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UN humanitarian chief pushes Syria aid resolution

February 14, 2014

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos blamed the Syrian government and opposition Thursday for failing to protect civilians and said a Security Council resolution would help if it ensures the delivery of aid to millions of people trapped by the fighting.

Amos told reporters after briefing the council that she asked members “to do everything they can to use their influence” on both sides to ensure humanitarian pauses and cease-fires, regular access for humanitarian workers and written commitments to uphold international law.

“It is unacceptable that international humanitarian law continues to be consistently and flagrantly violated by all parties to the conflict,” she said. “All parties are failing in their responsibility to protect civilians. We understand that a war is going on, but even wars have rules.”

The Security Council has started to grapple with rival resolutions on the worsening humanitarian crisis: a Western and Arab-backed proposal that threatens sanctions if its demand for unrestricted humanitarian access isn’t met in 15 days, and a Russian text that makes no mention of sanctions.

Russia and China, which support the Syrian government, have blocked three previous Western-backed resolutions that would have pressured President Bashar Assad to end the now three-year-old civil war.

The divided Security Council did come together in October to approve a presidential statement appealing for immediate access to all areas of Syria to deliver aid. But it has never adopted a legally binding humanitarian resolution.

The presidential statement has not delivered the results that are critically needed, and progress on the humanitarian front in the last four months has been “limited, uneven and painfully slow,” Amos said.

Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters that discussions on melding the two resolutions had started, and “I hope this time it’s going to be a success.”

“I wouldn’t say that we are too far apart because one thing that unites us is the realization that humanitarian situation in Syria is very grave, and that additional efforts need to be undertaken in order to improve it,” he said.

If Russia maintains its opposition to any mention of sanctions, the key issue in negotiations will be how to give a resolution the teeth that Western and Arab nations want.

U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said a resolution must use levers and pressure to maximize “the likelihood of meaningful consequences on the ground.”

“For us, given the gravity of the situation on the ground, better no resolution than a bad resolution,” she said.

Neither Amos nor Power would use the word “sanctions,” but both said they don’t want a resolution that just incorporates what was in the presidential statement and doesn’t lead to change on the ground.

Amos said the conflict has intensified since the presidential statement’s adoption.

“The social fabric of Syria has been torn to shreds,” she said.

Amos said there is a verbal agreement to extend the rare cease-fire that went into effect last Friday in a besieged, rebel-held area of Homs, Syria’s third-largest city, but it must be put in writing.

She also stressed that Homs “cannot serve as a model” for humanitarian access.

While 1,400 people have been evacuated, nearly 250,000 remain in besieged communities, Amos said.

And while humanitarian workers provided food and medicine to 2,500 people, more than 3 million people in hard-to-reach areas aren’t getting aid, she said.

Amos, who first raised the plight in Homs 14 months ago, stressed: “We cannot wait another 14 months to reach 1,400 more people. ... There are millions of people in dire need across Syria.”

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