In a voice of rare unanimity on the situation in Syria, the 15-member UN Security Council conveyed its “deep disappointment” that Valerie Amos, United Nations under secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, was turned down by the government to enter the country to assess the humanitarian crisis.
The press statement was read by Mark Lyall Grant, the UN ambassador from Britain and the president of the Security Council this month, who noted that the document did not cover the wider political dimensions of the Syrian government’s unabated attacks against civilians in numerous parts of the country.
Instead the statement, he said, strictly covers the humanitarian developments. In particular, it refers to 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.”
The statement also said that Syrian officials should 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” and allow evacuation of wounded.
The UN has enlisted Kofi Annan, the previous secretary-general, as joint special envoy with the Arab League to begin negotiating a political solution and stop the violence in Syria. He will travel to the region this weekend, Grant said, to consult the Arab League, and, according to plan, on to Damascus. Annan’s international stature means that his mission will be taken “extremely seriously,” Grant added.
Speaking in his national capacity, Grant said that Britain condemns the “brutalization” of the Syrian regime against Syrians, including the current “full-frontal assault” in Homs against civilians who are trapped behind government blockades.
Syria was also at the forefront at the Human Rights Council in Geneva today, where it passed a resolution condemning “the continued widespread and systematic violations of human rights and fundamental rights by the Syrian authorities.”
The council called on the Syrian government “to immediately put an end to all human rights violations and attacks against civilians, to cease all violence and to allow free and unimpeded access by the UN and humanitarian agencies.”
The resolution was passed with 37 yes votes, 3 against (China, Cuba and Russia) and 3 abstentions (Ecuador, India and Philippines). Angola, Burkina Faso, Kyrgyzstan and Uganda did not vote.
We welcome your comments on this article. What are your thoughts?
Dulcie Leimbach is a co-founder, with Barbara Crossette, of PassBlue. For PassBlue and other publications, Leimbach has reported from New York and overseas from West Africa (Burkina Faso and Mali) and from Europe (Scotland, Sicily, Vienna, Budapest, Kyiv, Armenia, Iceland and The Hague). She has provided commentary on the UN for BBC World Radio, ARD German TV and Radio, NHK’s English channel, Background Briefing with Ian Masters/KPFK Radio in Los Angeles and the Foreign Press Association.
Previously, she was an editor for the Coalition for the UN Convention Against Corruption; from 2008 to 2011, she was the publications director of the United Nations Association of the USA. Before UNA, Leimbach was an editor at The New York Times for more than 20 years, editing and writing for most sections of the paper, including the Magazine, Book Review and Op-Ed. She began her reporting career in small-town papers in San Diego, Calif., and Boulder, Colo., graduating to the Rocky Mountain News in Denver and then working at The Times. Leimbach has been a fellow at the CUNY Graduate Center’s Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies as well as at Yaddo, the artists’ colony in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.; taught news reporting at Hofstra University; and guest-lectured at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the CUNY Journalism School. She graduated from the University of Colorado and has an M.F.A. in writing from Warren Wilson College in North Carolina. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.