Russia, China join U.N. council in Syria rebuke, urge ‘immediate’ humanitarian access


Russia and China joined other U.N. Security Council members on Thursday in expressing disappointment at Damascus’ failure to allow U.N. humanitarian aid chief Valerie Amos to visit Syria and urged that she be allowed in immediately, France said.

The 15 nations on the council also said in a unanimously agreed statement that they “deplore” the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation in the country, where an 11-month government crackdown on pro-democracy protesters has left over 7,500 civilians dead, according to the United Nations.

The members of the Security Council express their deep disappointment that Ms. Valerie Amos, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, was not granted authorization to visit Syria by the Syrian Government in a timely manner, despite repeated requests and intense diplomatic contacts aimed at securing Syrian approval. The members of the Security Council call upon the Syrian authorities to grant the coordinator immediate and unhindered access.

According to the statement, obtained by Al Arabiya, the members of the Security Council deplored “the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation, the lack of safe access to adequate medical services, and food shortages, particularly in areas affected by fighting and violence such as Homs, Hama, Deraa and Idlib.”

The statement called upon the Syrian authorities to allow “immediate, full and unimpeded access of humanitarian personnel to all populations in need of assistance, in accordance with international law.”

It also called upon the Syrian government to “cooperate fully with the United Nations and relevant humanitarian organizations to facilitate the provision of humanitarian assistance and allow evacuation of the wounded from affected areas.”

It is the first statement on Syria from the council, which has been deadlocked on the issue for months, since August 2011, when it rebuked Damascus in a so-called “presidential statement” for the escalating violence there.

Since that time, Russia and China have twice vetoed Security Council resolutions condemning Damascus and calling for an end to the violence, saying Western and Arab nations are pushing for Libya-style “regime change” in Syria.

The agreed statement was softened from an earlier draft in response to concerns raised by Russia, China and Pakistan, diplomats told Reuters.

The original version would have had the council “demand” that Syria allow Amos into the country to assess humanitarian needs in besieged Syrian towns like Homs and Hama, according to a draft seen by Reuters. The word “demand” was revised to “call upon.”

Council diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Russia, China and Pakistan argued that the council should not be issuing such demands to a sovereign country.