What's In Blue

Posted Thu 14 Jan 2016

Syria: Briefing on Besieged Areas

Tomorrow afternoon (15 January), Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Kyung-Wha Kang will brief the Security Council on the dire humanitarian situation of the 394,000 people living in besieged areas in Syria. No outcome is expected.

France and the UK requested tomorrow’s humanitarian briefing, supported by the US and the humanitarian leads, New Zealand and Spain, to follow-up the 11 January briefing on the situation in Madaya, a town besieged by government forces, and where the UN has credible reports of people dying from starvation and being killed by sniper fire or landmines while trying to flee.

Humanitarian convoys entered Madaya on 11 January and Council members will be interested in Kang’s ability to share first-hand accounts of the plight of the besieged population as well as the type and amount of aid that has reached the town. Council members will also want OCHA’s best possible assessment of the situation in other besieged areas where there are 181,200 people living under government siege, 200,000 besieged by ISIS, and 12,500 by rebel groups. Additionally, Council members will be interested in whether the government has indicated any further willingness to grant access to other besieged areas in eastern Ghouta, Darayya or Rif Damashq.

Some Council members view tomorrow’s briefing as a way for Council members to exert pressure on the government to continue to allow humanitarian access to Madaya as well as other hard to reach and besieged areas. Following the 11 January meeting, in comments to the press, New Zealand and Spain said that access to Madaya had to be a start to broader humanitarian access in Syria and not a one-off event. They underscored that humanitarian access is an obligation under international humanitarian law and that sieges with the goal of starvation is a war crime. The P3 also condemned siege tactics by the government in press statements made in their national capacity.

The issue of besieged areas will be raised again on Monday (18 January) when Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura briefs Council members on his preparations for the political talks between the Syrian government and the Syrian opposition in Geneva, announced for 25 January. De Mistura is expected to convey that the lifting of government sieges is one of the demands of the opposition to participate in talks.