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Middle east

Syria agrees to UN aid resolution if ‘state sovereignty’ respected

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-02-24

Syria on Sunday said it is ready to cooperate with a UN Security Council resolution to improve aid access into the war-torn country as long as the “root causes” of the humanitarian crisis is dealt with and Syria's “state sovereignty” is respected.

The Security Council, which has been sharply divided over the nearly three-year Syrian conflict, unanimously adopted resolution 2139 on Saturday, calling for humanitarian aid convoys to be allowed access across the country.

According to Sunday's ministry statement, carried by state news agency SANA, Syria is ready to cooperate with the UN mission and international humanitarian organisations "to agree on the implementation of resolution 2139."

But Damascus also underscored that the "root causes" of the humanitarian crisis must be treated, singling out "foreign-backed terrorism" and sanctions placed on President Bashar al-Assad's regime by Western and Arab countries.

It said the resolution must be implemented "with respect for the principles laid out in the UN Charter, international law and the basic foundations of humanitarian work, especially state sovereignty and the role of the state, and principles of neutrality, transparency and non-politicised assistance."

The statement added that the resolution, which condemns terror attacks by al-Qaeda-linked organisations, was an "admission" by the Security Council of the presence of "extremist Al-Qaeda-linked terrorism" in Syria.

It described the UN condemnation as "a step in the right direction."

Since the March 2011 start of Syria's uprising — which began as peaceful protests but escalated into a civil war after security forces repeatedly attacked demonstrators — Assad's regime has blamed the violence on foreign-backed "terrorism."

Russia and China, which have shielded Syria’s government on the Security Council during the country’s almost three-year-long civil war, voted in favour of the resolution.

They had previously vetoed three resolutions that would have condemned Syria’s government and threatened it with possible sanctions.

The resolution asked UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to report back to the council in 30 days on the implementation of the resolution and, “expresses its intent to take further steps in the case of non-compliance”. Still, diplomats say Russia is unlikely to agree to any action against Assad’s government if is it found to be in non-compliance.

“This resolution should not have been necessary. Humanitarian assistance is not something to be negotiated; it is something to be allowed by virtue of international law,” Ban told the council.

“Profoundly shocking to me is that both sides are besieging civilians as a tactic of war,” he said after the vote.

Unhindered humanitarian access

Western members of the Security Council have been considering a humanitarian resolution for almost a year. After months of talks, the council adopted a non-binding statement on Oct. 2 urging more access to aid, but that statement produced only a little administrative progress.

The resolution “demands that all parties, in particular the Syrian authorities, promptly allow rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access for UN humanitarian agencies and their implementing partners, including across conflict lines and across borders.”

It also, “demands that all parties immediately cease all attacks against civilians, as well as the indiscriminate employment of weapons in populated areas, including shelling and aerial bombardment, such as the use of barrel bombs, and methods of warfare which are of a nature to cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering.”

The resolution is the second Security Council decision since Syria's war began. It follows a decision ordering the destruction of Syria's chemical arsenal, after an August 21, 2013 chemical attack near Damascus killed hundreds of people.

The United Nations says 9.3 million people need help and that well over 100,000 people have been killed in the civil war. The opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has said that more than 136,000 have been killed since

a revolt

against Assad began in March 2011.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

Date created : 2014-02-22

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