Syria’s government warned the UN Security Council on Friday that delivering humanitarian aid across its borders into rebel-held areas without its consent would amount to an attack, suggesting it would have the right to retaliate against convoys.
As the veto-wielding members of the council – the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia – negotiated a draft resolution to boost aid the conflict-torn nation, Syria responded by promptly circulating a letter to the 15-member council from dozens of Arab and Syrian lawyers.
The June 18 letter, obtained by Reuters on Friday, argues against any bid by Western states for the resolution to be drafted under Chapter 7 of the UN charter, which would mean it could be enforced militarily and with coercive measures such as sanctions.
“The sole purpose of the initiative is to use United Nations auspices for the delivery of logistical backing to the terrorists,” the Arab and Syrian lawyers wrote in the letter that was sent to the United Nations by Syrian UN Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari.
“Importing aid in coordination with terrorist organisations and without consultation with the Syrian state would amount to an attack on the Syrian state and on its territorial integrity and political independence,” the lawyers argued.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Security Council in a report on Friday that the United Nations was ready to put in place “speedy, pragmatic and practical arrangements at critical border crossings” to deliver more aid.
“Such arrangements would allow United Nations convoys to cross the border into Syria – in their own vehicles, without the need for specific permits or visas – to deliver urgently needed relief to people in need,” Ban wrote in the report.
Looking for a ‘political big bang’
Amid the resolution negotiations, Russia said on Tuesday it has gained Syrian approval to open four border crossings named in the draft text. Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin called it “an elegant, innovative formula which will simplify the humanitarian procedures when the goods are actually on the territory”.
Western members of the council have been examining the draft since Tuesday and Churkin expressed hope that the resolution will be adopted quickly.
“Frankly, my suspicion is that their main interest very often ... [is] to produce some kind of a political big bang,” he said. “When the political big bang is not there, when in fact we focus on the humanitarian situation, then quite often they’ll lose interest in the entire exercise. So we’ll see what comes out of this discussion on the resolution.”
Australia’s UN Ambassador Gary Quinlan said on Thursday that the proposal “is not good enough” yet.
The lawyers stated that the Syrian government’s refusal to allow aid deliveries without its approval, “is grounded in and motivated by the Charter of the United Nations, international resolutions and Syrian counterterrorism legislation.
Russia, supported by China, has previously vetoed four resolutions threatening any action against its ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Moscow has made clear it was against allowing cross-border access without the consent of Syria’s government and opposed a Chapter 7 resolution.
Half of country in urgent need of help
The Security Council achieved rare unity in unanimously approving a resolution in February that demanded rapid, safe and unhindered aid access in Syria, where a three-year civil war has killed more than 150,000 people.
But that resolution, which was legally binding but not enforceable, has failed to make a difference, Ban said in his fourth monthly report to the council on Friday on its implementation.
Ban said the humanitarian situation in Syria is worsening and the number of people needing urgent help has now reached 10.8 million – almost half of the country’s population of 22 million.
He said efforts to expand humanitarian assistance had “been met with continued delays and obstruction” – a combination of insecurity, the absence of agreements between parties for the delivery of aid and government bureaucratic obstacles.
Ban said the current estimate of 3.5 million people living in areas that are difficult or impossible for humanitarian workers to reach is also likely to have increased to 4.7 million people.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AP)
Date created : 2014-06-21