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The delivery of aid in Syria: The UN vs. Al-Assad

Syrians welcome the United Nations’ Security Council’s new resolution with a combination of relief, skepticism and concern. The resolution calls for the delivery of aid to Syria’s rebel-held areas without the government’s approval.

“We have begun to view any step by the international community with suspicion,” said Omar Hamza, the spokesperson of the Revolutionary Command Council in Outer Damascus, stressing that the international community has failed the Syrian people since the start of the revolution.

The unanimously adopted resolution announced on Monday that UN agencies and partners are authorised to transport aid across routes in conflict lines, as well as four border crossings: Bab Al-Salam and Bab Al-Hawa with Turkey, Al-Yarubiyah with Iraq, and Al-Ramtha with Jordan.

Aid agencies face challenges in transporting supplies into Syria due to security threats at the border crossings. The border crossing with Iraq, Al-Yarubiyah is entirely under the control of extremist organisation the Islamic State in Iraq and Sham (ISIS). The Al-Ramtha crossing with Jordan is not a safe crossing point as there are frequent clashes between opposition and regime forces. Moreover, the two border crossings between Syria and Turkey are largely controlled by Jabhet Al-Nusra (JAN), the Al-Qaeda wing in Syria. It is unclear whether the UN resolution will improve the security situation at the borders.

In a news report published on Tuesday, an anonymous UN official told the Anadolu news agency that the first aid convoy entered Syria from Al-Ramtha crossing, continuing to the southern province of Al- Suwaida.

Al-Suwaida is under the control of the regime, therefore aid deliveries are transferred directly to government hands. The goal of the resolution is to enable humanitarian aid distribution to hard-to-reach areas; the delivery to regime-controlled Al-Suwaida does not align with the resolution’s intention.

“At least 10.8 million people inside Syria are in urgent need of assistance. Nearly half these people are in communities that are difficult for humanitarian agencies to reach,” said Ban Ki-moon’s spokesperson in a statement issued on Monday.

Valerie Amos, under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, told the Council in her most recent report last month that relief agencies continue to face obstacles to aid delivery while the needs continue to grow, outpacing response efforts.

“The resolution, as a result, is a confession by the UN that their humanitarian aid has gone to the regime,” said Hamza, noting that there are more than one million civilians living in the besieged neighborhoods of Damascus Suburbs, where humanitarian aid does not reach.

“It is an important step, but we want to see its implementation on the ground.”

As Bashar Al-Assad was sworn in for another seven-year-term on Wednesday, the Assad regime continued to prohibit cross-border deliveries to rebel-held areas insisting that all shipments go through Damascus. Recently, the regime warned the Security Council that delivering aid without their consent would result in attack.

Bebars Al-Tellawi, a well-known media activist from the besieged neighborhood of Al-Waer in the province of Homs, told MEMO via Skype that he believes the civilians in the besieged areas will not benefit from the resolution, as they know the regime’s strategies in these cases.

The Syrian regime’s UN Ambassador, Bashar Al-Jaafari, told the Council after the vote that the UN should respect the “Syrian Sovereignty”. “The Syrian government counts on a neutral, effective and responsible role of the UN in dealing with the humanitarian situation in Syria,” he added.

“The United Nations did not implement a ceasefire, safe humanitarian routes nor even hold the regime accountable for what they have done before,” Al-Tellawi added, referring to regime shelling of the UN aid convoys when they entered Old Homs in February, killing seven and injuring tens of people.

The people of the besieged areas, as Al-Tellawi said, are in immediate need of humanitarian aid, food and medicine.

On the other hand, the Syrian National Coalition, the most-recognised opposition body of Syria, has welcomed the resolution, considering it essential to delivering the necessary level of humanitarian support. “We stand ready to facilitate safe, direct access in the liberated areas under our control,” said Najib Ghadbian, Syrian Coalition Special Representative to the UN. Ghadbain said the resolution “sends a strong signal to the Syrian regime that its calculated policy of siege warfare will no longer be tolerated.”

This resolution will challenge the Syrian opposition to prove its ability to govern the opposition held areas by coordinating with humanitarian aid organisations on the ground to implement distribution in an effective and professional manner.

“The Security Council must pursue further measures under Chapter VII of the UN Charter,” Ghadbain added.

The UN has acknowledged that the Council has the authority to enforce the resolution with military force according to Chapter VII of the UN Charter.

Russia and China, the Syrian government’s strongest allies in the Council, have made it clear that they would block a Chapter VII resolution and have previously vetoed four resolutions that threatened military action against the Assad regime.

“If the United Nations does not cooperate with on-the-ground rebels, the resolution will be worthless,” Omar Hamza, the spokesperson of the Revolutionary Command Council in Outer Damascus, added.

Abdulrahman al-Masri is a freelance Syrian journalist based in Amman, Jordan. Follow him on twitter.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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