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VOA News

UN Orders Syria Humanitarian Aid Access

The United Nations Security Council votes on resolution on humanitarian aid for Syria at U.N. headquarters in New York, Feb. 22, 2014.

The United Nations Security Council votes on resolution on humanitarian aid for Syria at U.N. headquarters in New York, Feb. 22, 2014.

The U.N. Security Council has unanimously adopted a resolution on Syria’s humanitarian crisis, demanding that both sides in the conflict provide immediate access to deliver essential aid to millions of people in desperate need.

The 15-member council united on Syria for the first time Saturday. Russia and China — which have shielded Syria’s government throughout the country’s three-year-long civil war — voted in favor of the resolution.

Saturday’s vote does not threaten sanctions. Russia insisted that this reference be dropped from the original Western- and Arab-backed text. But it does express the council’s intent to take “further steps” in the case of non-compliance.

The resolution demands immediate cross-border aid access and condemns rights abuses by the Syrian government and armed opposition groups.

It also insists that all parties immediately cease all attacks against civilians and stop the indiscriminate use of weapons in populated areas — including shelling and aerial bombardment, such as the use of barrel bombs.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the council immediately after the vote that the resolution should not have been necessary, because “humanitarian assistance is not something to be negotiated; it is something to be allowed by virtue of international law.”

The U.N. chief said it is “profoundly shocking … that both sides are besieging civilians as a tactic of war.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the newly adopted resolution could be “a “hinge-point in the tortured three years” of the crisis. He called it “a resolution of concrete steps to answer the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today.”

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reuters

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UN humanitarian chief demands Syria aid access by reuters
UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos calls for unlimited aid access to Syria’s worst hit areas.

Speaking at a news conference in Ankara, Amos said she had spoken to Syrian government representatives but they’d asked for more time.

SOUNDBITE) (English) U.N. HUMANITARIAN CHIEF, VALERIE AMOS, SAYING:

“However,the government have agreed to a limited assessment exercise to be conducted by U.N. agencies and the Syrian authorities, which would give us some information about what is happening in the country.”

Meanwhile, amateur videos from Syria posted on to a social media website – which Reuters cannot independently verify – purportedly reveal fresh fighting amid reports that 31 people were killed.

This burning car is reportedly in the Asheera neighbourhood of Homs while this amateur Homs footage shows smoke billowing from buildings amid sounds of heavy gunfire.

This footage, apparently from Damascus, purports to show a group of protesters chanting anti-regime slogans outside the captal’s Russian embassy.

The resumption of the heavy shelling follows a few days of relative calm during which Amos visited Homs and said part of the city had been completely destroyed.

UN and Arab League evnoy Kofi Annan is due to arrive in Damascus on Saturday to try to calm the year-old conflict.

Sunita Rappai, Reuters
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