With President Assad’s showing no sign to stepping down and with the incessant conflict continues to destabilize the country, the world now is witnessing a rapid deterioration of an already devastating situation in Syria, where at least 70,000 Syrians have been killed and millions displaced.
In her remarks at the Security Council Open Debate on the Middle East in New York, Ambassador Susan E. Rice says the Syrian people continue to face deplorable attacks and massacres by regime forces, including the use of heavy weapons, aircraft, and ballistic missiles.
“We are outraged by horrific reports that hundreds of Syrians were killed over the weekend in the Damascus suburb of Jdaidet Al-Fadl.” – Ms. Rice
She says these actions show the Assad regime’s complete disregard for the lives of Syria’s citizens, including its children.
Ms. Rice underscores there must be full accountability for these horrific crimes.
In addition, Ms. Rice urges the Syrian authorities to permit free and unfettered access to the Commission of Inquiry to investigate atrocities, as called for by the General Assembly and UN Human Rights Council.
March was reportedly the deadliest month of the conflict with over 6,000 Syrians killed and with three to 4 million people are now internally displaced.
Refugee crisis worsens
The exponential surge in refugees is among the clearest signs of this dire situation in Syria.
More than 1.2 million people are refugees and is predicted these numbers could double or even triple by the end of this year, nearly one third of Syria’s population.
Today, over 400,000 Syrians have fled in the last seven weeks alone and sought refuge in the neighboring countries.
Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, and UN humanitarian agencies are approaching a saturation point with the surge of refugees.
The United States commends President Michel Sleiman’s leadership during this turbulent period when hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees were accomodated by Lebanon.
“We applaud the generosity of the governments and people who are hosting this exploding number of refugees.” – Ms. Rice
The US counts on all of Syria’s neighbors to continue to keep their borders open, so that those fleeing the conflict can find safety.
US also calls on all countries to fulfill their commitments to the UN’s Syria appeals and to consider what more they can do, as the UN prepares to launch a new appeal next month.
The US is deeply grateful to the Government of Kuwait for fulfilling its generous contribution of $300 million to UN agencies and other international organizations.
Syrian conflict threatens stability of its neighbors
With the growing of refugees swarming Syria’s neighbours, the Security Council said the conflict threatens the stability of its neighbors, particularly Lebanon, as demonstrated by recent attacks in Hermel and Al-Qasr.
Extremists like Hizballah not only continues to undermine Lebanon from within by violating the government’s policy of disassociation but actively enables Assad to wage war on the Syrian people by providing money, weapons, and expertise to the regime in close coordination with Iran.
Al-Qaida-linked extremists now lurking in Syria?
According to Ms. Rice, the presence of violent extremists in Syria, including the al-Nusrah Front, and the dangers posed by chemical weapons are very real and deeply concerning.
She says the Syrian people recognize the threat al-Qaida-linked extremists pose to their revolution, a revolution that otherwise stands for dignity and respect for human rights.
Ms. Rice points out that foreign extremist ideology is not compatible with the democratic and inclusive vision for Syria for which many brave Syrians are fighting and dying.
The US supports the UN Secretary-General’s efforts to investigate any and all credible allegations of the use of chemical weapons in Syria.
Having explicitly requested a UN investigation, Ms. Rice notes the the Syrian authorities should give the team the Secretary-General has assembled full and unfettered access to conduct its work comprehensively.
US response to the crisis
The United States is providing over $409 million in humanitarian assistance to meet health, water, sanitation, and hygiene needs.
In addition, the US government is also providing food aid, including enough wheat to provide a four-month supply of flour to over one million people.
The United States is the largest bilateral humanitarian donor and it is providing nearly $385 million in assistance to those in need across all 14 governorates in Syria and across the neighboring countries.
The money is being spend on emergency medical care and supplies, blankets, food, clean water and shelter.
