UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations secretary-general said the world body is poised to help get long-awaited humanitarian aid across borders into Syria even at crossings outside government control, in defiance of Damascus’ insistence that all aid go through its authorities.
Ban Ki-Moon’s new report released Thursday points to a possible path ahead after months of frustration over the inability to get basic necessities to millions of Syrians trapped in the three-year conflict.
The report says access to humanitarian aid remains “unpredictable and woefully inadequate” and that the government of President Bashar Assad has “failed” to care for its people, and it indicates that the UN will move ahead on aid delivery regardless of government consent.
“We are ready to put in place arrangements at key border and line crossings to facilitate, improve and monitor access,” the report says, including at crossings “currently outside the government’s effective control.”
Ban has said about 9.3 million people — more than 6.5 million displaced by the fighting — are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance within Syria.
The UN Security Council has been pressured to back up a resolution passed earlier this year demanding access by all sides in the conflict for delivering humanitarian aid. Diplomats and UN officials have said the situation on the ground has worsened since then.
The secretary-general repeated Thursday that parties to the conflict, “particularly the government of Syria, continue to deny access for humanitarian assistance in a completely arbitrary and unjustifiable manner.”
More specifically, Ban added, “Arbitrarily withholding consent for the opening of all relevant border crossings is a violation of international humanitarian law, and an act of non-compliance with resolution 2139.”
Last month, 35 international lawyers, including a former UN legal counsel, accused the United Nations of an “overly cautious interpretation of humanitarian law, which has held UN agencies back from delivering humanitarian aid across borders” into Syria. The lawyers declared that the UN faces “no legal barrier” to delivering humanitarian aid across borders and to supporting other aid groups in similar efforts.
Ban’s new report indicates the new approach, saying, “The UN will do all it can to facilitate and enable the provision of assistance by humanitarian organizations across borders in accordance with resolution 2139.”
There was no immediate response to an email and call to Syria’s mission to the UN
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.