TODAY’S MESOP COMMENTARY – Syria Daily: UN Tells Assad to Allow Aid — Will It Make a Difference?

By Scott Lucas February 23, 2014 15:44 Updated – UPDATE 1630 GMT: The Assad regime has conditionally accepted the United Nations’ non-binding resolution calling for aid to besieged areas.The Foreign Ministry said it would “ready to cooperate”, provided implementation respected “state sovereignty and the role of the state, and principles of neutrality, transparency, and non-politicized assistance”. At the same time, “foreign-backed terrorism” and sanctions against Damascus must be addressed as “root causes” of the humanitarian crisis, the Ministry said.

Damascus insisted the resolution was an “admission” by the Security Council of the presence of “extremist Al-Qaeda-linked terrorism” in Syria and that it “must be followed by steps to force states involved in providing financial and military support, training, refuge and arms to terrorist groups in Syria to stop supporting terrorism”.

The United Nations Security Council has finally passed a non-binding resolution calling on the Assad regime to allow aid to besieged Syrian areas.

Russia had blocked three previous resolutions and objected to a Western-Arab draft circulated earlier this month.

However, Moscow’s alternative text and the Western-Arab draft were merged last week, and neither Russia nor China exercised vetoes in Saturday’s vote.

The approved text expresses “grave alarm at the significant and rapid deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Syria, in particular the dire situation of hundreds of thousands of civilians trapped in besieged areas, most of whom are besieged by the Syrian armed forces and some by opposition groups”.

It “condemns all cases of denial of humanitarian access” and “demands that all parties, in particular the Syrian authorities” allow aid. Cases cited include the Old City of Homs, Nubl and Zahra in Aleppo Province, and Madamiyet Elsham, Yarmouk, Eastern Ghouta, and Darayya in and near Damascus.

The resolution does not threaten sanctions, although it expresses the Council’s intention to take “further steps” if the UN text is not implemented.

Read full text of resolution

The resolution also calls on all sides to end violence and attacks on civilians, “strongly condemn(ing) the widespread violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by the Syrian authorities, as well as the human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law by armed groups”.

Limited amounts of aid were sent into the Old City of Homs last week after United Nations mediator Lakhdar Brahimi pressed for the initiative during the Geneva II conference with Assad and opposition delegations.

Food and supplies have also been sent into some Damascus suburbs after months of blockade by the Syrian military, following truces between regime and local groups. Damascus has hailed the ceasefires as reconciliation, while opposition factions have criticized a “surrender or starve” policy by President Assad.