The United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution authorizing its agencies to deliver aid across borders into rebel-held areas in Syria without President Bashar al-Assad’s consent.
The approval will enable the agencies to “immediately” deliver aid to 1.3 million Syrians, said Mark Lyall Grant, the U.K. ambassador to the UN, according to a transcript of his remarks to the council.
The 15-member Security Council was united in support of the proposal by Australia, Jordan and Luxembourg, to give UN humanitarian agencies and their partners the legal authority to use four crossings on Syria’s borders with Iraq, Turkey and Jordan without the Syrian government’s authorization.
The resolution also orders UN monitors to be deployed to the crossings to inspect the aid consignments and confirm their “humanitarian nature.”
The resolution will allow the UN to “side-step regime obstruction,” Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, wrote in a Twitter post.
Russia and China, two of the five veto-wielding council members, deviated from their usual voting pattern on Syria resolutions because the text did not directly threaten use of force or economic sanctions in the event of non-compliance by the Syrian government. Their shielding of Assad, Russia’s top Middle Eastern ally and weapons buyer, has paralyzed the council on taking action to end the Syrian conflict.
More than 170,000 people have died and more than 10 million have fled their homes since the increasingly sectarian civil war broke out in March 2011.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the adoption of the measure as it will allow assistance, including medical supplies, to be delivered by the “most direct routes” to “nearly three million people who have not had secure food supplies or access to basic health care for many months.”
Ban pledged to “immediately” install the monitoring mechanism, according to an e-mailed statement from his office.
While aid agencies and non-governmental organizations hailed the council’s action, they also emphasized the importance of implementation.
“This resolution is an important step, but we need a breakthrough in Syria, not just in New York,” Peggy Hicks, global advocacy director at New York-based Human Rights Watch, said in an e-mailed statement. “The Security Council’s recent record shows that words will not be enough.”
The council has faced mounting criticism after its first legally-binding resolution on humanitarian aid access in Syria, adopted in February, failed to bring about tangible change.