Thank you, Mr. President.
This is the third time in ten months that two members, Russia and China, have prevented the Security Council from responding credibly to the Syrian conflict. The first two vetoes they cast were very destructive. This veto is even more dangerous and deplorable. The resolution just vetoed demanded all parties to cease violence. It invoked Chapter VII to make more binding on the parties their obligation to implement the Joint Special Envoy’s six-point plan and effect the political transition plan agreed by the Action Group in Geneva on June 30. And, it threatened the only party with heavy weapons—the Syrian regime—with sanctions if it continued to use these weapons brutally against its own cities and citizens.
But it would not even impose sanctions at this stage. And despite paranoid, if not disingenuous, claims by some to the contrary, it would in no way authorize nor even pave the way for foreign military intervention. What this resolution would have done was to provide the political support to the UN mission that might have given it a fighting chance to accomplish its mandate. It is a shame this Council was unwilling to do so.
There should be no doubt about this: the only way that unarmed United Nations observers could ever deter violence is if their reports of the Syrian regime’s persistent violations of the Annan plan and of their own commitments led this Security Council to impose swift and meaningful consequences for non-compliance, as requested, indeed demanded, by our Joint Special Envoy. As the United States explained when voting for UNSMIS’s establishment three months ago, we were and remain deeply skeptical of the Syrian regime’s intentions and thus the efficacy of the observer mission.
Week after week, the Secretary-General, the Joint Special Envoy, the Head of UNSMIS, General Mood, and others have told this Council that the Assad regime continued to fire heavy weapons in population centers, in contravention of resolutions 2042 and 2043. Week after week, they told us that the Syrian government continued to detain and torture citizens and to maintain a horrific posture of intimidation and harassment. They reported recently that the Syrian regime had escalated its crackdown, employing tanks and helicopter gun-ships. They reported on various occasions that the Syrian-backed Shabiha militia were terrorizing entire communities, including sexually assaulting women and children.
The escalation of the regime’s attacks against its own people is even more troubling because of their large stockpiles of chemical weapons. We have made it clear that these weapons must remain secure and that the regime will be held accountable for their use. Because as the situation deteriorates, the potential that this regime could consider using chemical weapons against its own people should be a concern for us all.
On July 13th, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wrote a letter reiterating his call on Council members to “insist on the implementation of the Council’s resolutions and to exercise their common responsibilities by taking necessary collective action under the United Nations Charter.” Yet the UN mission’s reports of persistent and flagrant violations and the Secretary-General’s appeals and those of the Joint Special Envoy have been met only with intensified violence and Security Council inaction. The blame for this unacceptable situation does not lie with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Joint Special Envoy Annan or the UN monitors. The unarmed UN military observers and civilian staff have performed their tasks bravely under very dangerous conditions, and we thank them profoundly and the troop contributing countries for their dedicated service.
Rather, the fault lies squarely with the heinous Assad regime and those member states that refuse to join the international community and their fellow Council members in taking firm action against the regime. Their position is at odds with the majority of this Council that voted for this resolution. It is at odds with the League of Arab States. It is at odds with over 100 countries in the Group of Friends of the Syrian People that called for decisive action under Chapter VII to stop the killing and start a process of transition to post-Assad Syria. And, it is at odds with the wishes and aspirations of the vast majority of the Syrian people, who deserve so much better from this Security Council.
We have missed yet another critical opportunity to work together. We, and especially the people of Syria, cannot afford to miss any more.
Yesterday’s dramatic attack in Damascus is indicative of how the situation in Syria will continue to deteriorate in the face of this Council’s inaction. The perpetuation of the status quo is in no way static. It is in fact a recipe for intensified conflict, increased terrorism and a proxy war that could engulf the region.
It is simply not credible to argue that the mere continuation of an unarmed observer mission in the midst of these threats and spiraling violence can or will fundamentally change anything. Everyone in this room knows that. The United States has not and will not pin its policy on an unarmed observer mission that is deployed in the midst of such widespread violence and that cannot even count on the most minimal support of this Security Council. Instead, we will intensify our work with a diverse range of partners outside the Security Council to bring pressure to bear on the Assad regime and to deliver assistance to those in need. The Security Council has failed utterly in its most important task on its agenda this year. This is another dark day in Turtle Bay.
One can only hope that one day, before too many thousands more die, that Russia and China will stop protecting Assad and allow this Council to play its proper role at the center of the international response to the crisis in Syria.