London, Asharq Al-Awsat—The UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution calling for humanitarian access to all areas of Syria, allows “further steps” in the event of non-compliance, and condemns rights abuses by both sides of the conflict on Saturday.
More than 9.3 million people inside Syria require humanitarian assistance, according to the UN. About two-thirds of those are people displaced from their homes by the three-year-long conflict, and at least 250,000 are people trapped in areas under siege, mainly by government forces.
“This resolution should not have been necessary. Humanitarian assistance is not something to be negotiated,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a statement read to the Council after the vote.
Russia and China, key supporters of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and his government, joined the remaining 13 members in confirming the resolution.
Russia, seen as the key potential obstacle to the resolution in the days leading up to Saturday’s vote, had cited the release of 1,400 civilians from the besieged Old City of Homs as part of the Geneva II negotiations on the crisis as evidence a Security Council resolution was not needed.
Russia had also condemned wording in the resolution calling for aid convoys to be allowed to cross into Syria from neighboring countries, saying it was a violation of Syrian sovereignty.
China, which also holds a veto and which usually sides with Russia in the Security Council on issues not directly affecting China, had also been expected to either vote against or abstain from voting on the resolution.
Western countries, including veto-holders Britain, the United States and France, have been pushing for a Security Council resolution on the humanitarian situation in Syria for over 12 months.
The Council did issue a non-binding statement last October calling on “all parties to respect the UN guiding principles of humanitarian emergency assistance” in Syria, but it had little effect on the ground.