by Xinhua writer Gu Zhenqiu
UNITED NATIONS, Aug. 30 (Xinhua) -- As more than 20 speakers took the floor on Thursday afternoon at the UN Security Council to voice their views on the current humanitarian situation in Syria, words of agreements and differences were heard as to how to bring an early end to the prolonged Syrian crisis.
In the speeches delivered at the Security Council meeting on humanitarian situation in Syria, representatives of the 15 Security Council members and Syria's neighboring countries -- Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon -- agreed that the current humanitarian situation in the Middle East country was very serious.
Words like "appalling," "deteriorating," "worse" and "dire" were frequently used to describe the situation on the ground.
"The situation of sustained tension and incessant conflicts in Syria have caused huge casualty and seriously damaged the infrastructure and people's lives in Syria," Li Baodong, the Chinese permanent representative to the United Nations, said at the opening of the council meeting.
Li's statement was echoed by Jan Eliasson, UN deputy secretary-general, who briefed the Security Council on the present humanitarian situation in Syria.
More than 2.5 million people, including the refugees from Palestine and Iraq, are now in great need of assistance and protection inside Syria,Eliasson said, adding that the number has more than doubled from that of March.
"The most pressing needs include water and sanitation, food and shelter, blankets and health care," he said. "Less than half of primary health care facilities and hospitals are now fully functional in Syria."
Another widely shared point at the Thursday meeting is that the six-point peace plan, mediated by Kofi Annan who is to step down on Friday as the joint special envoy of the UN and Arab League for Syria, and the Geneva communique of the Action Group are still valid in the international efforts to seek a political solution to the Syrian crisis.
Annan announced his resignation from the post of UN-Arab League joint envoy to Syria in early August in frustration over his failure to mediate a way out of the 18-month conflict in Syria.
He will be formally replaced on Saturday by Lakhdar Brahimi, who was former Algerian foreign minister and also a widely respected UN official.
Despite common concern for the humanitarian situation in Syria, differences remained as to how to bring the Syrian people out of the current crisis.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu proposed to set up "safe zones" inside Syria in his speech at the Security Council meeting, saying that his country, already hosting 80,000 Syrian refugees, faces "serious difficulty" in accommodating 4,000 refugees crossing over each day.
"The United Nations should initiate the establishment of IDP (internally displaced person) camps within Syria without delay," the Turkish foreign minister said.
The United Nations does not brace the proposal, saying it raised "serious questions" and a careful study is thus needed.
"Such proposals raise serious questions and require careful and critical consideration," Eliasson said when he was the first to speak at the council meeting.
In more plain words, Antonio Guterres, the UN high commissioner for refugees, said that the idea of buffer zones had not proved effective.
"Bitter experience has shown that it is rarely possible to provide effective protection and security in such areas," he said.
Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary William Hague noted that anything like a safe zone requires military intervention. "We're ruling nothing out and we have contingency planning for a wide range of scenarios," Hague said.
In practice, the establishment of a safe zone inside a sovereign country needs to be approved by the Security Council, which, under the UN Charter, has the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.
Britain and France have been actively pushing for a Western plan to force a regime change in Syria, which is firmly opposed by Russia and China.
The path to council's approval of the proposed safe zone will not be as smooth as the no-fly zone set up by NATO over Libya, which was later criticized for being used as a tool to force a regime change in the North African country.
Russia and China have vetoed three consecutive Western-drafted resolutions on Syria in order to avoid the replay of Libya scenario in the much-battered country.
Some Western powers have long maintained that military action be an option to protect civilians in Syria. However, the Thursday meeting ended without a resolution or a statement approved by all 15 council members.
Russia, South Africa and Azerbaijan, together with other council members, are firmly against the military solution to the Syrian crisis.
"South Africa reiterates that the situation in Syria cannot be solved by military means or by assisting one side militarily and otherwise to defeat the other," said Baso Sangqu, the South African permanent representative to the United Nations.
"Perhaps it is appropriate, given the allegation that some are arming the opposition, to ask the question: Is the arming of the opposition in Syria not indirect military intervention?" Sangqu asked.
Special Report: Syrian Situation