The US is sending flour to 50 bakeries in Aleppo and sponsoring food and sanitation projects for the separate families in the Atmeh refugee camp.
Kuwait and over 40 countries pledged $1.5 billion to help Syrian refugee earlier this year.
US Supports Syrian Opposition Coalition on its endeavour for a democratic and united Syria
The US commends the Syrian Opposition Coalition for its bold declaration of principles in Istanbul last weekend. The Coalition highlighted its commitment to protect the rights and interests of minorities, reject extremism, seek a political solution to the conflict, prevent the use or transfer of chemical weapons, and preserve state institutions.
Earlier this week, Secretary of State John Kerry underscored the United States’ firm support for the Coalition’s commitment to a political solution of an inclusive, tolerant vision for Syria by announcing the doubling of our non-lethal support to the Syrian opposition to $250 million to assist local opposition councils, build the capacity of civilian activists, and link Syrian citizens with the Syrian Opposition Coalition and local coordinating councils.
For the last several months, the US government has steadily increased its non-lethal assistance to more than $127 million, and that aid is providing food now, medical kits now, and support for local leaders who are trying to lay the groundwork for a stable and a democratic future.
US is also committed for finding a negotiated solution to the conflict based on the Geneva Communique.
For the meantimen, the US remains in close consultation with a number of countries to consider what more we can do to change Assad’s calculus and facilitate an orderly end to the conflict.
“We urge member states to press the Assad regime to commit to credible negotiations based on the framework agreed in Geneva, which calls for Assad to transfer his full executive authority to a transitional governing body.” – Ms. Rice
US and Partners strengthening the Syrian opposition
US and its partners are helping build the Syrian political opposition, including by recognizing the Syrian opposition coalition, as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.
Comprising of diverse representatives inside and outside Syria, the coalition is committed to a democratic, inclusive Syria free from the influence of the violent extremists.
US believes that supporting such entities is the best way to ensure that the Syrian state that emerges after the Assad regime is inclusive and representative.
These political efforts are intertwined with the push for negotiations, and negotiated political transition is the best solution to the crisis in Syria.
In addition, the Geneva communique calls for a transitional governing body with full executive powers and formed on the basis of mutual consent.
US aid to Syria
In November 2012, the United States of America provided $30 million in additional humanitarian assistance to respond to the needs of Syrian people affected by the turmoil.
In Syria, the additional funding will allow for provision of food aid to families in need.
In neighboring countries, the additional assistance from the United States will provide food supplies, hot meals, and food vouchers for families who have fled the violence in Syria.
In addition, the additional assistance will be provided through the World Food Program (WFP), which is providing food aid to 1.5 million people in Syria and the refugees who have fled to neighboring countries.
The United States is the largest donor of food aid for those affected by the conflict in Syria through WFP.
In August 2012, with the violence engulfing Syria, the United States of America has announced an additional $12 million in humanitarian assistance, bringing the total amount of U.S. emergency aid to more than $76 million.
The U.S. government continues to place on ending the escalating violence which has uprooted hundreds of thousands of Syrians.
The humanitarian needs continue to grow whre the number of Syrians displaced to neighboring countries now exceeds 130,000, with nearly 1.5 million in need inside Syria, including UN-estimated one million internally displaced persons.
The Syrian violence has led a crisis on a humanitarian scale that is of the highest priority within the U.S. government, and for which the US pledges to continue to provide support.
In April 2012, with the deteriorating situation in Syria due to turmoil, the United States of America has bolstered efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to people affected by the conflict in the country.
The UN estimates that there are over 2 million Syrians inside Syria in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. Of that number, it’s an estimated 300,000 internally displaced.
United States has dedicated some $33 million to support the important work to assist and protect those in need in Syria and neighboring countries, and much more is on the way.
The violence in Syria, which began in March 2011 as a protest movement similar to those witnessed across the Middle East and North Africa, has claimed over 70, 000 lives, mostly civilians, and displaced tens of thousands.