UN Council demands end to aid hurdles in Syria
By Timothy Witcher, AFPUNITED NATIONS--The U.N. Security Council on Wednesday demanded immediate and “unhindered” access to hundreds of thousands of civilians trapped in the Syrian conflict.
October 4, 2013, 12:17 am TWN
The statement drawn up by Australia and Luxembourg, which includes a call for cross-border humanitarian operations, is the council's second major united decision on the war in less than a week.
The council had been deadlocked since the start of the 30-month-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad until it passed a resolution last Friday ordering the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons.
Russia has defended Assad at the Security Council but backed the chemical weapons resolution and Wednesday's statement, which does not have a legally binding status.
Council diplomats said the statement would send a strong signal to the Assad government as the death toll of more than 100,000 and the humanitarian crisis grow.
U.N. aid agencies say there are more than 2.1 million refugees outside the country, almost six million have fled their homes inside the country and they have not had access to about two million trapped civilians for several months.
The council statement urged both sides but “in particular the Syrian authorities” to help U.N. agencies and private aid groups “to provide immediate humanitarian assistance to the affected people in Syria.”
It called on Assad's government “to take immediate steps to facilitate the expansion of humanitarian relief operations, and lift bureaucratic impediments and other obstacles.”
Aid agencies say the government has held up visas and restricted the number of foreign groups allowed to operate in Syria.
The statement says there should be “unhindered humanitarian access” across the conflict lines “and, where appropriate, across borders from neighboring countries.”