Middle East

Ban: Syrian authorities holding up aid access

An activist health worker administers a polio vaccination to a child in Aleppo May 4, 2014. REUTERS/Hosam Katan

BEIRUT: The head of the United Nations said Sunday that “bureaucratic resistance” by Bashar Assad’s government was preventing aid getting to millions of Syrians in need due to the 3-year-old conflict.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya television channel he was no longer in direct communication with Assad after months of the Syrian president “not keeping his promises.”

Last month, Ban said none of the warring parties in Syria was meeting U.N. demands for aid access and demanded the Security Council take action on violations of international law.

In Sunday’s interview, he said a February Security Council resolution demanding rapid, safe and unhindered aid access had “not helped much” and that there were still 3 million people in areas the U.N. could not reach and deliver humanitarian aid to.

“It’s not that we are in shortage of something to deliver, it’s just because of bureaucratic resistance by the Syrian government,” he said.

Ban said he had urged Security Council members and regional powers to press the Syrian government to allow more aid access.

The Syrian president said Saturday that government agencies should increase cooperation on aid work but it must be done without “compromising national sovereignty,” state media reported.

Blaming “terrorists” for inflicting suffering on civilians, Assad stressed “the importance of delivering aid without delay and continuing field work with all concerned bodies domestically and abroad to ease relief operations without compromising national sovereignty,” state news agency SANA said.

Asked if he was in direct communication with Assad, Ban said: “Recently I have not been speaking to him ...

“After many months of dealing with him directly, when he was not keeping his promises, I had been thinking that it would not be useful for me and there was no such need, then I’ve been basically using my joint special representative.”

Also Saturday, Al-Thawra daily launched a stinging attack on U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos, demanding that she be replaced.

“In her reporting, she has brought together an entire anthology of false and hypocritical terms that we find in Western rhetoric,” Al-Thawra said.

“She wrote her report with the approval of Western capitals.”

Last week, Amos said there had been no progress on a United Nations request for permission to pass through a number of border crossings to reach an extra 1.4 million people immediately.

“Whatever the Americans do not say, Amos says. What the French do not dare to say, she expresses. Whatever embarrasses the British, she adopts. Whatever the Israelis consider secondary, she emphasizes. She has become a tool of the campaign” against Syria, Al-Thawra said.

“Amos is no longer worthy of her mission, and the U.N. must urgently extinguish the fire lit up by her lies. She undermines the U.N.’s work and credibility.”

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 05, 2014, on page 8.




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