U.N. humanitarian chief urges Security Council action on Syria

Monday, 19 August 2013 22:54 GMT

Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Coordinator at the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA, at the sSyrian Humanitarian Forum in Geneva February 19, 2013. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

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Valerie Amos offers 30 proposals to aid Syrians in conflict

RIO DE JANEIRO (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - United Nations humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said the measures she proposed to address the current humanitarian challenges in Syria are ambitious and she hopes the Security Council will take an equally bold approach at implementing some of them as soon as possible.

"We haven’t been able to reach a political consensus, but I think we can do more on the humanitarian side right now," Amos told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview Monday. "This is a comprehensive document and I want the Security Council to take this seriously.’’

Amos, who heads the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), was in Brazil for events marking the 10th anniversary of the bombing of U.N. headquarters in Baghdad and World Humanitarian Day, created in memory of the 22 UN and aid agency workers killed in the attack, including the then Special Representative of the Secretary-General to Iraq, Brazilian national Sergio Vieira de Mello.        

Earlier this month, Amos distributed to Security Council members a document with 30 proposals  that address the need for urgent assistance by nearly 7 million Syrians in the civil war-torn  nation and in neighboring countries. As a political consensus seems unlikely in the short term, humanitarian action could take on a bigger role in the Security Council’s work, she said.        

The proposed actions include allowing cross-border assistance, implementing humanitarian pauses to let aid convoys reach areas in need and creation of a notification system that would give humanitarian groups advance warning of military offensives.

The Security Council has been at a standstill over how to agree on a plan that would end the two-year conflict in Syria. Russia, a close ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and China have used their veto power to stop Security Council actions against Assad proposed by the U.S., Britain and France.

U.N. officials have said the Assad government has refused to allow aid access across rebel-controlled borders and that increased violence made it almost impossible for aid workers to reach those in need.

Meanwhile, Russia said a round of peace talks on Syria is unlikely before October as more talks are expected in preparation for the so-called Geneva-2 conference, aimed at bringing the Assad government and rebel groups to the negotiating table. September is out of the question as there are several events on the UN’s agenda, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov told Interfax news agency on Aug. 13.       

Gatilov also said Russia was still keen on including Iran in the talks, a proposal that the United States has rejected.

Moscow and Washington have been trying since May to organize a peace conference to bring an end to the violence that has killed more than 100,000 people in Syria in two years. But rebel groups are increasingly split and haven’t agreed on who should represent the opposition forces at the peace talks.         

The new conference aims to revive a plan outlined last year in Geneva, when the U.S. and Russia agreed on the need for a transitional government for Syria, but didn’t specify whether Assad could participate in the process. Washington and the Syrian rebels reject any participation by Assad or his family in a transitional government, but Russia maintains there should be no conditions on the talks.

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