Thursday, 14 January 2016

Syrian activists accuse U.N. of ‘complicity’ in blockades

'In an open letter addressed to Stephen O’Brien, the U.N. undersecretary for humanitarian affairs, 112 Syrian civil society activists accused the world body of “complicity” in government-imposed blockades that violate the laws of war.

 “By allowing the [Assad] regime to veto aid to civilians in areas outside its control, you have allowed the U.N. to become a political tool of the war,” says the letter, adding that international humanitarian aid readily flows to government-held territory.

 The letter — compiled and distributed with the help of the Syria Campaign, an activist group critical of Assad — says that U.N. staff members in Damascus, the capital, “are either too close to the regime or too scared of having their visas revoked by the same powers that are besieging us.”
 On Wednesday, a number of influential rebel groups refused to participate in this month’s peace talks in Geneva unless the Assad government allowed humanitarian aid into areas that its forces are besieging.
 Majed Abo Ali, a spokesman for the Unified Medical Office of Eastern Ghouta, a Syrian non-governmental organization, said Thursday’s letter to the United Nations signals mounting frustration in areas cut off by government forces. In particular, he noted, recent U.N. efforts to help broker cease-fire deals in government-besieged areas, such as in the city of Homs, have fostered suspicion among residents. Those cease-fires are commonly known in rebel areas as “surrender or starve” agreements: If rebels do not surrender to government forces or flee the area, they and their families generally must resist while being cut off from food.
 “The U.N. has tools to pressure the government, but it’s not using them, and people are starving as a result,” said Abo Ali, whose organization signed the letter.'

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