by William M. Reilly
UNITED NATIONS, Oct. 2 (Xinhua) -- Unable to agree on a resolution backed by international law on humanitarian aid for victims of the Syria conflict, the UN Security Council on Wednesday issued a Presidential Statement appealing to both sides for unimpeded access to the needy and an end to abuses of human rights.
Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos, the UN emergency relief coordinator, welcomed the statement "aimed at addressing the horrifying humanitarian situation in Syria."
The Syrian ambassador to the United Nations Bashar Ja'afari also welcomed the statement, which was sponsored by Australia and Luxembourg, as long overdue, while blaming certain western nations for the delay. He described the issue of the statement as a " positive development."
Ambassador Sylvie Lucas of Luxembourg spoke with reporters immediately after the statement was formally adopted.
"You are familiar with the terrible statistics for the conflict: over 2 million refugees, almost 5 million internally displaced, close to 7 million in need of assistance, one-third of Syria's housing destroyed, and on current figures 6,000 new refugees every day," she said. "Now 25 percent of the population in Lebanon are Syrian refugees; 20 percent are refugees in Jordan and the situation also threatens the peace and security in the region."
The statement focused on a host of issues such as humanitarian access throughout Syria and beyond its borders and also called for accountability, said Lucas, who warned the situation would only continue to deteriorate as long as there is no political settlement.
"The Syrian authorities bear the primary responsibility to protect their populations," said the three-page statement, approved by consensus in a formal council meeting, rather than a vote as required by a resolution carrying the weight of international law.
The statement also leveled accusations at opposition groups for impeding humanitarian aid and for abusing human rights.
"The Security Council also recalls that under international humanitarian law, the wounded and sick must receive, to the fullest extent practicable, and with the least possible delay, medical care and attention required by their condition and that medical and humanitarian personnel, facilities and transport must be respected and protected," said the statement, urging free passage to all areas for medical personnel and supplies, including surgical items and medicine and condemning all cases of denial of humanitarian access.
The statement said that arbitrarily depriving civilians of objects indispensable to their survival, including willfully impeding relief supply and access, can constitute a violation of international humanitarian law.
Amos said she and her colleagues in the humanitarian and human rights fields "have called many times over the past two and a half years for unhindered access to help us get aid to people in desperate need, many of whom are in areas we have not been able to reach for months."
"We have called on the warring parties to protect civilians from the brutal fighting and violence; to stop targeting vital civilian services like schools, shops and hospitals, and to stop violating human rights," Amos said in a statement.
"We have also continued to ask for increased support to the millions of families who have fled to neighboring countries and for the communities supporting them," she said. "This consensus statement clearly calls on all parties to do their utmost to end the violence and stop targeting civilians."