Remarks by Ambassador Samantha Power
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations,
at a UN General Assembly Informal Plenary Briefing on the Humanitarian Situation in Syria, February 25, 2014
USUN PRESS RELEASE #028 February 25, 2014
Remarks by Ambassador Samantha Power, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, at a UN General Assembly Informal Plenary Briefing on the Humanitarian Situation in Syria, February 25, 2014
Thank you. On Saturday, the UN Security Council spoke belatedly and with one voice in condemning the widespread violation of human rights and international humanitarian law by Syrian authorities, in demanding a halt to attacks on civilians and an end to barrel bomb attacks, and the aerial bombardments of populated areas. The Security Council demanded unanimously, respect for the principle of medical neutrality, and the rapid, safe and unhindered delivery of humanitarian relief across lines and across borders. The Council also made clear that in the event of noncompliance, it is prepared to take further action.
This is what happened Saturday, in New York. The facts in Syria that gave rise to this long overdue Council resolution defy the imagination. As the Secretary General has recently reported, unspeakable abuses are being committed against children, including kidnapping, sexual violence, beatings with whips, electric shocks, and imprisonment without cause. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of detainees, including humanitarian workers, journalists, medical personnel, and children, are being held in miserable conditions, and are subject to torture, rape and other forms of intolerable abuse. And of course, Syrian forces have encircled neighborhoods, and wilfully used starvation as a weapon of war, blocking food deliveries and causing religious leaders in Ghouta to issue a chilling religious declaration. Given the desperate situation, religious leaders gave Ghouta’s residents dispensation to eat cats and dogs, in order to survive. Cats and dogs.
Let us be clear. This is the most catastrophic humanitarian crisis any of us have seen in a generation. All of us gathered here today have welcomed the action taken by the Security Council on Saturday. Unfortunately, history teaches us to be skeptical that the terms of this resolution will be observed. On October 2nd, the Security Council issued a Presidential Statement, detailing a range of measures that all parties, particularly the Syrian authorities, needed to take to address the humanitarian crisis. Yet, since October 2nd, the number of Syrians in need has risen by one-third, while 2 million more people have been internally displaced, a more than fifty percent increase since before the Security Council Presidential Statement. Since the start of the Geneva II deliberations on January 22, the violence has actually intensified: the bombing of Aleppo has driven an additional 500,000 people from their homes while – countrywide—fatalities have averaged a reported 250 people per day. It is as if, when all eyes are on the Syrian Regime, it grows more brutal, flouting international law and flaunting its intention to do what it wants, when it wants, no matter our horror. And compounding this catastrophic situation, terrorist groups like Al-Nusra and ISIL have imposed their breed of terror on Syrians, compounding the wounds inflicted by the regime.
The Security Council resolution passed on Saturday contains very important words. It identifies by name, specific neighborhoods where food must be allowed to enter. It demands food deliveries by the most direct routes, and it calls out very specific brutal tactics, that shock the conscience, and must immediately stop. But unless and until, these important words are implemented, they will remain just words. I urge all countries in the United Nations to use every ounce of leverage they have in pressing the Government of Syria, and any party that would target civilians or deny humanitarian aid to people in need, to comply fully and promptly with the resolution and to do everything possible to put an end to the horrors on the ground. The steps outlined in the Security Council resolution should have been taken long ago. They must be taken now. The expectations of the world community are clear. The people of Syria are counting on us all. Thank you.