June 24, 2019

Ambassador Jeffrey outlines the United States’ next steps in Syria

Ambassador Jeffrey outlines the United States’ next steps in Syria

By Guido Lanfranchi.

In the wake of the Conference of Donors for Syria, the United States’ Special Representative Ambassador James Jeffrey welcomed the international community’s commitment to support the Syrian people through humanitarian aid. At the same time, he also stressed the need to continue the fight against ISIS and to support a political transition in Syria. 

On March 12-14th, 2019, representatives from over sixty countries and international organizations gathered in Brussels for the donors’ conference “Supporting the future of Syria and the region”, co-organized by the European Union and the United Nations. The participants to the conference discussed the situation of Syria and its surroundings, and agreed to pledge around USD 7 billion in order to assist the Syrian population, by now affected by eight years of conflict.

Speaking from Brussels in the wake of the conference, Ambassador James Jeffrey, the United States’ Special Representative for Syria, welcomed the amount pledged by the conference, underlining the U.S. contribution of around USD 400 million. At the same time, however, Mr. Jeffrey stressed that humanitarian assistance is not enough. He accused the government of President Bashar al-Asad to be at the root of the country’s problem, and he thus stressed the need to move forward with a serious political process in order to improve the country’s conditions. Such process – Ambassador Jeffrey underlined – should be brought forward by the Syrian people, with the international community set to hopefully play a supportive role.

Special Representative Jeffrey also outlined parts of the U.S. military strategy in the wake of President Trump’s announcement that the U.S. would withdraw its troops from Syria. He clarified that there is no pre-defined timetable for such withdrawal, as well as that, in spite of a partial withdrawal, the U.S. will maintain some military presence in the country. This presence will be aimed at avoiding a “destabilizing vacuum” – he noted, stressing that the US military presence in the region remains “a force for stability and collective security”.

At the same time, Ambassador Jeffrey noted that the U.S. and its allies will remain in Syria as part of the Global Coalition’s mission to defeat the Islamic State. While the terrorist organization has been defeated militarily, it can still be very dangerous as an underground terrorist group – he claimed. He also praised U.S. allies from all over the world for their positive responses to the U.S.’ request for fairer burden sharing on the mission, although noting that no final decisions on increased military presence by other countries have yet been made.

Finally, Ambassador Jeffrey also touched upon some of the many international players involved in the Syrian scenario. He voiced the U.S. willingness to meet the legitimate security concerns of both its Turkish and Kurdish partners, and praised the crucial, albeit difficult, cooperation between the U.S. and Turkey in the Manbij area. Conversely, Ambassador Jeffrey condemned Iran for its “destabilizing activities” in Syria and in the broader region, and underlined that – according to the U.S. position – the Syrian political process should lead to the departure of foreign troops, and chiefly Iranian troops, from the country.

In his concluding remarks, Ambassador Jeffrey stressed that, in order to have a positive impact in Syria, the U.S. needs the support of the international community, including its partners in the region as well as the European Union. As the international community has proved to be effective in pledging humanitarian support to the Syrian people – he noted – similar mechanisms will have to be at play to address the country’s political situation.

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