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Syria under further pressure to grant wider humanitarian access

GENEVA/UNITED NATIONS, March 2 (Xinhua) — The Syrian government was put under further pressure Thursday by the UN Security Council and the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to allow wider access for humanitarian aid.

Meanwhile, Kofi Annan, the newly appointed special envoy for Syria on behalf of the United Nations and the Arab League (AL), said Thursday he had reached consensus with UN chief Ban Ki-moon and the five permanent members of the Security Council that a mediation process including all political factions in Syria should be started as soon as possible.

Annan will begin his mission on March 7 with a visit to the AL headquarters in Cairo, AL chief Nabil al-Arabi said Thursday.

Annan is seeking a visit to Syria, and will also travel to other countries affecting the Syrian crisis in a bid to find a solution, said al-Arabi.

At a meeting on Thursday in Geneva, the UNHRC adopted a resolution which condemns “the continued widespread and systematic violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms by the Syrian authorities.”

The resolution, voted 37-3 in favor with three abstentions, held the Assad government as the primary cause of Syria’s ongoing crisis.

Russia, China and Cuba voted against the resolution, saying the resolution, which only lopsidedly condemned the authorities, would only fuel fresh violence in the turbulent country.

“Russia believes the resolution does not send constructive signals that are necessary for launching a process of political and diplomatic settlement, nor a call to all sides to stop violence and join the national dialogue,” said the Russian foreign ministry in a statement.

In the debate before

the voting, China also stressed its stance on the issue, saying both the government and all political parties of Syria must end violence immediately before starting a political dialogue to end the months-long crisis.

The Syrian government reported that at least 2,000 security personnel had been killed by rebel forces since the unrest started last March, and the United Nations estimated that over 6,000 people have died in total.

The UN Security Council released a press statement also on Thursday, calling on the Syrian government to allow “immediate, full and unimpeded” humanitarian access to its country.

In the statement delivered by British ambassador to the UN Mark Lyall Grant, the 15-member council expressed its “deep disappointment” that Valerie Amos, UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, was not authorized to visit Syria and called on the authorities to grant her “immediate and unhindered access.”

Amos has been attempting to visit Syria at the request of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to evaluate the humanitarian situation there, but was denied entry by the Syrian government.

But a Syrian foreign ministry spokesman said on Thursday that his country was ready to consult with Amos to set a new date for her visit.

Syria is “ready to continue consultations with Amos over the suitable date for both sides,” said the spokesman.

In its Thursday statement, the UN Security Council also deplored “the rapidly deteriorating” humanitarian situation, in particular the growing number of affected civilians, the lack of safe access to adequate medical services and food shortages in the most turbulent regions, including the central city of Homs and northern province of Idlib.

Although a Security Council resolution on Syria was vetoed last month, some diplomats in the council said Thursday that they are pushing for a possible new legal-binding resolution that may serve as a solution to the conflict.

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