Bringing a stop to the horrific atrocities being carried out by the Assad regime is a top priority of the U.S. government, and a consistent focus of my efforts as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations at the Security Council.
It is essential to ensure that the victims of the Assad regime, including millions of refugees who have fled the country, and millions more who have been displaced or trapped within Syria, receive the humanitarian assistance that they need to survive.
The Assad regime has systematically obstructed these efforts by preventing aid from reaching people in the parts of the country it does not control and by using starvation as a tactic of war.
In Jordan, I had in depth discussions with King Abdullah and Interior Minister Majali, as well as with civil society. And yesterday, here in Turkey, I met with President Gul and Prime Minister Erdogan and, again, members of civil society.
Together, Jordan and Turkey have taken in roughly 1.7 million Syrian refugees — many of whom arrived hungry, sick, and terrified.
The governments, and the people, of Jordan and Turkey, as well as those in Lebanon and the Gulf, have dedicated billions of dollars in aid to helping the refugees, and they have also treated Syrians in flight with compassion.
I met, on this trip, with UN agencies and humanitarian organizations which are working side-by-side with the Jordanian and Turkish governments to reach those in need and I met with refugees in Amman, at the Nizip camp here in Turkey, and here in Gaziantep.
At one refugee center in Amman, I met Abu Ibrahim who lost his wife and four of his children when Assad and his forces struck his home in Ghouta with a barrel bomb back in April 2013. For eight months, this man carried his only surviving child — his ten year-old son — who was nearly killed by shrapnel in his leg and his head and chest. This father carried his boy from city to city inside Syria seeking medical help, desperate for medical help. For eight months, he carried his boy in his arms.
In January of this year, finally, after eight months seeking medical help, Abu Ibrahim and his boy made it to Jordan, where his son finally received medical treatment. But today, Abu Ibrahim has no money and no job and his son is out of school. This is one family. There are millions like it.
Just today, here in Gaziantep, I met women and children who have fled the carnage in Syria and come to Turkey. Single mothers, whose husbands have been killed or tortured, trying to raise young families. Children as young as 11, forced to work to ensure that their mothers and their siblings can afford food.
One boy today here in Gaziantep, told me about his father, who was taken by the regime in Syria, and savagely tortured. This boy was an A student in Syria and longs to be able to study again. But instead, he has to work to help support his family. “I’ve seen things I shouldn’t have seen,” he told me, sobbing.
With these devastating experiences in mind, I have been looking at what more can be done at the Security Council to increase humanitarian access inside Syria. It is critical that the Security Council reaches agreement on meaningful action to allow the Syrian people to receive the critically-needed humanitarian assistance that they are currently being denied.
Before I close and open it up for questions, let me add that in consultations with leaders in Jordan and Turkey, I discussed the takeover of Mosul, Iraq by ISIL. I conveyed to President Gul and Prime Minister Erdogan, the United States’ deep concern about the kidnapped Turkish diplomatic families and other civilians.
These alarming events in Iraq this week have reinforced a point made repeatedly by President Obama: the Assad regime in Syria, and the violence that it both delivers and engenders, will be a magnet for further violence and extremism until Assad leaves power.
Assad’s atrocities have been an effective recruiting tool. As these terrorists are drawn to Syria, Iraq and surrounding countries, they pose a threat to the security of our allies as well as to our own country.
Given the suffering of the Syrian people and the risks posed by terrorists, the United States has increased our support to the moderate opposition within Syria; we’ve put more resources toward helping address the refugee spillover from Syria; President Obama announced at West Point, the creation of a Counterterrorism Partnership Fund, to help strengthen our support for our regional partners as the face these extremists.
And, finally, on Iraq, President Obama is reviewing all of our options to break the momentum of extremist groups and to bolster the capabilities of the Iraqi Security Forces.
With that, I’m happy to take your questions.
Moderator: Thank you. Because we’re short on time, we’re just going to have one question a piece. We’ll start with CNN Turk.
Reporter: (inaudible) You talked to Prime Minister Erdogan yesterday about the abducted (inaudible) diplomats; ah, what message did you give him and did they have any requests from you? And, one more, ISIS, Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is fighting and going to Baghdad. Mr. Obama said that they won’t be sending any troops on the ground, to Iraq, I mean. Personally do you think, is it necessary, for UN, the United States to support the Iraqi army on the ground? Thank you.
