Syria crisis: UN Security Council demands aid access after chemical weapons deal

 

The president of the UN Security Council has said many members are pressing to follow up on last week's resolution to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons with a demand that the government allow immediate access for desperately needed humanitarian aid.

Australian Ambassador and council president Gary Quinlan said a draft Security Council statement calls for delivering access in "the most effective ways, including across conflict lines and, where appropriate, across borders from neighbouring countries ..." if necessary to bypass meddling from President Bashar al-Assad's regime in Damascus.

The Security Council had been effectively deadlocked on the Syria crisis for more than two years until it unanimously adopted a resolution on Friday endorsing a US-Russian plan to secure and destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpile.

Russia and China had cast vetoes three times in the past to block council action on Syria.

But with Syria facing a US threat of military action in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack on August 21 that killed hundreds of civilians in a Damascus suburb, Russia relented and let the anti-chemical weapons resolution pass - with a key loophole. It called for consequences if Syria does not cooperate, but adopting sanctions or enforcement action would require the council to pass another sanction resolution, which Russia could then veto.

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said Russia approved of the draft statement on humanitarian aid as well.

The statement would call for demilitarising hospitals, schools and residential neighbourhoods. It would condemn "increased terrorist attacks resulting in numerous casualties and destruction carried out by organisations and individuals associated with al Qaida".

It will also condemn "the widespread violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by the Syrian authorities, as well as any human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law by armed groups".

It stresses "the need to end impunity for violations of international humanitarian law and violations and abuses of human rights, and reaffirms that those who have committed or are otherwise responsible for such violations and abuses in Syria must be brought to justice".

Mr Quinlan said they decided to opt for quick passage of a non-binding statement to capitalise on the council's new-found unity on Syria, rather than risk getting bogged down in prolonged negotiations for an enforceable resolution.

AP

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