What's In Blue

Posted Wed 27 Aug 2014

Briefing on Humanitarian Access in Syria

Tomorrow morning (28 August), Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Kyung-wha Kang will brief the Security Council on humanitarian access in Syria pursuant to resolutions 2139 and 2165. Her public briefing will be followed by consultations. Council members will be interested in hearing more details about the delivery of aid across borders and conflict lines following the adoption of resolution 2165 on 14 July.

Under-Secretary-General Valerie Amos briefed Council members on humanitarian access for the first time under resolution 2165 on 30 July, reporting that the UN was able to swiftly put the resolution on cross-border and cross-line access into practice, with the first aid convoy traversing the Bab al-Salam crossing from Turkey ten days after adoption, on 24 July.

Kang will present a report (S/2014/611) tomorrow for the period 22 July to 18 August. She is expected to report some improvement in access to Aleppo, Dar’a and rural Damascus and that medical supplies had reached a number of opposition held areas. However, access has continued to decline in areas under government control and the control of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).

Council members will be interested in receiving an update on the four cross-border aid deliveries from Turkey and one from Jordan that occurred during the reporting period and the plans for further deliveries in the near future. They will want more information on how long it might take such aid to be distributed, how many people it will potentially help and in which areas. To date, the authorised Iraq border crossing has not been used due to the security situation there.

Kang may also brief on Amos’ visit to Tehran on 17 August to discuss the humanitarian crises in the region. Council members are likely to be interested in the details of Amos’ discussions with Iranian government officials on the humanitarian situation in Syria.

Many Council members are also likely to emphasise that resolution 2139 was broader than humanitarian access and Kang is expected to report minimal or no progress in implementing any of the other key demands regarding human rights and protection of civilians, such as observing medical neutrality, ceasing aerial bombardments and easing administrative hurdles.

Overall, crises in Gaza, Iraq and Libya have drawn attention away from Syria in recent months despite the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights announcing on 22 August that the death toll in Syria was now conservatively estimated at 191,369. Council members seem generally despondent over how to have any meaningful role in ceasing the civil war in Syria. In addition there has been no serious discussion among Council members about acting on the threat in resolutions 2139 and 2165 to impose measures for non-compliance. Recent activity by the Council has been limited to counter-terrorism efforts, and the emergence of ISIS as a wider regional threat is likely to exacerbate that trend.

Council members have only recently approached the cross-pollination of ISIS in the crises in Iraq and Syria with the adoption of a 28 July presidential statement prohibiting illicit oil trade as a source of revenue for terrorists (S/PRST/2014/14) and the 15 August adoption of resolution 2170 listing six individuals affiliated with ISIS and the al-Nusra Front under the 1267/1989 Al-Qaida sanctions regime and demanding the withdrawal of all foreign fighters operating in these terrorist groups from Iraq and Syria. While Russia and the Syrian government had from the beginning of the conflict taken the position that terrorism was the greatest threat to international peace and security, the P3 in particular had held firmly to the view that the real threat to international peace and security was the Bashar al-Assad regime. In recent months with the proliferation of ISIS fighters from Syria into Iraq and its expanding control of territory, strategic infrastructure, military hardware and natural resources, it appears that the P3’s calculations have shifted toward viewing ISIS as another primary threat on par with the Assad regime, bringing them closer to the Russian position. As a result, it seems that the counter-terrorism aspect of the conflict, because it is easier to garner consensus in the Council, has begun to overshadow the political track. In the report that Kang will present tomorrow, the Secretary-General has reminded the Council that the Syrian conflict cannot be reduced to the problem of terrorism and foreign fighters and that all concerned should not lose sight that the best way to stop terror is a political solution.

On the political track, 1 September marks the first day of newly appointed Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura’s term. No meeting with de Mistura was planned at press time, and while Council members will be interested in his preliminary plans for reviving the political process, few have expectations that any bold plans that could positively impact the situation in Syria will be forthcoming in the near term.

Following tomorrow’s briefing, the next planned meeting for Council members on Syria will be in early September when Special Coordinator of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons-UN Joint Mission Sigrid Kaag will brief on the chemical weapons track.

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