UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. Security Council united for the first time on a resolution about Syria’s humanitarian crisis Saturday, demanding President Bashar Assad’s government and the opposition provide immediate access everywhere in the country to deliver aid to millions of people in desperate need.
The fate of the Western and Arab-backed resolution rested with Russia, Syria’s closest ally, and China, another supporter.
After two weeks of negotiations and a watering-down of the original text, they decided to join the rest of the 15-member council in sending a strong message, especially to the Assad government, that food, medicine and other essentials must not be blocked to civilians caught in the three-year conflict.
“Today, the council has finally shown that whatever its political differences over Syria, it was not entirely indifferent to the devastating humanitarian crisis,” Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said after the vote.
According to the United Nations, 9.3 million Syrians are in need of humanitarian assistance and 6.8 million fled their homes but remain in the country.
The resolution does not threaten sanctions — Russia insisted this reference be dropped from the original text. Instead, it asks Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to report to the council every 30 days about implementation and expresses the council’s intention to take “further steps” if the resolution’s demands aren’t fulfilled.
All Security Council resolutions are legally binding, but what remains to be seen is whether this resolution has an impact on the ground, especially since it doesn’t have real “teeth.”
U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos expressed hope in a statement that it “will facilitate the delivery of aid to people in desperate need in Syria.”
Calling the resolution a “long overdue” measure “to alleviate the worst humanitarian crisis of this generation,” U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said as hard as it was to win council approval, the harder issue is implementation.