AMBASSADOR JEFFREY: …. Hello, everybody. In my two closely related portfolios of Syria-everything and Daesh in Iraq and Syria, my team brought us up here to do four basic things, and we think that we hit on all cylinders on all four.
First of all, the political process, the only way forward to resolve the Syrian conflict that’s been going on since 2011. We pressed hard, as did our partners, particularly NATO countries and Arab League members, for a constitutional committee under UN Resolution 2254. That’s been languishing since December 2015. With a lot of pressure from the international community and a great job by the secretary-general, we got the two sides – which means mainly the Damascus regime, because the Syrian opposition basically are willing to move forward. The Damascus regime was holding off for years. They agreed to launch this thing. It will be launched within the coming weeks. You saw the secretary-general’s announcement. We stand full-square behind this.
This is not the end of the efforts by Assad to get a military victory, we don’t think, or even the efforts of Iran and Russia to support him. But it shows that they were under pressure, and being under pressure, they’ve at least opened the door to a political solution. This is still symbolic at this point. We need to keep the pressure on and we will, and our friends and allies will as well, but we also need to recognize that there may be a glimmer of hope that this conflict can be ended the right way.
There is – between a political solution under 2254 and a military victory, as Assad wants it, these are mutually exclusive. I want to emphasize that. These are mutually exclusive. You cannot have one, you cannot have the other, and we particularly tell our friends who we negotiate with all the time in Moscow that that’s the way it is. That was the first thing.
Secondly, Idlib. That’s an example of people pushing forward. The Assad regime, supported by the Russians and the Iranians – it created a huge international outburst of anger and criticism. It led to the secretary-general just two weeks ago opening up a board of inquiry into what’s happened there and then a resolution in the Security Council that 12 nations, including the U.S., supported strongly. It was vetoed by Russia and China. It called for a ceasefire, a real ceasefire, but alas, Russia and China could not go on with one that didn’t give them what we call a cut-out to kill terrorists, which means to continue a bombing offensive against civilians and a massive military movement on the ground.
Thirdly, defeat ISIS. ISIS is still around, and it contributes to the insecurity and the problems in Syria in many different ways. We’ve worked very hard to keep the focus on ISIS with an accountability event that was kicked off by Amal Clooney this morning organized by the Dutch and the Iraqis – we support it strongly – on how to ensure that ISIS crimes are pursued by the international community and that those people that we have now captured are brought to justice. This is a huge priority for the President and Secretary, and we thought we made progress there.
The fourth is accountability. We had meeting after meeting, beginning with Caesar, the code name for the brave Syrian who took the 55,000 pictures of the horrors of the Assad prisons and who’s now the namesake of a bill working its way through Congress – we hope that passes soon – which will give even stronger tools to sanction the Assad regime to the U.S. administration.
And we expect that our allies, particularly the European Union, will find ways to increase their sanctions. In fact, they’re doing that right now. But we also looked at other events with the victims of Assad’s crimes, brought Syrians to the attention of the international community, to the UN, to NGOs such as the International Crisis Group which hosted one of these events, to our European partners.
And finally, today the Secretary laid out a particularly important case of accountability for the use of chemical weapons, and I’ll turn that over now to Tom to continue on that.
MR DINANNO: Thank you, Mr. Ambassador. As Secretary Pompeo announced earlier today, the United States will provide an additional 4.5 million to support the OPCW mandate to investigate chemical weapons use in Syria. It supports two core functions of the OPCW: if chemical weapons were used; and to identify who did it, simply put.
This work is vital. It is important to ensure accountability. I’d also like to point out this is not a unilateral effort. We’d like to thank our partners and allies that have made a commitment and who share the burden so these ongoing attribution efforts can continue.