UN unanimously approves Syria aid resolution

February 23, 2014 - 6:21:33 am
UNITED NATIONS: The UN Security Council achieved rare unity to act on Syria’s civil war yesterday when Russia and China supported adoption of a resolution to boost aid access in Syria that threatens to take “further steps” in the case of non-compliance.

Russia, supported by China, has shielded its ally Syria on the Security Council during the three-year-long war. They had previously vetoed three resolutions that would have condemned Syria’s government and threatened it with possible sanctions.

Lithuanian UN Ambassador Raimonda Murmokaite, president of the 15-member council for February, described the unanimous approval of the resolution, drafted by Australia, Jordan and Luxembourg, as a “moment of hope” for Syria’s people.

Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told the council after the vote that Moscow supported the move because “many Russian considerations were borne in mind and as a result the document took on a balanced nature.”

China’s UN Ambassador Liu Jieyi said that Beijing was “gravely concerned” by Syria’s worsening humanitarian situation. “We strongly urge all the parties in Syria to implement this resolution in good faith,” he said. 

The initial text was weakened during negotiations with references to the International Criminal Court and targeted sanctions removed. But other contentious points including a demand for an end to barrel bombs, a demand for cross-border access and the naming of besieged areas were included. 

“This resolution goes further than we have been able to get in three years,” US Ambassador Samantha Power told reporters. “But a resolution is just words, it is implementation that matters and that’s what we’re starting measuring right now.”

The resolution asks UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to report to the council in 30 days on implementation and “expresses its intent to take further steps in the case of non-compliance.” Diplomats say Russia is unlikely to agree to any action if Syria’s government was found to be in non-compliance.

But several Western envoys expressed a strong intent to push for Security Council action if the resolution is ignored. 

“Of course we would have liked to have seen this resolution be even stronger than it is but we are committed to coming back to the council to seek further action if the demands are not met,” British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant told reporters. 

Australian UN Ambassador Gary Quinlan said the Syrian conflict was “the biggest and the most devastating humanitarian crisis we’re currently facing.” He said: “There will be consequences for non-compliance. We will remain determined.”