Middle East

UN Security Council condemns both sides of Syrian conflict

Syrian refugee women wait for medical treatment in front of a women's clinic at the Zaatari refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq April 15, 2013. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed

BEIRUT: In rare unison, the U.N. Security Council condemned both sides of the Syrian conflict late Thursday.

In a non-binding statement, the Council said "The escalating violence is completely unacceptable and must end immediately," adding that it "urged all parties to ensure safe and unimpeded access for aid organizations to those in need in all areas of Syria."

The council also "condemned the widespread violations of human rights by the Syrian authorities, as well as any human rights abuses by armed groups" and said there should be "no impunity for serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law."

Nearly seven million people need humanitarian assistance in Syria, a senior United Nations official said, criticizing Damascus for hampering aid distribution.

"The needs are growing rapidly and are most severe in the conflict and opposition-controlled areas" of the civil-war ravaged country, the global body's humanitarian chief Valerie Amos told the UN Security Council.

She cited data showing there are 6.8 million people in need -- out of a total population of 20.8 million -- along with 4.25 million people internally displaced and an additional 1.3 million who have sought refuge in neighboring countries.

The 15-member council responded by urging both the government and the opposition to cooperate with U.N. agencies.

"Members of the Security Council urged all parties to ensure safe and unimpeded access for aid organizations to those in need in all areas of Syria," they said in a statement.

"They deplored the obstacles to the provision of humanitarian assistance and underlined the urgent need to remove all such obstacles, including those which are bureaucratic in nature."

The statement also suggested that aid shipments be allowed to cross borders where necessary.

And it called on all sides to "protect civilians and respect international human rights and humanitarian law, recalling the primary responsibility of the Syrian authorities in this regard."

On Friday, Russia and Jordanian Islamists criticized the recent public announcement that the U.S. has deployed troops in Jordan.

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel revealed Wednesday that 150 U.S. military specialists had been deployed in Jordan since last year and that he had ordered the army to bolster the mission by bringing the total American presence to more than 200 troops.

Russian foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said Friday such a move ran counter to internationally-agreed principles for ending the crisis through negotiations.

"These are absolutely not the actions that we now need to bring Syria out of its dead end," Lukashevich told reporters.

"These actions exacerbate the Syria crisis, which is now gaining the dimensions of a regional crisis," the spokesman said.

Russia is viewed as one of Assad's few allies because it vetoed three rounds of UN Security Council sanctions against his government.

Also Friday, the Islamic Action Front, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, said in a statement that, "The government must review its decision to authorize the deployment of foreign troops on Jordanian soil."

"The Islamic Action Front... categorically refuses the presence of foreign troops in Jordan," the statement said, stressing that Jordan's armed forces were capable of defending the nation.

Jordanian Information Minister Mohammad Momani told AFP on Wednesday that the U.S. deployment was "To boost the Jordanian armed forces in light of the deteriorating situation in Syria."

But the army denied this and said in a statement Thursday: "The 200 U.S. troops have nothing to do with Syria's situation. They are the first of the groups that will take part of the annual Eager Lion military exercise, in which 15 countries are participating."

On Friday, government forces shelled the suburbs of Damascus, Homs, Hama, Idlib, Deir Ezzor and Raqqa, which is the first provincial city to fall completely to the rebels, activists said.

In the Damascus suburb of Douma and in Hama, protesters demonstrated against the regime, despite the shelling, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

In the suburb of Daraya, a family of three, a father, his wife, and their 4-year-old child, died Friday in shelling.

In the capital’s western suburb of Mazzeh late Thursday, Ali Ballan, head of public relations at the Ministry of Social Affairs and a member of Syria's relief agency was shot dead by gunmen, the Observatory reported. -- With agencies





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