July 14, 2014 10:54 am

UN set to authorize cross-border aid to Syrians

Syrians carry foodstuff as they return to the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Moadamiyeh, following the entry of some 13 Syrian Red Crescent trucks loaded with 1000 food parcels under the supervision of the U.N., the Red Crescent and in coordination with the Syrian government, near Damascus, Syria, Monday, July 14, 2014.

AP Photo

The U.N. Security Council is set to vote on a resolution that would authorize cross-border delivery of humanitarian aid to Syrians in rebel-held areas in desperate need of food and medicine, without government approval.

Diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because negotiations have been private, said they expect the council to approve the resolution when it meets at noon EDT (1600 GMT) on Monday.

The draft resolution expresses “grave alarm at the significant and rapid deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Syria.”

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The council adopted a resolution in February demanding that all sides in the Syrian conflict allow immediate access for aid, lift the sieges of populated areas, stop depriving civilians of food and halt attacks against civilians. But monthly reports to the council since then by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on its implementation have described an increasingly dire situation.

U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos told the council on June 26 that the number of Syrians in need of humanitarian assistance has increased from one million in 2011 to 10.8 million, jumping 1.5 million in just the last six months. That includes 4.7 million in hard-to-reach areas, and over 240,000 trapped in besieged areas.

In February, the council expressed its intention to take “further steps” if its demands for humanitarian access were not fulfilled.

The draft resolution being voted on Monday would authorize U.N. agencies and aid organizations that assist them to use routes across conflict lines and four border crossings – two in Turkey, one in Iraq and one in Jordan – in addition to those already in use to ensure the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

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It would authorize the United Nations to monitor the loading of all aid shipments in the three countries before they cross the Syrian border.

The draft resolution would require Syrian authorities to be notified of shipments “to confirm the humanitarian nature of these relief consignments” – but the government would not control the delivery of aid as is currently does.

All humanitarian aid must now go through Damascus and the vast majority goes to government-controlled areas.

Monday’s vote culminates weeks of negotiations between Russia and China, key allies of Syrian President Bashar Assad, and the United States and its European allies, who have backed the opposition.

The three sponsors of the resolution, Australia, Luxembourg and Jordan, put the draft in “blue” – its final form for a vote – after ambassadors from the 15 council nations met behind closed doors Friday afternoon to discuss the final sticking points.

The sponsors initially wanted the resolution to be under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which can be enforced militarily, but early on the Russians and Chinese objected.

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The final draft underscores that all 193 U.N. member states are obligated under Article 25 of the Charter “to accept and carry out the council’s decisions.” It also affirms that the council “will take further measures in the event of non-compliance with this resolution” or the resolution adopted in February.

The draft would authorize the delivery and monitoring of aid to Syria through the Turkish border crossings at Bab al-Salam and Bab-al-Hawa, the Iraqi crossing at Al Yarubiyah and the Jordanian crossing at Al-Ramtha for 180 days.

It underscores “the need for the parties to agree on humanitarian pauses, days of tranquility, localized cease-fires and truces to allow humanitarian agencies safe and unhindered access to all affected areas in Syria.”

The draft being voted on Monday also covers the wider Syrian conflict, now in its fourth year, saying members are “appalled at the unacceptable and escalating level of violence and the death of more than 150,000 people, including well over 10,000 children.”

If approved, the council would also strongly condemn widespread human rights violations and express “grave alarm” at indiscriminate attacks in populated areas including intensified aerial bombing and the use of barrel bombs in Aleppo, Syria’s second-largest city – and at “the spread of extremism and extremist groups” and the targeting of civilians based on their ethnicity or religion.

© The Canadian Press, 2014

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