Syrian American Council and Americans for a Free Syria Host Virtual Town Hall with Ambassador James Jeffrey and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Joel Rayburn
WASHINGTON D.C., June 12, 2020 – On Sunday, June 7, the Syrian American Council and Americans for a Free Syria hosted a webinar for the Syrian American community with U.S. Special Representative for Syria Engagement and the Special Envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIL, Ambassador James Jeffrey and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Levant Affairs and U.S. Special Envoy for Syria, Joel Rayburn. The panel provided the community an opportunity to engage senior officials on U.S. policy in Syria.
In his remarks Ambassador Jeffrey made the following points:
- The United States is putting pressure on the Assad regime, Russia, and Iran to drive the point that there can only be a political solution to the Syrian conflict and that a military victory is not possible.
- The United States and the vast majority of the international community will not normalize relations with the Assad regime until they have changed their destructive behavior. That means no diplomatic normalization or reconstruction assistance without a change in regime behavior and a political solution in line with U.N. Security Council Resolution 2254.
- The United States is taking steps, including the facilitation and provision of humanitarian assistance, to address the impact of the economic crisis on average Syrians. The United States is the largest single donor of humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people, providing more than $10.6 billion in humanitarian assistance since the start of the Syrian revolution. The Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act will go into effect starting June 17 and will include targeted sanctions designations of specific individuals and entities that support the Assad regime. These sanctions will not target food, medicine or other humanitarian aid.
- Later this month, the United States will work with the U.N. Security Council to ensure U.N. deliveries of vital humanitarian assistance into Syria.
During the question and answer session, Ambassador Jeffrey and Special Envoy Rayburn made the following points:
U.S. policy goals for Syria are ensuring the enduring defeat of ISIS, removal of all Iranian-led forces in Syria, and a political resolution to the conflict in accordance with U.N. Security Council Resolution 2254. The U.S. also seeks a change in the Regime’s behavior, which includes:
- Ending the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons;
- Ending support to terrorists and denying terrorists a safe haven;
- Creating an environment that allows for the safe and voluntary return of refugees and displaced persons to their homes;
- Preventing Syria from being a platform for Iran to expand its regional hegemony;
- Pursuing accountability and bringing to justice those who have committed war crimes and atrocities against the Syrian people; and
- No longer posing a threat to its neighbors.
- The U.S. Department of State is taking active steps to coordinate with other countries not to engage politically and economically with the Assad regime and has been largely successful. The European Union and European states are a close partner, and the United States coordinates regularly with them on sanctions, humanitarian aid and holding the line on no reconstruction assistance to the Assad regime.
- U.S. sanctions against Iran are having an impact on Iranian activities in Syria.
- The State Department welcomes the current Turkish-Russian ceasefire in Idlib and ceasefire in eastern Syria.
- The U.S. Department of State has concerns on the presence of ISIS in areas south of the Euphrates. The Assad regime and Russia have no control over them.
- The U.S. is releasing $50 million in stabilization funding for the northeast. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently requested the ISIS Global Coalition provide $700 million in stabilization assistance – half of which would go to Syria.
- 2020 is the year that pro-Assad supporters are beginning to realize there is only a political solution to the conflict in accordance with U.N. Security Council Resolution 2254.