NEW YORK, MARCH 30 – Briefing the UN Security Council on Thursday, the U.N. humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien said that hundreds of thousands of Syrians trapped in besieged areas are facing “severe and horrific threats” and the last months have been some of the worst for civilians.
“For Syria, that is saying something,” O’Brien told the Council. Despite his hope that 2017 would see a significative change in the delivery of humanitarian aid, he said that access is no better today than it was at this time in 2016. While the pace has picked up, with several aid convoys getting through over the past week, he lamented that for every convoy that reaches its destination several others were unable to deploy because of delays caused by the Syrian government. O’Brien said some opposition groups “continue to threaten or refuse to cooperate with humanitarian workers”.
Speaking during closed doors consultations, the Italian Permanent Representative to the UN, Sebastiano Cardi, expressed firm condemnation for the use of sieges as a war strategy. Cardi called upon the parties to allow immediate access of humanitarian convoys to the areas and cities under siege. More generally, Italy expressed deep concern for the situation on the ground, even in areas where violence has decreased following the cease-fire agreed in Astana.
Expressing support to the humanitarian plan recently launched by OCHA (2017 Humanitarian Response Plan for Syria), Cardi confirmed that Italy is endorsing the platform of a UN-EU ministerial conference on the future of Syria to be held in Brussels on April 4 and 5 with more than 70 countries in attendance.
While stressing that a political solution is paramount along the lines of the intra-Syrian talks resumed in Geneva thanks to the mediation of the UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura, the Italian Ambassador put the spotlight of the protection of civilians in Syria and of refugees fleeing the conflict. Today UNHCR in Geneva revealed that the number of men, women and children who have fled the ongoing war in Syria has surpassed five million, a fourth of the entire population. A year after an international conference to increase the places for refugee resettlement and offer alternative channels for Syrian refugee admission, only half the 500,000 places asked for have been given, UNHCR warned.
In his comments too the Council, Cardi mentioned the success of the “humanitarian corridors“, an Italian initiative which is allowing safe and legal entrance in Italy to hundreds of Syrian refugees. The project, launched by three religious Ngos, has recently become a model for other European countries. (@alebal)