EU AID CHIEF : Assad regime’s seizure of medical aid ‘a war crime’

Agence France Presse – 14.9.2013 – GENEVA: Syrian government forces have committed war crimes by seizing medical aid from convoys bound for rebel-held areas, European Union aid chief Kristalina Georgieva said Thursday.“There are cases where medical kits, surgical kits, are removed. What it means is that on the other side, a wounded man, woman or child could die,” Georgieva told reporters.

“It is a war crime to remove surgical kits from a convoy, or to prevent help getting in, or, what is even worse, to target medical facilities and bomb them, to shoot at doctors,” Georgieva said in Geneva, where US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov were to hold talks later Thursday on efforts to control Syria’s chemical weapons.

“Thirty-one humanitarian workers have lost their lives. Turning a blind eye to a violation of international humanitarian law is a war crime too,” she added.

She said fewer than half of the eight million Syrians who need aid received it on a regular basis, as the civil war that has claimed more than 100,000 lives and driven two million refugees abroad shows no sign of abating.

Georgieva said she hoped the Kerry-Lavrov talks would enable a broader breakthrough, but insisted a toughly worded UN resolution was needed.

“For the first time in this horrible conflict, the international community is coming together in the face of the great danger of the use of chemical weapons,” she said.

“But if we don’t have a condemnation of violations of international humanitarian law in this conflict, what are we telling bad people elsewhere? That we can turn a blind eye at what you do?”

Activists say infighting between rebel forces in Syria has killed at least 50 in clashes in the country’s northeast.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Thursday that the fighting took place in Hassakeh province.

It says clashes between Kurdish fighters and members of the Al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant in the past two days left 13 Kurdish gunmen and 35 militants dead. The two sides have been fighting in northern Syria for months in clashes that left scores of people dead on both sides.

President Bashar Assad said his government has agreed to surrender its chemical weapons in response to Russia’s initiative and not because of the US threat of attack.

Assad told Russia’s state Rossiya 24 news channel in an interview that “Syria is transferring chemical weapons under international control because of Russia.”

He added that “the US threats hadn’t influenced” his government’s decision.