Ambassador Michele J. Sison, U.S. Deputy Representative to the United Nations,U.S. Mission to the United Nations
Thank you, Mr. President.
As we head into September and a new General Assembly high season, it is appropriate for us to take a moment and consider some of the Security Council's priorities – priorities we've addressed during a busy month of August, and that we'll need to continue to address moving forward.
In particular, I'd like to focus on the Council's work on Syria and South Sudan, and to briefly touch on the DPRK and our ongoing deliberations on the selection of the next Secretary-General. Mr. President, as we have for so many months, the Council in August focused on the political, humanitarian, and security situations in Syria, as other colleagues have noted. I, too, would like to take a moment to recall the very moving Arria-formula meeting, which the UK, France, New Zealand and Ukraine hosted with us, and where we heard directly from those who witnessed the siege in Aleppo. These were individuals who had worked so hard to try to relieve some of the terrible suffering there, including medical doctors and first-responder "White Helmets." The scenes they described and images they shared showed clearly a humanitarian catastrophe of searing scale. Cutting off food and medicine to hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians undermines the Cessation of Hostilities and plays into the hands of violent extremist groups.
The next day, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Stephen O'Brien, and Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura met with the Council and called for an immediate renewal of the Cessation of Hostilities and a pause to enable humanitarian access.
Incredibly, largely because of the Syrian regime's obstruction, no interagency UN convoys were able to deliver assistance between August 1 and August 23. And between August 23 and August 29, just four UN interagency convoys delivered to besieged or hard-to-reach areas in Syria. We simply must see improvements to humanitarian access. As I said in this chamber a little more than a week ago, while the United States condemns all parties to this conflict that use siege tactics, we must be clear that the Assad regime and its international backers are responsible for the suffering of the overwhelming majority of Syrians living under siege.
This leads me to a point I'd like to make regarding the use of chemical weapons in Syria. Just yesterday we received a disturbing but important briefing from High Representative Kim Won-soo and Joint Investigative Mechanism head Virginia Gamba. We are reviewing the findings of the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism carefully. But based on what we have heard, the case is strong and clear that a robust Council response is warranted. It is essential that we come together to ensure consequences for those who have used chemical weapons in Syria.
Mr. President, another country where the status quo is unbearable is South Sudan. This month the Security Council look important action – responding to calls from key regional partners – to create a Regional Protection Force within UNMISS. Security Council Resolution 2304 set out three priorities for the 4,000-strong Regional Protection Force: number one – facilitate safe and free movement in Juba; number two – protect key facilities; and number three – prevent attacks against civilians, the UN, and humanitarian actors. The force will have the authority to use all necessary means to carry out these responsibilities. These efforts will support UNMISS's broader mission to protect civilians, monitor human rights, facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance, and support the implementation of the peace agreement. We look forward to the Council mission that Senegal and the United States will lead to South Sudan starting tomorrow.
Another challenge on the Council's docket that requires resolve involves the DPRK. Again, and more than once, the Council was required to meet urgently to address a new provocation by North Korea. The DPRK's actions, and the advancements in its ballistic missile capabilities, in particular, cannot be ignored.
Mr. President, I would also like to mention our work on the selection of the next Secretary-General. The Council held its second and third straw polls in August, and we feel that the process is moving in the right direction, but we must stay focused on our deliberations despite the busy month ahead. Even as we plan for the arrival of many of our countries' leaders in just a few weeks, we look forward to continuing our efforts in September to identify the best qualified candidate to lead this organization into the next decade.
Finally, I'd like to thank Malaysia for its superb leadership of the Council this month – and to offer our support to New Zealand as they pick up the gavel in the busy month of September.
Thank you, Mr. President.