UN seeking urgent access to Syria's Deraa

Security Council hears that Syrian army is carrying out a major operation int he city, firing at civilians preventing medical care.

Tank Syria Deraa 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Tank Syria Deraa 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
NEW YORK – The UN undersecretary- general for political affairs told Security Council members Wednesday that the United Nations wants urgent access to the city of Deraa in southern Syria, so that it can assess the humanitarian needs on the ground.
Reliable sources, B. Lynn Pascoe told the body Wednesday, report that the Syrian army is carrying out a major operation in Deraa, both firing at unarmed civilians and preventing the wounded from getting medical care. Pascoe estimated the current death toll of demonstrators as being between 350 and 400.
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The problems, he said, are compounded by the denial of access to international and independent media.
“Repression is not the solution,” Pascoe said. “An inclusive dialogue and genuine reforms should address the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people, restore confidence and ensure social peace and order.”
After Pascoe’s briefing, ambassadors representing council members and Syria addressed the meeting.
In an impassioned speech, US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice told the Security Council that the US “condemns in the strongest possible terms the abhorrent violence used by the government of Syria against its own people.
“My government calls on President Assad to change course now and heed the calls of his own people,” Rice said.
“We also call upon the international community to respond to this brutal crackdown, and to hold accountable those who are perpetrating these gross human rights violations.
“The Syrian government must acknowledge its people’s legitimate calls for substantial and lasting reform,” Rice said.
Click for full Jpost coverage of turmoil in the Middle East
Click for full Jpost coverage of turmoil in the Middle East
“Words must be backed by actions to ensure real reform in Syria. The Syrian people’s cries for freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly, and the ability to freely choose their leaders must be heeded.”
British Ambassador to the UN Mark Lyall Grant said the Security Council should be able to see four things: a stop to Syria’s violent repression; the Assad government’s response to the demonstrators with reforms; those responsible for violence must be brought to account; and the international community needs to universally condemn the violence in Syria.
“The United Kingdom is working intensively with our international partners to persuade the Syrian authorities to stop the violence and to respect the basic and universal human rights to freedom of expression and assembly,” Grant said.
“We will look at further measures with our EU and other partners if the violence does not stop. This might include targeted financial and travel sanctions against those responsible for the violence, as well as their families and business interests.”
Syrian Ambassador Bashar Jaafari said Syrian security forces exercise caution to avoid killing civilians. Jaafari attributed the violence to armed criminal elements supported by foreign countries and extremist groups.