The United Nations Security Council has passed a unanimous resolution on the delivery of humanitarian aid to Syria — the decision flowing from a consensus that the government and the armed opposition would be held responsible for providing relief to the people entangled in the bloody conflict, which has already claimed over 100,000 lives.
To enable the flow of humanitarian supplies, the 15-member Council called for an immediate end to all forms of violence in the country and strongly condemned the rise of al-Qaeda-affiliated terror, the U.N. News Centre said.
“Russia has backed the resolution when it was agreed upon and became balanced,” said Vitaly Churkin, Moscow’s representative at the U.N., after the Council had voted. Opposed to “regime change,” the Russians had rejected an earlier version of the western-backed resolution, which, in their view singularly targeted the government of Syrian President, Bashar Al-Assad.
The Council urged all parties engaged in the conflict to lift sieges on population centres, including Aleppo — Syria’s largest city, Damascus and Rural Damascus as well as Homs, which had for long become a militant stronghold. It also called for de-militarising medical facilities, schools and other civilian facilities, affirming that “medical neutrality” must be maintained.
Without fixing responsibility on either side, the resolution urged “all parties” to cease the targeting of civilians, by means that include the indiscriminate use of weapons for shelling and aerial bombardment with barrel bombs. The Syrian government has been accused of using barrel bombs, which are essentially explosives-filled oil drums that are dropped from helicopters. The media has extensively reported the apparent use of these weapons, which has pointedly fed into the debate on whether it was now justifiable to supply the armed opposition with anti-aircraft weaponry, to neutralise the advantage held by government forces in the air.
John Kerry, the U.S. Secretary of State, has welcomed the resolution calling it a “hinge point” in the three-year-old Syrian conflict.
“After three years of slaughter and savagery, people rightfully will question whether progress is possible, but this resolution holds the promise of something real,” he observed. The resolution has asked U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to report to the Council every month on the progress in compliance. The document includes a provision of “further steps” against those who do not comply, but does not specify what these steps could be.
While the Americans and their western partners have made their hostility to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad well known, Russia, the main supporter of the government in Damascus, has asserted that keeping the Syrian State functional was essential to complete the humanitarian mission.
At the UN headquarters, Mr. Churkin singled out gunmen, who fire at aid convoys, use civilians as human shields and commit terrorist acts as impediments to successful relief efforts.
China, which appears to have synchronised its stance on Syria with Russia, has pencilled the spotlight on the pursuit of a political solution to the crisis. Beijing's representative at the UN, Liu Jieyi noted that aid alone is a temporary solution. He stressed that a political solution to the crisis is required, which had begun with last month's Geneva 2 conference. The Chinese representative also pointed out that Saturday's resolution affirms the respect for Syria's sovereignty, independence and unity. It also sends a strong unified message to all sides to work towards the improvement of humanitarian conditions in Syria.