GENEVA,– The United Nations envoy for Syria said that he plans to present a “quite clear political initiative” during the week preceding the General Assembly so that the stalled peace talks could resume by the time the Security Council holds another meeting on Syria on Sept 21.

“So that is the target date for making sure that everyone is actively involved in producing some positive outcome on this conflict,” said the UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, told reporters in Geneva.

Having suspended the talks between the government and the opposition in April, the UN envoy had set two target dates in August for the resumption of the talks to end more than five years of conflict in the Middle Eastern country.

Giving an update on the Russia-United States talks on a cessation of hostilities, he said “the discussions are ongoing at the very senior military, security and diplomatic level” between the two nations, adding that their talks may last until “probably Friday or Saturday morning.”

The US and Russia are the co-chairs of the international grouping known as the ISSG, which comprises the UN, the Arab League, the European Union and 16 other countries. In Geneva, the taskforces on humanitarian aid delivery and a ceasefire – created by the ISSG – have been meeting separately since early this year on a way forward in the crisis.

de Mistura had earlier said that the outcome of the ongoing US-Russia talks would affect the course of taskforces’ discussions.

As for the proposed 48-hour humanitarian pause to the fighting in the city of Aleppo, de Mistura and his humanitarian advisor, Jan Egeland, said that an agreement is yet to be reached, as negotiations are still under way, following the announcement of support by Russia.

“Aleppo is one of the areas where we are ready to go immediately when there is a 48-hour pause, but we are still negotiating the access road and the modalities of this, including with the armed opposition groups,” said Egeland, adding that 4,000 food rations, enough to feed 20,000 people, are left.

He said that the UN was only able to reach three of the 18 besieged areas in August – Deir-ez-Zor by air drops, Al-Waer with two convoys and east Harasta with one convoy. “It is around one third or less of the population in besieged areas,” he added.

The UN was expecting today to get an answer back from the Government on its request for access to reach 1.2 million people in September.

There are now urgent fears for the safety of communities in other besieged locations, such as Al-Waer, Madaya, Foah and Kefraya. “They all fear for their future, and we need to break the sieges,” Egeland added.

Meanwhile, the top United Nations relief official outlined how the humanitarian work of the world body in war-torn Syria is guided by impartiality and the key imperative of saving lives.

“Impartiality in humanitarian terms means that we provide life-saving and life-sustaining assistance to civilians based on their humanitarian needs without consideration of where they are, which side in the conflict they may sympathise with, their nationality, social status, gender, age, religious belief or any other consideration,” the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stephen O’Brien, wrote in a letter to the editor published in the UK newspaper The Guardian.

“This fundamental notion of impartiality guides our work and is non-negotiable, in Syria or anywhere else,” he added.

The UN official was responding to a recent series of articles published in The Guardian which asserted that the Syrian government ‘controls UN aid’ and that the UN has channelled funding intended for life-saving humanitarian response to the ‘Assad regime.’

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) – which O’Brien heads – Syria is one of the most complex and dynamic humanitarian crises in the world today. Since March 2011, more than a quarter of a million Syrians have been killed and more than one million have been injured. Another 4.8 million Syrians have been forced to leave the country, and 6.5 million are internally displaced, making Syria the largest displacement crisis globally.

Humanitarian access to people in need in Syria remains constrained by the ongoing conflict in contravention of international law, international humanitarian law and human rights law, according to OCHA. In 2016, an estimated 13.5 million people, including six million children, are in need of humanitarian assistance – of these, 5.47 million people are in hard-to-reach areas, including close to 600,000 people in 18 besieged areas.

Inside Syria, as in other countries, UN agencies must work with key government departments to support the delivery of public services and humanitarian relief, according to OCHA. Some governments, including that of Syria, insist that UN agencies work with a list of authorised implementing partners.

“However, we choose our partners from that list based on our own assessments of their capacity to deliver and following due diligence processes – not because we are forced to work with any particular organisation in order to stay and deliver in the country,” O’Brien wrote in his letter. “In areas not controlled by the government, we work with local partners that may not be authorised by the government.”

According to OCHA’s current figures: 11.5 million Syrians require health care, 13.5 million Syrians need protection support, 12.1 million Syrians require water and sanitation, 2.48 million Syrians are food insecure, 1.5 million Syrians need shelter and household goods, and 5.7 million Syrian children need education support.

The Emergency Relief Coordinator noted that the United Nations welcomes public scrutiny of its humanitarian operations in Syria, with details of its programmes, partners, contracting and financial details available online to the media and public alike.

“However,” he wrote, “your articles mischaracterise the UN-led humanitarian operation in Syria, fail to offer a balanced perspective on the challenges of operating in Syria and discredit the courageous work of national and international humanitarian aid workers who risk their lives on a daily basis to help millions of people in need in one of the world’s most vicious conflicts.”

“We cannot deprive people of aid because there is pressure to disengage from a party to the conflict,” he added. “The impartiality of the UN’s humanitarian operations is fundamental to saving lives and our focus is squarely on reaching people in need. To achieve this, we must work with all to reach all.”

Source: Nam News Network

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GENEVA,-- The United Nations envoy for Syria said that he plans to present a 'quite clear political initiative' during the week preceding the General Assembly so that the stalled peace talks could resume by the time the Security Council holds another meeting on Syria on Sept 21.'So that is...