricate process where the cessation of hostilities, humanitarian access, and political negotiations are all related to one another. It is clear that if the Syrian regime does not live by its commitments on humanitarian access, on detainees, on stopping indiscriminate bombing, on sticking to the cessation of hostilities, the political process will have little chance of success. So that was the message that I delivered, many other Council members delivered. But what’s key is that those countries with influence, like the Russian Federation, use that influence to get the regime back with the program. Because right now there are signs that this is slipping and it is a much more delicate environment for de Mistura to convene political talks when you’re seeing regressions on humanitarian access and regressions on the cessation of hostilities. So those who can  influence the regime, now is the time to influence them.

QUESTION: Ambassador, you were talking about this offensive, but the Russians and the Syrian say that they are attacking the terrorists by this.

AMBASSADOR POWER: Well the Russians have made a lot of claims – the Russians and the Syrian regime have made a lot of claims about who they are hitting that have proven totally inaccurate. I mean the Syrian regime has been saying it’s been hitting terrorists from the beginning of the conflict, and you only have to see what happened in Ghouta in August 2013 and see hundreds of children laid out from having been gassed by the Syrian regime to know that this is utter nonsense. They’ve been hitting markets, they’ve been hitting hospitals, they’ve been deliberately sniping at medical professionals who leave hospitals. So this ludicrous account that the Syrian regime has offered – that everyone they hit is a terrorist – has been belied by the facts from the very beginning. And the same when the Russians got involved on behalf of the Syrian regime; the vast majority of the targets they hit were not ISIL or Nusra targets.

On the specific claim that the Syrian prime minister has made, the Russian Federation has come out and said that it is not planning an offensive. But it is extremely important that their deeds match those commitments, and that they work constructively to reduce violence and to end violence against non-terrorist groups, rather than to escalate. And we’re very concerned, again, about the Syrian government’s announcement.

 


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