Assad calls for cooperation on U.N. aid

President Bashar al-Assad said aid delivery must improve but 'without compromising national sovereignty'

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Syrian government bodies tasked with providing relief in war-torn Syria must further their "cooperation" with international and local organizations, state television reported President Bashar al-Assad as saying on Saturday.

The channel broadcast footage showing Assad in a meeting with representatives of Syria's governmental relief committee.

He said: "There is a need for greater cooperation between ministries and the bodies involved in humanitarian aid, and to deliver aid without delay, and to work on the ground with all the local and international stakeholders to make aid delivery smoother," Agence France-Presse quoted him as saying.

Assad's statement came after U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon issued a report saying foreign aid was still not reaching millions of needy Syrians despite a Security Council resolution in February calling for greater access.

While Ban blamed both sides of the conflict, he singled out the government as particularly responsible.

Will Assad change policy?

In April, U.N. documents obtained by Foreign Policy showed that the Assad regime had engaged in a policy of cutting off food supplies to opposition-held areas to exert more pressure on Syrian rebels.

While Assad's statement signals some hope for deprived Syrians, especially those locked in besieged areas, he gave no indication that his policy had changed.

Instead, he said aid delivery must improve "without compromising national sovereignty."

The U.N. documents also showed that infighting between rival opposition groups reduced aid distribution points especially between June and February.

Jihadist infighting, meanwhile, continues unabated.

On Saturday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that around 60,000 people have fled towns in Deir Ezzor province of eastern Syria that have been the scene of fierce clashes between rival jihadists.

Amos calls for more action

On Thursday, U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos also described the 2139 resolution signed as failing to provide aid to needy Syrians.

Referring to the wars in Bosnia and Somalia, Amos advised the Security Council to pass a number of different resolutions under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter to get the required humanitarian access.

Under Chapter VII, the resolution will be enforceable through sanctions or the use of a military force.

Any such resolution would meet with stiff opposition from Russia, a key backer of the Assad regime, and China.

Not only Amos, but international legal experts have also called for action, and urged the United Nations to deliver aid from Jordan and Turkey via border crossings controlled by rebels.

(With AFP)