News / Middle East

Calls Grow for Syria to Stop Impeding Aid Effort

FILE - Syrian children sit with their belongings as they wait to be evacuated from a besieged area of Homs Feb. 12, 2014.
FILE - Syrian children sit with their belongings as they wait to be evacuated from a besieged area of Homs Feb. 12, 2014.
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Margaret Besheer
— U.N. member states Tuesday called for the implementation of a Security Council resolution demanding safe and unobstructed humanitarian access to Syrian civilians.

The General Assembly heard a briefing from heads of U.N. agencies dealing with the humanitarian and human rights crisis caused by the three-year-old conflict.

They said the death toll has reached well over 100,000, and more than 9.3 million people are in need of assistance inside Syria, including at least 6.5 million who are internally displaced.

Children, in particular, have been subjected to abuses including torture, mutilation, sexual violence, starvation, recruitment as child soldiers and death.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the scale and severity of suffering is growing daily for all Syrians and he hopes the resolution adopted Saturday will make a difference on the ground.

“It is a basic principle and rule of war that civilians should be treated humanely.  Denying access to people in urgent need of food, water or medical supplies is a fundamental denial of their rights to life and human dignity.  Yet there are continued reports of sieges, massacres and atrocities,” said Ban.

The U.N. chief stressed that more than 200,000 civilians are besieged in government-controlled areas and 45,000 in opposition areas. He warned that death by starvation would be the result if this continues.

Last Saturday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution demanding an end to indiscriminate attacks on civilians, the lifting of sieges on populated areas, and safe access for humanitarians to deliver food, medical and other urgently needed supplies across both conflict lines and Syria’s borders.  The council warned that it is prepared to take “further steps” if the parties on the ground do not comply.

U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said history has taught the world to be skeptical that Security Council resolutions will be observed.

“But unless and until, these important words are implemented, they will remain just words.  I urge all countries in the United Nations to use every ounce of leverage they have in pressing the government of Syria, and any party that would target civilians or deny humanitarian aid to people in need, to comply fully and promptly with the resolution and to do everything possible to put an end to the horrors on the ground,” said Power.

Many countries have called on both sides to step up efforts to find a political settlement to the conflict and end the suffering of the Syrian people.  Several also called for the Syrian situation to be referred to the International Criminal Court.

The Syrian envoy, Bashar Ja’afari, likened the briefing to a “Hollywood film” which had an excellent director and actors, but a script that was not credible.  He said extremist groups, not the government, are responsible for the ongoing crisis and blamed Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia for financing them.

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