UNSC authorises Syria aid convoys
The UN Security Council adopted a resolution Monday authorizing humanitarian convoys to Syria without the consent of the Damascus regime, to help more than one million civilians in rebel-held areas. The council - including Russia and China, who have vetoed four Western-backed draft resolutions on Syria since the start of the conflict in 2011 - unanimously approved the measure.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2014
The shipments will travel through four different border crossings - two in Turkey (Bab a-Salam and Bab al-Hawa), one in Iraq (Al-Yarubiyah) and another in Jordan (Al-Ramtha). All three neighbouring countries are also hosting large numbers of refugees from the conflict, which erupted in March 2011. The resolution will allow immediate aid deliveries to 1.3 million civilians in rebel-held areas, British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant told the council.
"It marks a major step forward in the international community's effort to respond to the suffering in Syria," he said. More than 10.8 million Syrians are in need of aid, according to UN officials, who have accused Damascus of impeding deliveries of life-saving supplies. British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the resolution would put an end to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's "stranglehold" on aid routes.
"Many vulnerable communities remain completely besieged because of the regime's starve or surrender tactics. So this process of cross-border aid delivery must start without delay," said Hague. The draft resolution - sponsored by Australia, Luxembourg and Jordan - had been the focus of tough negotiations for five weeks, with Moscow insisting that the Syrian regime be given some rights to monitor the convoy movements.
Under the measure, which is valid for six months, convoys will be monitored by UN teams who will simply inform the Syrian government of the shipments but will not seek permission for the deliveries. Syria has warned in a letter to the UN Security Council last month that it would consider any enforced cross-border delivery of humanitarian aid without its consent as an "attack" on the state.
Syrian Ambassador Bashar Jaafari told the council that Damascus welcomed "sincere efforts to ease the burden" of suffering but stressed that the aid would not be efficient without measures to combat "terrorist groups" - a reference to rebel groups. International aid agencies welcomed the move as a potential lifeline for Syrians and said the diplomatic breakthrough must translate into action on the ground. "If implemented correctly, this is a potential game changer," said Jan Egeland, of the Norwegian Refugee Council, a member of a coalition of 34 non-governmental organizations that welcomed Resolution 2165.
With nearly 11 million Syrian people in need, and the humanitarian situation worsening by the day, the progress made in New York "must now lead to a massive increase in aid to those who need it," they said in a joint statement released by the organizations, including Oxfam and Save the Children.
More than 160,000 people have died in the Syrian war, with UN peace efforts so far failing to make any headway. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon last week named Italian-Swedish diplomat Staffan de Mistura to take up the tough job of UN mediator after Lakhdar Brahimi resigned in May over the failure of recent peace talks.