Syria agrees to co-operate with UN resolution on aid access

Resolution demands access to all civilians and urges lifting of sieges

A victim of Syria’s military barrel bombs is watched over by her uncle at a hospital in Kilis in Turkey. Weeks of aerial bombardment have nearly emptied entire neighbourhoods in Aleppo. Photograph: Bryan Denton/The New York Times

A victim of Syria’s military barrel bombs is watched over by her uncle at a hospital in Kilis in Turkey. Weeks of aerial bombardment have nearly emptied entire neighbourhoods in Aleppo. Photograph: Bryan Denton/The New York Times

Mon, Feb 24, 2014, 07:27

Damascus said yesterday it is prepared to co-operate with a United Nations call for humanitarian access as long as Syria’s sovereignty is respected. The foreign ministry also said the “root causes” of the crisis, “foreign backed terrorism” and western sanctions, must be addressed.

The comments came in response to the unanimous adoption by the UN Security Council of a legally biding resolution demanding humanitarian access to civilians and urging all parties to lift sieges of populated areas, particularly in Aleppo and Damascus.

The resolution calls on the Syrian government to allow relief agencies to operate across conflict lines and borders; condemns the indiscriminate use of barrel bombs by the air force; and denounces terror attacks staged by insurgents.


Prosecutions and sanctions
To secure the approval of Russia and China, which vetoed three earlier resolutions, the resolution’s authors – Australia, Jordan and Luxembourg – excluded references to prosecutions and targeted sanctions.

Russia’s UN ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, said Moscow’s concerns had been “borne in mind” and the text had become more “balanced”. His Chinese counterpart, Lie Jieyi, urged “all parties . . . to implement this resolution in good faith”.

UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon argued that humanitarian access is mandated by international law and expressed shock that “both sides are besieging civilians as a tactic of war”. He was asked to submit 30-day progress reports.

Although there is no threat of punitive action in case of noncompliance, France and Britain have vowed to press for council action if the resolution is ignored.

In Syria, local ceasefires agreed by the government and the rebel Free Syrian Army continue to hold in the Damascus suburbs of Babila, Muadhamiya, Qudsaya, Beit Sahm, Yalda, Barzeh and Yarmouk, the location of a Palestinian refugee neighbourhood. Army sieges on these rebel-held areas have been lifted and food has been delivered. Rebels have surrendered heavy weapons and are patrolling the streets and manning checkpoints with government troops. Similar arrangements have been reached around Homs.

The army has continued bombardment of insurgent-held quarters of Aleppo and a car bomb exploded near a field hospital in the insurgent-held village of Atmeh near the Turkish border, killing 14 and wounding 70. Al-Qaeda renegade Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis) has been blamed for the blast.

The faction is also blamed for the death by suicide bomb of Abu Khaled al-Suri, dispatched by al-Qaeda central chief Ayman Zawahiri to arrange a truce between Isis and rival insurgent groups.

In Lebanon, spillover from the conflict in Syria has continued to take a deadly toll. A car bomb claimed by al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra’s local branch killed two soldiers and a civilian in the pro-Hizbullah town of Hermel near the border with Syria.

In the Hague, Damascus has submitted to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons a revised plan for the export of its weapons chemicals by the end of May, missing the June 30th deadline fixed for their destruction. So far three shipments, 11 per cent of the 1,200 tons of chemicals, have left the country.