UN official dismayed at failure of Syria aid deal

AP News
Posted: Jan 31, 2014 4:27 PM

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos deplored the failure of Syrian peace talks to produce a plan for getting aid to besieged communities, while momentum built for Security Council action to pressure the warring sides to allow access.

"The situation is totally unacceptable," Amos said. "We need urgent action now. Sieges must be lifted. Cease-fire agreements must be agreed and convoys allowed to proceed immediately and safely."

The Geneva negotiations ended Friday with no concrete results. An agreement to allow aid convoys into the central city of Homs remains stalled, with Syrian officials demanding assurances that U.S. aid will not go to "armed and terrorist groups." The government and opposition have accused each other of holding up the aid delivery into Homs, which has been under siege for nearly two years.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Friday his country "believes that there is a compelling case for bringing the humanitarian situation back under discussion in the Security Council."

"We will discuss urgently with our partners what steps can be taken to ensure that aid reaches all those in Syria who need it," he said.

Diplomats say Arab and Western countries have been working together on a Security Council resolution to pressure Syria's sides to allow humanitarian access into the blockaded areas. The diplomats had been waiting to see if the Geneva talks produced an agreement on Homs before moving ahead on a resolution.

The legally binding resolution would be a step up from a presidential statement adopted last year that marked a rare display of Security Council unity on the Syria crisis. Still, exactly what the resolution would say and its prospects for passage remain uncertain.

Although the council agreed on the presidential statement, its members remain deeply divided on Syria, with Russia and China backing President Bashar Assad's government while the U.S., Britain and France support the opposition.

Amos said she was "deeply frustrated and disappointed" over the outcome of the Geneva negotiations on the humanitarian front.

"I am extremely concerned that while the discussions continue to try and find a political solution to end the crisis, ordinary men, women and children are dying needless across the country and others are desperate for want of food, clean water or medical care," she said.

Hague blamed the lack of progress on the Syrian regime's failure to "take any of the steps in its power to address humanitarian suffering, or stop the indiscriminate bombardment of Syria's towns and cities."

"The blocking of humanitarian aid and deliberate starvation of a civilian population is grotesque," Hague said in a statement. "The Syrian regime must know it will be held accountable for the fate of the people of Homs, Yarmouk and other besieged areas."

Amos said more than 3 million people in Syria are trapped in areas of heavy fighting.

She said the U.N. has yet to get an agreement from the Syria government to bring humanitarian aid to northwestern Hassakeh through a border point with Iraq, even though Iraqi authorities have already given their authorization. She said a U.N. team that visited the area last week reported that people are running out of food. She said there has been no progress in getting aid into Eastern Ghouta, despite written guarantees from opposition groups.


Associated Press writer Edith M. Lederer contributed to this story from the United Nations.