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Middle East

Russia says Syria agrees to aid access from Iraq, Turkey, Jordan

Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin, left, and Ghanaian Ambassador to the UN Ken Kanda, center, laugh while German Ambassador to the UN Harald Braun signs a soccer ball at UN headquarters, Monday, June 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

UNITED NATIONS: Russia said late Tuesday it had gained Syrian approval to open four border crossings from Iraq, Jordan and Turkey to deliver aid to millions of people under a “far-reaching formula” proposed to U.N. Security Council members.

Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin declined to elaborate on the formula, but diplomats familiar with the plan said it involved using international monitors to inspect humanitarian aid convoys entering Syria.

Veto-wielding council members – the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia – have been negotiating a humanitarian resolution drafted by Australia, Luxembourg and Jordan to boost aid deliveries in Syria, including across rebel-held borders. Russia presented its formula to those seven states Tuesday.

Churkin said Syria had accepted Moscow’s plan to open the four border crossings named in the draft text.

“It’s a pretty innovative approach to doing things. So we hope it’s going to work and we hope it’s going to help the humanitarian agencies to work on the ground in Syria, including in areas which are not controlled by the government,” he said.

“It is a far-reaching formula which will allow to open those four crossing points in which the humanitarian agencies were interested,” Churkin told reporters, adding he hoped it could be adopted within days.

But Western diplomats said they needed time to study Russia’s proposal and consult with the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on whether it could work on the ground.

The Security Council achieved rare unity in unanimously approving a resolution in February that demanded rapid and safe aid access.

But that resolution has failed to make a difference, U.N. officials said. The U.N. says some 9.3 million people in Syria – half the country’s population – need help, while another 2.5 million people have fled the conflict.

Western council members decided to pursue a stronger resolution under Chapter 7, which would be legally binding and enforceable with military action or sanctions, diplomats said. The February resolution was binding but not enforceable.

Russia has said it is against aid delivery without the regime’s consent.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 19, 2014, on page 8.

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Summary

Russia said late Tuesday it had gained Syrian approval to open four border crossings from Iraq, Jordan and Turkey to deliver aid to millions of people under a "far-reaching formula" proposed to U.N. Security Council members.

Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin declined to elaborate on the formula, but diplomats familiar with the plan said it involved using international monitors to inspect humanitarian aid convoys entering Syria.

Russia presented its formula to those seven states Tuesday.

The U.N. says some 9.3 million people in Syria – half the country's population – need help, while another 2.5 million people have fled the conflict.


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