Ambassador Power: Do you want to translate the questions for your audience?
Moderator: No translation, no translation
Ambassador Power: Okay. With regard to my meetings yesterday with the Turkish President and Prime Minister, you can imagine that they, and the entire Turkish government were extremely focused and that this was a matter of the urgent priority – the fate of the Turkish people in Iraq.
They conveyed that Turkey is working around the clock, through all channels, to secure the release of Turkish citizens. And we conveyed our willingness to do anything we could to help. And of course beyond the crisis at hand, we agreed that it is in all of our interest to cooperate intensively on the threat of ISIL more broadly.
On your second question, if I followed, let me just say that President Obama is reviewing a whole range of options about how to deal with ISIL and its momentum in Iraq. In recent weeks and months, we have been increasing our support to Iraqi security forces in terms of intelligence and equipment and we will look at other options for supporting the Iraqi national forces, but it is important to stress that those forces must have the ability to defend themselves and their people. Over the long-term, it is the Iraqi people and the Iraqi Security Forces who will have to be able to provide security in that country.
Moderator: Next question to Hara FM.
Ambassador Power: I’m focused, as is President Obama, on the present and I can tell you having spent this week meeting with Syrian families who’ve lost everything, that I am not satisfied at all by what is happening on the ground in Syria and no human being can be satisfied. Massive crimes against humanity and atrocities against civilians are being carried out to this day by the Assad regime. Anybody who opposes Assad, or lives in territory that is seen as opposition territory – regardless of their religion or their ethnicity – is vulnerable to attack by the Assad regime.
And this is why it is our responsibility to continue to look to see what more we can do to support the Syrian people and bring about the end of this monstrous regime. And that is why President Obama, as recently as his West Point speech, said that we would be increasing further our assistance to the moderate opposition.
It is clear that more pressure needs to be put on the Assad regime if there is to be any kind of political solution, and the creation of what we all want, which is a transitional governing body and, above all, peace.
Moderator: Okay. We have time for one last question and it’s going to come from Ihlas News Agency.
Reporter: First of all I want to welcome you. So when the tension started in Syria first, the United States followed a policy of supporting Turkey. Then, after countries like China and Russia, involved and getting involved in the issue, so it appears that the United Stated started pursuing a more passive policy concerning the Syria issue. Has the United States left Turkey alone in its Syria policy and are you thinking of undertaking a complete step in the future on this matter?
Ambassador Power: First of all, let me say that Turkey, from the beginning of this crisis, has shown tremendous leadership, particularly in supporting Syrians who are being terrorized by their government. And, as you’re indicating, if we look back to the beginning of the crisis, Prime Minister Erdogan tried to convince Assad at the very beginning not to kill his people and to listen to the democratic aspirations of those inside Syria.
It was only when Assad and his regime decided to fire on and massacre peaceful protesters that Prime Minister Erdogan and the Turkish government came to the conclusion that Assad had lost the legitimacy to lead and had to go and the United States came to the same conclusion.
And since that time, we have worked hand in glove with Turkey on the humanitarian front, in pushing for a political solution and putting pressure on Assad so that he understands that he has to go, in gathering evidence that will eventually be used to prosecute people who are behind these atrocities and crimes against humanity, and in providing a whole range of support, both for the civilian opposition inside Syria, like the local councils, and for the armed opposition.
So we remain in lock step with Turkey on seeking an end to the Assad regime, seeking democracy and physical security and dignity for the people of Syria. And I can tell you on the basis of my conversations in Ankara yesterday, and all those that President Obama and Secretary Kerry have also had with the Turkish leadership, that our conversations now are about how we increase assistance to all forms of opposition to Assad and how we intensify our cooperation against terrorists who, we agree, benefit from the existence of the Assad regime.
And we are equally unsatisfied with what we see inside Syria and the ongoing suffering of the Syrian people and we recognize that we have to increase, not only our efforts, but increase our contribution to a solution.
Thank you so much for coming. Thank you.
- Source: U.S. Mission to the UN in New York