News / Middle East

Amid Rare Unity, UN Security Council Mulls Action on Syria Aid

Members of the U.N. Security Council raise their hands as they vote unanimously to approve a resolution eradicating Syria's chemical arsenal during a meeting during the 68th United Nations General Assembly in New York, Sept. 27, 2013.
Members of the U.N. Security Council raise their hands as they vote unanimously to approve a resolution eradicating Syria's chemical arsenal during a meeting during the 68th United Nations General Assembly in New York, Sept. 27, 2013.
Reuters
After adopting a hard-fought, Russian-backed resolution to rid Syria of chemical weapons, the U.N. Security Council is now turning its attention to the country's dire humanitarian crisis, putting to the test its fragile consensus on the conflict.
 
The Security Council is considering a statement to try to boost aid access in Syria by urging Syrian authorities to allow cross-border deliveries from neighboring countries and asking parties to the conflict to hold humanitarian pauses in the fighting.
 
Amid a newfound unity of the 15 members, which overcame a long diplomatic deadlock between Russia and Western powers on Friday to pass a resolution on Syria's chemical arms, Australia and Luxembourg circulated a draft statement on the aid crisis.
 
More than two million Syrians, mostly women and children, have fled during the two-and-a-half-year-old civil war, which the United Nations says has killed more than 100,000 people. Millions more inside Syria are in desperate need of help but aid has slowed to a trickle due to excessive red tape and violence.
 
Only 12 international aid groups are approved by the Syrian government to work in the country and convoys of aid trucks struggle to meet demand, delayed by having to negotiate dozens of government and opposition checkpoints, U.N. officials say.
 
Deputy U.N. council envoys are due to meet to discuss the proposed Security Council presidential statement on Monday, said diplomats, speaking on the condition of anonymity. Unlike a resolution, a presidential statement is not legally binding.
 
The draft text, obtained by Reuters, urges all parties to “agree on the modalities to implement humanitarian pauses, as well as key routes to enable promptly - upon notification from relief agencies - the safe and unhindered passage of humanitarian convoys along these routes.”
 
After the council unanimously passed the resolution on Syria's chemical arsenal on Friday, Australian U.N. Ambassador Gary Quinlan appealed for members to quickly take action on the “ever-accelerating humanitarian catastrophe” in Syria.
 
“Each day we delay creates another 6,000 refugees,” said Quinlan, who is president of the Security Council for September. He called for the council to try to reach agreement on a statement this week.
 
Russia 'Constructive'

 
The council has for months been discussing how to respond to the Syrian aid crisis. Western members recently decided to pursue a statement on the issue rather than a resolution to avoid a likely showdown with Russia and China, diplomats said.
 
Russia, a close ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and China have vetoed three Security Council resolutions since October 2011 that would have condemned Assad's government and threatened it with sanctions.
 
After weeks of intense diplomacy between the United States and Russia, the council on Friday reached a rare agreement on a resolution that demands the eradication of Syria's chemical arms but does not threaten automatic punitive action against Assad's government if it does not comply.
 
The draft aid text is based on a wish list that U.N. aid chief Valerie Amos sent the council last month that included allowing cross-border delivery, humanitarian pauses in fighting and advance notice of military offensives. Diplomats described the list as ambitious.
 
The draft statement urges the Syrian authorities to promptly facilitate “safe and unhindered humanitarian access to people in need through the most effective ways, including across conflict lines and, where appropriate, across borders from neighboring countries in accordance with the U.N. guiding principles of humanitarian emergency assistance.”
 
While diplomats said there has so far been “constructive engagement” by Russia on an aid statement, others warned that Moscow was unlikely to back a council declaration urging Assad's government to allow the delivery of assistance across borders.
 
Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said earlier this month that he was “very encouraging” of a council statement on the aid crisis, but he has also stated that Moscow would only support a push for cross-border access if agreed to by Syria.
 
Holding Out Hope for Binding Resolution
 
Diplomats say Assad's government is opposed to cross-border access over concerns that weapons could be smuggled more easily to opposition forces. Some aid agencies are already operating across borders in rebel-controlled areas, diplomats said.
 
The Security Council did reach agreement in April on an informal statement on the humanitarian situation in Syria after Amos gave a bleak assessment of the situation. The United Nations now says half of Syria's 20 million people need help.
 
Without specifically pointing a finger at either side of the conflict, that statement broadly “underlined the need to facilitate the provision of humanitarian assistance through the most effective ways, including where appropriate across borders in accordance with guiding principles of humanitarian assistance.”
 
Europe's aid chief, Kristalina Georgieva, on Wednesday welcomed the prospect of a Security Council statement, but added: “We are not giving up on the Security Council at some point coming up with a binding resolution on humanitarian access.”
 
British Foreign Minister William Hague said on Friday “it would be more stronger and more effective, of course, to have a resolution, as we have done on chemical weapons,” but in the absence of that he hoped a statement could be agreed.
 
Human Rights Watch U.N. Director Philippe Bolopion said that while a presidential statement is weaker than a resolution, it would be a positive step by the council to make clear that it will not tolerate the denial of lifesaving aid.

You May Like

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally Draws Thousands in Washington

update President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs