The UN Security Council on Thursday deplored the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation in Syria and called on the government to grant UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos “immediate and unhindered access.”
It was the Security Council’s first statement on Syria in seven months and it is significant because it requires agreement of all 15 council members, including Russia and China, who have vetoed two resolutions condemning the Syrian government’s bloody crackdown on anti-regime protesters.
The press statement, which The Associated Press obtained, is not legally binding but it does reflect the growing concern of the council about the impact of the year-old conflict on Syria’s civilian population, AP noted.
The Security Council’s statement cited “the growing number of affected civilians, the lack of safe access to adequate medical services, and food shortages, particularly in areas affected by fighting and violence such as Homs, Hama, Deraa, Idlib.”
It called on Syrian authorities “to allow immediate, full and unimpeded access of humanitarian personnel to all populations in need of assistance, in accordance with international law and guiding principles of humanitarian assistance.”
The council expressed “deep disappointment” that Amos “was not granted authorization to visit Syria by the Syrian government in a timely manner, despite repeated requests and intense diplomatic contacts aimed at securing Syrian approval.”
On Wednesday, Amos said Syria had not yet agreed to allow her to into the country. Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, called that refusal “shameful.”
“Rather than meeting the needs of its people, the barbaric Syrian government is preparing its final assault on the city of Homs,” Rice said in a statement. “Meanwhile, food shortages are reported to be so severe that people, especially children, will soon start dying of hunger.”
Britain’s UN Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant, told AP that the Security Council’s statement only focused on the deteriorating humanitarian situation — not on the conflict itself, the political situation, or the appointment of former UN chief Kofi Annan as the new UN-Arab League special envoy to help find a peaceful solution to the conflict.
“This is focused on the immediate humanitarian crisis and it reflects the frustration and disappointment of all Security Council members that Valerie Amos was not given access to Syria,” Lyall Grant said. “The power of the statement is that it has all 15 members of the Security Council supporting it.”
The UN has estimated that more than 7,500 people have been killed since the anti-Assad struggle started in March 2011. Activists have put the total death toll at more than 8,000, most of them civilians.
Earlier on Thursday it was reported that Javier Espinosa, a reporter for Spain's El Mundo newspaper who was trapped in Homs, managed to sneak through the western border into Lebanon after rebels spirited him out of Homs.
Government troops are advancing on the Baba Amr district, a stronghold held by the rebels. The assault, which began February 4, has left hundreds of civilians dead. An Iranian armored brigade was spotted by Syrian Army defectors who are among the opposition forces, and who say that Iran and Lebanon-based Hizbullah terrorists have joined with Assad's troops in the assault Syrian citizens.