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U.N. mulls Syria aid under Chapter 7

Civil Defence members, rebel fighters and civilians search for survivors at a site hit by what activists said was a barrel bomb dropped by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in al-Qarlaq neighbourhood of Aleppo May 29, 2014. REUTERS/Jalal Al-Mamo

UNITED NATIONS/BEIRUT: U.N. Security Council members are considering a draft resolution to authorize cross-border aid deliveries into Syria at four points without government consent, diplomats said Thursday, after an earlier council demand for greater access was ignored.

The 15-member Security Council achieved rare unity in unanimously approving a resolution in February that demanded rapid, safe and unhindered aid access in Syria, where the three-year civil war has killed more than 160,000 people.

But deputy U.N. aid chief Kyung-wha Kang told the council Thursday that the resolution had failed to make a difference. About 9.3 million people in Syria need help and 2.5 million have fled, according to the United Nations.

Council members Australia, Luxembourg and Jordan have drafted a stronger follow-up resolution that U.N. diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, said would authorize deliveries into Syria at specific points from Turkey, Iraq and Jordan to reach millions of Syrians in opposition-held areas.

“Ninety percent of the aid goes to government-held areas, it’s not getting to Syrians in zones which are controlled by the opposition,” Australian U.N. Ambassador Gary Quinlan said after Kang’s briefing.

The resolution would threaten “measures” in the event of noncompliance, diplomats said. The draft has been circulated to the permanent five veto-wielding council members – the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China. Negotiations are due to take place among the eight members in the coming days.

The draft text is under Chapter 7, diplomats said, which would make it legally binding and enforceable with military action or other coercive measures such as economic sanctions. The February resolution was binding, but not enforceable.

Russia, supported by China, has previously vetoed four resolutions threatening any action against the regime of President Bashar Assad.

Moscow has previously made clear it opposed allowing cross-border access without the consent of Damascus. Diplomats said the remaining seven council members would likely receive the draft resolution early next week.

In a report last week, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon demanded the Security Council take urgent action to ensure humanitarian aid reaches more Syrians.

“All delivery routes must be made available to us – both cross-line and cross-border,” Kang told the council, according to a statement after the closed-door briefing on Ban’s report.

“Bureaucratic obstructions on the delivery of assistance must stop. We don’t have the time for arbitrary restrictions on how and to whom we are allowed to deliver aid,” she said.

The opposition-in-exile National Coalition said it welcomed the efforts, but added that “if lives are to be saved today, such readiness must translated into immediate action.”

The diplomatic moves came as government forces rained down crude “barrel bombs” on the city of Aleppo, while a surge of violence in the north has prompted more than 4,000 people to flee to Turkey in the last three days. The Anadolu news agency said 60 Syrians who were wounded in attacks in Idlib and Aleppo were among those who crossed.

In Aleppo, regime helicopters dropped barrel bombs on several rebel-held districts, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based anti-regime group.

The Observatory said at least two people were killed in one raid that struck the neighborhood of Shaar, as residents were still combing the rubble of destruction from the past several days, when at least 65 people were killed in government strikes.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 30, 2014, on page 1.

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