News / Middle East

UN, Humanitarian Group Seek to Step Up Syria Aid

FILE - U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos.
FILE - U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos.
Margaret Besheer
The United Nations' humanitarian chief said Wednesday that a Security Council resolution aimed at expanding the reach of humanitarian aid in Syria is not working, while violence continues to rise in the country.  Separately, the head of the mission to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons said they will not meet the June 30 deadline for the elimination of all chemical agents.  

U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos told reporters that violations of the most basic principles of international humanitarian and human rights law continue in Syria.  

"Since the secretary-general's last report we have seen a marked increase in the indiscriminate use of barrel bombs by the government, mortar attacks by opposition groups, poisonous gases allegedly used against civilians, and the collective punishment of civilians," said Amos.

She said the lack of progress on the political front has increased the pressure and expectations on humanitarian actors, who are continuing to look for ways to maximize the delivery of aid.

"To reach every Syrian in need we need to use all delivery routes. That means cross-line and cross-border, and we need donors to fund U.N. agencies and our NGO partners," she said.

Amos said nearly a quarter of a million people are in besieged areas - the majority of which are controlled by the government - and aid workers have only been able to reach 7 percent of them.  She said sieges are inhumane and must stop.

U.N. Security Council members are negotiating a new draft resolution on aid deliveries to Syria.  Diplomats with knowledge of the discussions say the draft would include specific references to cross-border access.  They also want a new resolution to be enforceable.  Getting Russia and China to agree to such a firm stance could take some time and concessions, but diplomats say they hope they can avoid another double veto.

Meanwhile, the head of an international mission to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons, Sigrid Kaag, briefed the council Wednesday.

She told reporters that just over 7 percent of Syria's declared chemical weapons materials still have to be removed from the country.  The 100 metric tons of chemicals are located at one site, which the Syrian authorities say they cannot access due to the security situation in the area.

Kaag said this delay means the mission will miss the June 30 deadline for the complete elimination of all Syria's chemical weapons.

"The deadline will not be met. What is important, however, is that all the materials are out of harm's way and the destruction can start as soon as possible aboard the U.S. ship, as considerable time has lapsed and considerable costs and time and investments have been made to get the job done," she said.

The joint mission began its work nine months ago after Syria's government was accused of using chemical weapons in an attack that killed hundreds of people in a Damascus suburb.

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