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UN Syria aid resolution not working, official warns

"The humanitarian situation in Syria is beyond catastrophic" says Diaz of Amnesty International
Less than 10 percent of people living in besieged areas have received assistance in last four weeks (AFP)

By Jennie Matthew

UNITED NATIONS - UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said Wednesday that a Security Council measure designed to provide aid to millions of desperate Syrians was not working.

Instead of alleviating the misery of more than nine million who urgently need help, a humanitarian crisis has worsened since the body adopted Resolution 2139 in February, she warned.

"Far from getting better the situation is getting worse. Violence has intensified over the last month, taking an horrific toll on ordinary civilians," Amos told reporters.

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She said less than 10 percent of 242,000 people living in besieged areas had received assistance in the last four weeks.

"I've told the (UN Security) Council that Resolution 2139 is not working," Amos announced after a closed-doors briefing.

The 15-member panel is in deadlock. Western powers would like to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC) or introduce targeted sanctions against those violating the resolution.

But Russia, a key ally of Damascus, would veto any attempt to impose sanctions. Moscow and Beijing have already vetoed three previous Council resolutions on Syria since the war began more than three years ago.

The United Nations has asked Syrian authorities for permission to pass through a number of border crossings to reach an extra 1.4 million people immediately, but there had been no progress, Amos said.

A UN team on the ground in the city of Aleppo for over a week had also tried but failed to negotiate getting aid into the city, she said.

Amos demanded a "step change in delivery" but suggested no new proposals for how this could be achieved.

"There are a number of areas where with the weight of the Council we could see some immediate movement," she said.

Referring to the wars in Bosnia and Somalia, she pointed out the Council had to pass a number of different resolutions under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter to get the required humanitarian access.

Amos was grilled by reporters who asked why she was not demanding more and accused her of accepting the political stalemate.

Amos shot back: "I don't think I could be any stronger in the statements I've made."

On Tuesday, international legal experts called on the United Nations to deliver humanitarian aid from Jordan and Turkey.

An "overly cautious interpretation of international law" has held UN agencies back from delivering aid across borders, compounding an already "appalling situation," they wrote.

Amos noted every lawyer could interpret law differently and said: "I don't think we should lose precious time on esoteric debate."

Asked about a possible ICC referral, Amos was also tightlipped, saying it was a decision for the Security Council.

In a report to the Security Council last week, UN chief Ban Ki-moon wrote that aid access had not improved, blaming both sides but singling out the government.

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told the Council that the main obstacles were "terrorist activities," diplomats said.

That prompted French envoy Gerard Araud to accuse Churkin of parroting the words of the Syrian regime and Russia of ignoring reality.

To pressure Damascus and embarrass Moscow, Western powers want to refer Syria to the ICC for war crimes.

Rights group urges action 

Amnesty International demanded that the Security Council take action, including the threat of targeted sanctions, against those flouting the terms of the February resolution.

"The humanitarian situation in Syria is beyond catastrophic. More than two months after a UN resolution to alleviate the suffering of civilians and end war crimes was adopted, the situation there has only worsened," said Jose Luis Diaz, head of the London-based rights group's UN office in New York.

"If the Security Council is to salvage what credibility it has left on Syria it has to ensure its unanimous decision is respected, including by making good on its intention to take further steps to get the different parties to comply."

Additional measures, including sanctions, must be taken against those responsible for violating the resolution, Amnesty said.

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