x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 17 August 2017

UN Security Council adopts resolution on Syria aid access

In a unanimous vote, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution on humantarian aid to Syria that threatens to take "further steps" should the supplies not go through.

UNITED NATIONS // The UN Security Council on Saturday unanimously adopted a resolution to boost humanitarian access in Syria.

The resolution also threatens to take “further steps” in the case of non-compliance, demands cross-border aid and condemns rights abuses by the Syrian government and rebel groups fighting to overthrow president Bashar Al Assad.

The United Nations claims that 9.3 million people need help and that well over 100,000 people have been killed in the civil war since it started in 2011.

“This resolution should not have been necessary. Humanitarian assistance is not something to be negotiated; it is something to be allowed by virtue of international law,” UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon told the council.

“Profoundly shocking to me is that both sides are besieging civilians as a tactic of war,” he said after the vote.

The resolution asks Mr Ban to report back to the council in 30 days of its implementation and “expresses its intent to take further steps in the case of non-compliance”.

Russia and China, Syria’s key allies, voted in favour of the resolution despite having previously vetoed three resolutions that would have condemned Syria’s government and threatened it with possible sanctions.

The Russians, however, are likely to veto action against Mr Al Assad’s government if is it found to be in non-compliance of the resolution that passed this weekend.

The resolution “demands that all parties, in particular the Syrian authorities, promptly allow rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access for UN humanitarian agencies and their implementing partners, including across conflict lines and across borders.”

It also “demands that all parties immediately cease all attacks against civilians, as well as the indiscriminate employment of weapons in populated areas, including shelling and aerial bombardment, such as the use of barrel bombs, and methods of warfare which are of a nature to cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering.”

Western members of the Security Council have been considering a humanitarian resolution for almost a year. After months of talks, the council adopted a non-binding statement on October 2 urging more access to aid, but that statement produced only a little administrative progress.

UN aid chief Valerie Amos had urged the Security Council to act to increase humanitarian access in Syria. Ms Amos has repeatedly expressed frustration that violence and red tape have slowed aid deliveries to a trickle.

“I hope that the passing, by the United Nations Security Council, of a humanitarian resolution will facilitate the delivery of aid to people in desperate need in Syria,” Ms Amos said after the vote.

The violence continued in Syria on Saturday as a Kurdish group captured a town in Syria from Islamists in a battle in which at least 28 fighters were killed, most of them Islamists, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Syria’s Kurdish People’s Protection Units have expanded their sway in the north-east, where they are setting up their own administration, since the revolt against Mr Al Assad began.

The People’s Protection Units said ithey had taken Tal Brak after a midnight assault on fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and other militants.

The Kurdish fighters were in possession of the bodies of 16 of “armed mercenaries” and had taken 42 prisoners, they said. It said three Kurdish fighters had also been killed.

The Syrian Observatory, an opposition-affiliated watchdog, said at least 25 Islamists had been killed.

Redur Xelil, spokesman for the People’s Protection Units, said: “The operation was over at 5am and the armed groups and mercenaries that were there were expelled.”

“The town is completely controlled by the People’s Protection Units,” he said.

* Reuters