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Humanitarian crisis in Syria must be solved ‘on the ground’

Dr Alexander Yakovenko, Russian Ambassador to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Deputy foreign minister (2005-2011).

Published time: February 21, 2014 11:18
A man holds bread as he walks along a damaged street filled with debris in Deir al-Zor, eastern Syria February 19, 2014 (Reuters/Khalil Ashawi)

​The second round of inter-Syrian talks began on February 10 in Geneva, and once again we are witnessing what can only be described as an attempt to undermine the fragile political process.

Everybody seemed to be aware of the critical importance of maintaining dialogue between the Syrian government and the opposition for the sake of political settlement of the conflict and agreeing on a common vision for the future of Syria. But this time our partners are trying to use the humanitarian issue (as they did with the topic of chemical weapons recently) to disrupt the political process and create pretexts for a return to the military scenario aimed at a regime change.

On February 11 a group of UN Security Council members introduced a draft resolution on humanitarian situation in Syria. The authors of the document very selectively interpret the situation in Syria and shift all the blame for the humanitarian crisis on to the government, ignoring the actions of militants that cause real problems in the humanitarian sphere. The draft resolution is written in a categorical tone and contains the threat of sanctions. This is in stark contradiction with the Geneva Communiqué that serves the basis for the current international efforts on Syria.

No doubt the humanitarian crisis is one of the most pressing problems in Syria. Still, emotional rhetoric and threats cannot replace practical steps ‘on the ground’, which are now required and are actively undertaken by international humanitarian agencies.

Russia is trying to help this work in a substantial way, facilitating dialogue with the Syrian authorities to address specific problems. This painstaking and patient approach has successfully resolved the problem of the delivery of humanitarian aid to the town of Homs and the ‘Yarmouk’ Palestinian refugee camp (although in both cases, the militants were trying to disrupt implementation of these operations).

Reuters/Hosam Katan

It is not difficult to understand that if all of us really want to improve the humanitarian situation, we need to work with the government and the opposition – to unblock other populated areas, primarily those which are now besieged or occupied by militants – Noble, Al-Zahra, El Haseke, etc. The West has not shown any enthusiasm in coordinating a Homs-like operation for those localities, something that we have proposed on successive occasions. Instead, they are choosing the easiest ‘solution’, which is to adopt another resolution.

However, since a number of our partners are convinced that the Security Council should have something to say on the humanitarian issue, Russia has prepared its own draft resolution, which it has put forward for discussion.

That draft is based on the main provisions of the Presidential Statement on Syria adopted unanimously by the UN Security Council on October 2, 2013. It is aimed at ensuring that humanitarian problems are resolved through dialogue and in accordance with international humanitarian law.

For the sake of a peaceful solution in Syria it is critical to refrain from making the humanitarian crisis subject matter for speculations and a pretext for turning back to the military scenario.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.