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Report: U.N. Security Council mulls Syria cross-border aid push

Published: Updated:

The prospect of enhanced cross-border aid access to crisis-torn Syria is being mulled by the U.N. Security Council as the bloc considers a plea from U.N. aid officials to demand access through bordering countries.

U.N. diplomats told Reuters news agency late Friday that there are millions in need of aid inside Syria, while the influx of Syrian refugees into neighboring Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq reached 1.5 million.

“The key element (of a humanitarian resolution) would be insisting on cross-border access,” said a senior Security Council diplomat, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity.

“We don’t want to open up divisions (between the permanent five council members) ... just before Geneva,” he said. “If (the Western council members) are going to have that battle with the Russians then it may be better to have it after Geneva.”

But a decision on a new resolution in the 15-member council could be left until a planned Syria peace conference in Geneva next month, U.N. diplomats said.

Western leaders have been cautious about the prospects of the Syria conference in Geneva achieving any breakthrough, and Russia’s desire that Iran should attend has complicated matters.

The Syrian conflict started with mainly peaceful protests against Assad, but turned into a civil war in which the United Nations says at least 70,000 people have been killed. Islamist militants have emerged as the most potent anti-Assad rebels.

Jordan recently invited the Security Council to visit and see first-hand the Syrian refugee crisis it was struggling to deal with, but diplomats said Russia, a close ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, had blocked the trip.

Diplomats said Assad’s government’s opposition to cross-border humanitarian access in areas controlled by rebels was over concerns that weapons could be smuggled more easily to opposition forces.

John Ging, director of operations for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said the Syrian government had refused to aid access across rebel-controlled borders and that violence, bureaucracy and checkpoints meant aid was barely trickling through to those in need.

“You should have full access by whatever routes, by whatever means are most effective to save the lives of the people who need to be saved,” a visibly frustrated Ging told reporters in New York after returning from Syria last month.

“You cannot negotiate 54 checkpoints between Damascus and Aleppo every day with the quantities of aid that Aleppo needs. But you can drive it in the one hour from Turkey pretty efficiently and pretty effectively,” he said.