Middle East

UN authorizes cross-border aid access in Syria

People walk amid the rubble of collapsed buildings at a site hit by what activists said was a barrel bomb dropped by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar Assad, in the Al-Fardous neighborhood of Aleppo July 14, 2014. (REUTERS/Hosam Katan)

UNITED NATIONS: The U.N. Security Council on Monday authorized humanitarian access without Syrian government consent at four border crossings into rebel-held areas from Turkey, Iraq and Jordan, although Syria has warned it deems such deliveries an attack.

The unanimously adopted resolution establishes for 180 days a monitoring mechanism for the loading of aid convoys in neighboring countries, which will notify Syrian authorities of the "humanitarian nature of these relief consignments."

The United Nations says about 10.8 million people in Syria need help, of which 4.7 million are in hard-to-reach areas, while another 3 million have fled the conflict. The more than three-year civil war has killed at least 150,000 people.

Syria's government warned the Security Council last month that delivering aid across its borders into opposition-held areas without its consent would amount to an attack.

The council's action on Monday is a follow-up to a resolution adopted by the council in February that demanded rapid, safe and unhindered aid access in Syria. The United Nations said that resolution failed to make a difference.

The new resolution allows aid deliveries across Al Yarubiyah on the Iraq border, Tal Shihab on the border with Jordan and Bab al-Salam and Bab al-Hawa from Turkey. Both the Turkish crossings have fallen into the hands of militant Islamist fighters who have taken swaths of Syria and Iraq in the past month.

"The consent of the Syrian authorities will no longer be necessary," Luxembourg's U.N. Ambassador Sylvie Lucas told the council after the vote.

Syrian ally Russia, backed by China, agreed to support the resolution after more than a month of negotiations on the text drafted by Australia, Luxembourg and Jordan. A key to winning their votes was a weakening of a threat of further measures, such as economic sanctions, if warring parties did not comply.

The language was watered down to say the council "affirms" rather than "decides" that it will "take further measures in the event of non-compliance." The 15-member Security Council would need to agree a second resolution to impose any punishments.

Western diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, admitted the resolution was not as ambitious as the initial text, which demanded blanket cross-border access. However, they said the four crossings could allow delivery of humanitarian aid to nearly 2 million people.

They had also wanted a Chapter 7 resolution, which covers the council's authority to enforce decisions with economic sanctions or military force, but Russia made clear it would block any such resolution.

Russia and China have previously vetoed four resolutions threatening any action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government.

The United Nations said in April it would need a Chapter 7 resolution to be able to deliver aid across borders without the Syrian government's consent.

But the U.N. Office of Legal Affairs believes the resolution adopted on Monday is strong enough to allow the United Nations cross-border aid access without the approval of Damascus, said diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity.





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