WORLD NEWS TOMORROW – NEW YORK (Reuters) – The presence of U.N. observers in Syria, who have drastically curtailed their monitoring activities due to the escalating violence, continues to have a positive impact on humanitarian aid delivery, the EU crisis chief said on Wednesday.
The U.N. Security Council extended the three-month mandate of the U.N. observer mission in Syria for another 30 days last month and will have to decide in a few weeks whether to extend it again.Some Western diplomats say they are loath to keep the mission in Syria given that there is no truce to monitor. One said there was a good chance the 15-nation council would “pull the plug” on the observers later this month, though it was likely to accept some kind of scaled-down U.N. presence.But the United Nations has warned of a worsening humanitarian crisis in Syria and the European Union’s humanitarian affairs commissioner, Kristalina Georgieva, said the unarmed monitors’ presence was proving beneficial for aid workers, despite the U.N.’s limited ability to operate.
“What we hear from our teams in Syria is that yes it does help,” she said. “It (the U.N. observer team) does provide presence that doesn’t stop violence but calms (things) down, opens up a bit of space. And that helps.”
International mediator Kofi Annan’s moribund six-point peace plans calls for Syria and the rebels to cooperate regarding humanitarian aid access to conflict zones.
Georgieva was concerned about how some people see the 17-month-old Syrian crisis as similar to the Libyan civil war last year, a six-month conflict in which rebel forces overthrew and eventually killed long-time leader Muammar Gadaffi.
“It is much, much, much more serious (than Libya),” she said, adding that it was more like the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s or the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s.
Highlighting the escalation of the clashes, Syrian combat aircraft and artillery pounded two areas of Aleppo on Tuesday as the army battled for control of the country’s biggest city, but rebel fighters said troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad had been forced to retreat.
VIOLATING INTERNATIONAL LAW
Georgieva reiterated remarks she made in a statement on Tuesday that all sides in the conflict have an obligation under international law to allow humanitarian aid workers access to combat zones to evacuate wounded and civilians.
Speaking to reporters at the EU mission to the United Nations in New York, she said both the rebels and government forces should be complying with humanitarian rules that apply to civil wars, including the Geneva Conventions.
“At the moment there is plenty of evidence that this is not the case,” she said.
The recent escalation of fighting in Syria has increased the number of people who need aid. There are currently over 2 million people in Syria in need of humanitarian assistance, up from over 1 million a month ago, Georgieva said.
She said countries should put more pressure on Damascus and the rebel forces to implement daily humanitarian pauses to allow civilians who wish to leave conflict zones to do so and aid workers to reach those who need help and evacuate wounded.
France has been among the countries suggesting there should be humanitarian corridors in Syria, safe havens where people could flee to for assistance. But Georgieva dismissed that idea as “not a viable option for Syria at the moment,” since they would be difficult to enforce without military intervention.
Separately, the U.N. Security Council is expected to hear a briefing from U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous on the situation in Syria on Thursday. France, the council president this month, had hoped to organize a ministerial level meeting on Syria but council diplomats said it was unlikely to happen soon.
The U.N. General Assembly will meet on Friday to vote on a non-binding Saudi-drafted resolution that criticizes the Security Council for failing to take action on Syria and calls on Assad to step down to allow a political transition.
The assembly meeting had originally been scheduled for Thursday, but diplomats said they needed more time to negotiate on proposed revisions of the text.