A meeting of U.N. Security Council foreign ministers on Thursday focused on easing Syria’s humanitarian crisis, with Britain and France announcing new humanitarian aid for the crisis-torn country as their ministers appealed for greater international help for relief efforts.
Britain will give an extra three million pounds ($4.75 million) and France five million euros ($6.2 million), the ministers said ahead of a Security Council meeting on the crisis. U.N. appeals for relief for Syria and refugee camps outside the country have raised barely half their target.
France, which is council president for August, hoped the body could unite to deal with the aid crisis and convened Thursday’s meeting, which was also attended by ministers from Syria’s neighbors Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan.
At the meeting, British Foreign Secretary William Hague warned that it would be hard to convince the Security Council to approve the idea of humanitarian safe zones for Syrian refugees.
The British official also encouraged the string of army defections from the Syrian regime in recent months.
Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius called the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “a criminal” and called on him to be tried.
More than 23,000 people have been killed in violence in Syria since the outbreak of a revolt in March last year, an activist group said earlier this month.
Ahead of a meeting of the Council, Hague and Fabius played down expectations. "We are excluding no options for the future," Hague said, adding there are "considerable difficulties with such an idea."
But less than half the council members sent ministers to the meeting, and of the permanent members -- the United States, China, Russia, Britain and France -- only the French and British foreign ministers attended.
The absence of the top U.S., Russian and Chinese diplomats has highlighted the body's paralysis over how to end the 17-month conflict.
As Syria spirals deeper into a civil war, the 15-member council is deadlocked over taking strong action after Russia and China blocked three Western-backed resolutions that criticized Assad and threatened sanctions.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's decision to miss Thursday’s meeting highlights the American view that with Moscow standing by Assad, there is little value in further talks.
More than 200,000 Syrians, and as many as 300,000, according to some aid groups, have poured out of Syria since the uprising against Assad's rule began last year, while up to 3 million are displaced. Turkey, which has seen the highest refugee influx, wants a solution to the problem.