Syria says no aid deliveries without its approval

Associated Press

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Syria says any attempt to deliver humanitarian aid to rebel-controlled areas without government approval is tantamount to "an attack on the Syrian state" as well as its territorial integrity and political independence.

Syria's U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari sent a letter to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the U.N. Security Council from several dozen Syrian and Arab lawyers protesting against a draft council resolution that would authorize the delivery of humanitarian aid into Syria through four border crossings without approval from President Bashar Assad's government.

Currently, all U.N. aid must go through Damascus — a practice which U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos has repeatedly criticized.

Key council members have been negotiating the text of the draft — initially circulated by Australia, Luxembourg, and Jordan — for several weeks.

Australia's U.N. Ambassador Gary Quinlan has said 90 percent of aid currently "goes to government-held areas," and Syrians in opposition-controlled zones aren't getting food and medicine. Authorizing humanitarian access at two crossings from Turkey, one from Jordan and one from Iraq would help more than 2 million people who have not received aid, he said.

But the lawyers sharply disagreed.

"The sole purpose of the initiative is to use United Nations auspices for the delivery of logistical backing to the terrorists, in preparation for the establishment of 'humanitarian corridors' under the protection of those very states that brought terrorism onto Syrian national territory," the lawyers said.

The Syrian government calls all opposition groups and al-Qaida-linked extremists "terrorists."

The letter, obtained Friday by The Associated Press, said all humanitarian aid must be delivered with the agreement of the government.

"Importing aid in coordination with terrorist organizations and without consultation with the Syrian state would amount to an attack on the Syrian state and on its territorial integrity and political independence," the lawyers said. "Not only would it violate the (United Nations) charter, it would use the charter as a pretext for aggression."

The resolution was initially drafted under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which means it could be enforced militarily, but that was dropped at the insistence of Russia, Syria's most important ally.

Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said Moscow came up with "an elegant, innovative formula" that would allow humanitarian supplies to go through the four crossing points "which will simplify the humanitarian procedures when the goods are actually on the territory of Syria."

He said Western members of the council have been examining the draft since Tuesday and expressed hope that the resolution will be adopted quickly.

"Frankly, my suspicion is that their main interest very often ... (is) to produce some kind of a political big bang," Churkin said. "When the political big bang is not there, when in fact we focus on the humanitarian situation, then quite often they'll lose interest in the entire exercise. So we'll see what comes out of this discussion on the resolution."

Australia's Quinlan told reporters Thursday that the latest revised Russian draft "is not good enough and can take us backwards potentially."

"We need to make sure it works on the ground and generates greater access, but we are not convinced it is the case," he said.

All 15 council members voted for a resolution in February demanding that all sides in the Syrian conflict allow immediate access for aid. U.N. officials have said the resolution has failed to change the dire humanitarian situation.

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