UN aid chief to re-elected Assad: Put Syria's people first

Reuters , Thursday 5 Jun 2014

File Photo: UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos addresses the media in Ankara March 9, 2012 (Photo: Reuters)

The United Nations' aid chief appealed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Wednesday to put his country's people first after the warring parties in the three-year conflict ignored UN Security Council demands for greater humanitarian access.

About 9.3 million people in Syria need help, and 2.5 million have fled, according to the United Nations. Aid chief Valerie Amos told a news conference that some 241,000 people were still trapped in areas besieged mostly by government forces.

As Assad's re-election for a third term with almost 89 percent of the vote was announced on Wednesday, Amos said: "If I were able to speak to him right now, I would say 'Put the people of Syria first.'"

"If you put the people of Syria first, then I think the rest falls from that in terms of our ability to make sure people are properly fed, that they have enough water, that they have proper sanitation, that they have healthcare," Amos said.

Amos said a Security Council resolution adopted in February aimed at obtaining greater aid access had failed. It was legally binding but not under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which would have made it enforceable with military action or economic sanctions.

The council members that have a veto - Britain, France, the United States, Russia and China - are considering a follow-up resolution drafted by Australia, Luxembourg and Jordan. However, Russia has made clear it is opposed to a Chapter 7 text.

"The problem has been implementation and making this implementation stick," Amos said of the February resolution. She signaled in April that stronger council action was needed, noting that previous Chapter 7 resolutions had to be adopted to gain aid access in Somalia and Bosnia.

On Wednesday, she cited specific council action taken to gain access for aid in Bosnia and Libya.

"If you look at situations where there have been Chapter 7 resolutions to enable humanitarian aid, they have tended to be resolutions that have been about the establishment of no-fly zones or the use of force to enable humanitarian operations," Amos told reporters.

The draft resolution currently being discussed by some council members is under Chapter 7 and would, among other things, authorize the cross-border delivery of aid at four specific points from Iraq, Turkey and Jordan without the Syrian government's consent, diplomats said.

Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, the council's president this month, said on Tuesday that while he believed it was possible to negotiate a second resolution on aid access, Moscow would not support action under Chapter 7.

"You're crossing a very important threshold for UN humanitarian operations, which are supposed to be done in cooperation with the government of the country you are helping. Chapter 7 is not about cooperation, it's about imposition," said Churkin.

Russia, backed by China, has shielded Syria from strong council action during the civil war, vetoing four resolutions.

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