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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs