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UN Demands Access to Syria's Needy

  • Margaret Besheer

FILE - U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos.

FILE - U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos.

The U.N. humanitarian chief urged the Security Council Thursday to take immediate action to help Syrians suffering from a lack of critically needed aid in besieged communities.

In October, the 15-nation Council answered repeated calls from Valerie Amos for international support with a statement demanding unimpeded access for aid workers. But after four months of obstacles, the U.N. humanitarian chief said the situation is significantly worse, not better.

“There is no amount of words that can adequately describe the horrific reality facing civilians in Syria today," said Amos.

She noted that while a brief pause in hostilities negotiated between the two sides in the Old City of Homs has helped to evacuate 1,400 civilians since Friday, there are still a quarter of a million more in other besieged communities and 3 million in hard to reach areas who are without assistance.

“I have asked the Security Council members to do everything they can to use their influence over the parties of this appalling conflict to ensure they abide by pauses and cease-fires, give humanitarian actors sustained and regular access, commit in writing to upholding international humanitarian law, allow systematic cross-line access, and prevent our teams from being shot at while delivering aid to people in need," said Amos.

Amos noted that 15 aid workers have been killed in Syria since October.
The Security Council is negotiating the text of a resolution about the humanitarian situation. An initial draft put forward by Council members Luxembourg, Australia and Jordan - with support from permanent members Britain, France and the United States - was dismissed by the Russians as a political move by supporters of the Syrian opposition.

But on Thursday, Ambassador Vitaly Churkin circulated a Russian-drafted text to Council members. He told reporters that the two drafts are not that far apart.
“For instance, we added some strong language on terrorism. And I think we have a good chance that our colleagues will accept that strong language on terrorism already in the text of this resolution. There are some things which they believe they need in the resolution; we are discussing it," said Churkin.

The Syrian government has sought to make peace talks going on in Geneva focus on terrorism and not the transition of power.

While the U.S. supports a Council resolution, Ambassador Samantha Power said Washington would prefer no resolution to a weak one.

“We are looking for a text that is going to make a meaningful difference on the ground," said Power.

She said that would include full Council support for a strongly worded resolution that included what she called “levers” and “pressure” to get aid in, particularly across borders, to improve the situation on the ground.