UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The UN Security Council moved quickly yesterday to follow through on its new-found resolve to deal with Syria, issuing an urgent appeal for immediate access to all areas of the country to deliver desperately needed humanitarian aid to millions of civilians enduring the 2 1/2-year-old conflict.
The council adopted a presidential statement addressing what it described as "the significant and rapid deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Syria" five days after unanimously approving its first legally binding action since violence erupted in Syria -- a resolution ordering the elimination of its chemical weapons.
British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant called the international focus on Syria in recent days "a very welcome, positive step after years of paralysis in the Security Council". He cited the humanitarian statement, the chemical weapons resolution and agreement to hold a peace conference on Syria in mid-November.
The statement, aimed at helping the nearly 7 million Syrians affected by the fighting, urges the Syrian Government to facilitate "safe and unhindered humanitarian access to people in need through the most effective ways, including across conflict lines and, where appropriate, across borders from neighbouring countries".
A presidential statement is a step below a resolution. Some diplomats consider presidential statements legally binding, but others do not.
UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos praised the council for addressing "the horrifying humanitarian situation in Syria".
She said she would have preferred a resolution, and still hopes the council will pass one, but negotiations on a resolution take much more time and speedy action was critical as the humanitarian situation deteriorated.
"Our operations will be faster and more effective, delivering more supplies -- like life-saving medicines, food for children, and chlorination tablets to provide clean water — to more people in need," Amos said.
Australian Ambassador Gary Quinlan, who drafted the statement with Luxembourg envoy Sylvie Lucas, said they decided to move quickly to address the humanitarian crisis after Friday's first united action by the council on chemical weapons.
Quinlan praised the council's "strong, unified... unanimous message to all parties in Syria... that humanitarian access, humanitarian assistance must not be impeded."
Lucas said the humanitarian situation is dire: over 2 million refugees, almost 5 million Syrians displaced within the country, one-third of Syria's housing destroyed, and 6,000 new refugees every day.
The council also urged all 193 UN member states to contribute to a UN humanitarian appeal to meet "the spiralling needs of people inside Syria".
Britain's Lyall Grant said over $1 billion was raised in new pledges over the past month, but there is still "a $3 billion funding gap".