NEW YORK – The UN Security Council unanimously approved another draft resolution on Syria’s humanitarian situation on Monday, authorizing UN humanitarian agencies “and their implementing partners” to have access across conflict lines at four disputed border crossings to deliver humanitarian assistance, without having to notify Syrian authorities.
The resolution also declares that “all Syrian parties to the conflict” must help enable the delivery of humanitarian aid and “take all appropriate measures” to safeguard UN personnel.
It also calls for a cease-fire and resumption of political talks. Despite initial opposition, Russia and China both supported the resolution.
Prior to the vote, UK Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant called the resolution “strong” and said its passage “deserves to be unanimous.”
The resolution was jointly sponsored by Australia, Jordan, and Luxembourg. In his address after the vote, Jordan’s representative Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad said that his country would “take measures against any Syrian party that does not abide by resolutions 2165 and 2139,” referring to the previous humanitarian resolution, passed in February 2014.
Luxembourg Ambassador Sylvie Lucas called the resolution a “glimmer of hope in the gloomy picture of the conflict in Syria,” and criticized the Syrian authorities for blocking humanitarian access.
“In his latest report, the secretary-general noted that the main obstacle to humanitarian access is the deliberate decision by the Syrian authorities to systematically prohibit the delivery of vital relief supplies,” Lucas said. “Month after month, Syrian authorities confiscated medical and surgical equipment for the most vulnerable populations living in areas controlled by the opposition to Assad’s regime… [and] continued to deny the passage of humanitarian convoys through the border crossings identified as priorities by the UN.”
UN humanitarian agencies now report there are three million refugees from Syria outside the country and 10.8 million displaced in Syria. Some 4.5 million of these displaced persons are in hard-to-reach areas.
Australia’s Ambassador Gary Quinlan said that the adoption of this second resolution “should not have been necessary.”
Resolution 2139 set out very clearly the council’s expectations of what the Syrian parties need to do, Quinlan said.
“But as the secretary-general has advised us four times – each month – since its adoption in February, resolution 2139 has been ignored. As a result the humanitarian situation in Syria has actually worsened.”
US Ambassador Samantha Power, who visited Syrian refugee camps in Jordan and Turkey last month, agreed with Quinlan’s assessment.
“It should have never required a Security Council resolution for a government to allow food and medicine to reach millions of families whose lives have been hanging in the balance,” she said in her statement. “Yet when the UN requested such permission over the last year, their letters went unanswered, their requests were rejected.
The Assad regime has seized every opportunity to make it more – and not less – difficult to provide such crucial assistance to civilians in dire need.”
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he welcomes the resolution and paid tribute to all the humanitarian agencies working in the region who had lost colleagues.Ban released a statement about the situation in Gaza, saying he is “alarmed” that circumstances are worsening despite calls for a ceasefire, and that this could have “grave implications” for civilians on both sides. “It is in the interest of both sides that steps toward dangerous escalation be replaced with immediate measures to end the fighting,” Ban said, and “demanded” that both sides “move in this direction now.”
“Hamas’s indiscriminate firing of rockets against Israeli civilian targets is a violation of international law,” he said, adding he “abhorred” the images of Israeli families in bomb shelters. He also preemptively condemned any possible Israeli ground offensive, saying it would exacerbate civilian suffering, and said he felt responsibility for Palestinians, especially in the Gaza strip, “who have long been denied the sense of freedom and dignity they deserve.”