UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations Security Council will hold a high-level session on Thursday to discuss the humanitarian situation in Syria, where an 18-month-old crisis has left more than 2.5 million people in need of humanitarian assistance and made more than 200,000 others refugees. But, expectations for the meeting are low.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius will chair the session, as France ends its monthlong presidency of the 15-nation council.
French Ambassador Gérard Araud told reporters that although the Security Council continues to have deep political divisions over how to handle the Syria crisis, he hopes that members at least can reach a common position on humanitarian issues.
"They [humanitarian issues] are not political by definition, and you have millions of Syrians who are suffering," said Araud. "So the French minister of foreign affairs thought that at least on this question we could work together. And we had a very good response because ministers of the countries around Syria, which have a real problem with a lot of refugees, are coming - the Turkish minister, Jordanian minister, Lebanese minister, and there will also be an Iraqi deputy minister - and they will come to us and will tell us what they need to face the humanitarian situation."
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who is traveling, will be represented by his deputy, Jan Eliasson. The U.N. high commissioner for refugees will also brief the council on the growing refugee crisis.
Although Turkish officials have suggested the idea of so-called “safe havens” run by the United Nations inside Syria, diplomats say that is unlikely to be an outcome of Thursday’s meeting because such an arrangement would require "no-fly zones" and there is not the political will among all council members to implement such an idea.
More likely, they say, would be efforts to improve humanitarian access or announcements of new humanitarian assistance.
Also expected at Thursday’s meeting is the new Special Representative on Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi.
Brahimi met informally with council members on Wednesday. He is in New York this week for consultations ahead of officially taking up his duties September 1. He replaces Kofi Annan, who resigned as Joint Special Envoy after nearly six months of mediation efforts that failed to stop the violence and start the political process in Syria.
After Wednesday’s informal meeting, Brahimi’s spokesman told reporters that the special representative is in "listening mode" and wants to hear council members' views as he studies his "very complex and difficult brief." Spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said Brahimi does not yet have a "master plan" for dealing with the crisis, but that he is devising one as he goes along.