“This war has been going on for 10 years and ordinary Syrians are suffering. People are starving. Medical supplies are not getting through. The US is the largest humanitarian donor across the board. And this is a core value for the United States to support people in need, wherever they are,” Thomas-Greenfield told CNN exclusively.
The new funding — the largest amount the US has ever donated at this Syria conference in Brussels — comes as the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine also continues to grow, with millions of refugees fleeing the country due to Russia’s invasion.
“The assistance to Syria will not in any way be affected by what we’re doing in Ukraine. And this pledge we’re making shows that,” Thomas-Greenfield said.
There are mounting concerns about keeping open the Bab al-Hawa border crossing from Turkey to Syria, which is the single border crossing that is now open for humanitarian aid. A UN Security Council resolution to keep it open for a year will expire in July. The topic of this border crossing will be front and center at the UN Security Council in the months ahead.
Thomas-Greenfield on Tuesday called for that crossing to remain open, given the life-saving support it enables. She also called for expanded access to Syria for humanitarian support.
“This is a matter of life and death,” she said at the conference.
It is unclear if Russia — which has resisted keeping open border crossings into Syria in the past — will support keeping the crossing open this time.
“We think it’s in Russia’s interest to keep that border crossing open,” Thomas-Greenfield told CNN, “because otherwise you’re going to have millions of people starve to death in Syria. And they’re inside and the Syrian regime is responsible as well. That border crossing provides essential medicines, food, water for Syrians, not just at the border but deep inside of Syria as well.”
Thomas-Greenfield said that the US has supported assistance coming from Syrian controlled parts of Syria into other parts of the country this year but reiterated that the border crossing needs to remain open.
“We’ve also supported in our negotiations with the Russians last year, that we would support cross-line humanitarian assistance. Humanitarian assistance coming from the Syrian controlled parts of Syria into the other parts of Syria. That has worked somewhat this past year, but can’t replace the cross-border assistance,” she said.