Russia's approach to humanitarian problems in Syria

Ambassador's view
Dr Alexander Yakovenko, Russian Ambassador to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Deputy foreign minister (2005-2011). Follow him on Twitter @Amb_Yakovenko
A general view shows al-Qosour neighborhood of Homs, Syria © Omar Sanadiki
The Syrian conflict has unfolded into a horrific humanitarian disaster that should be dealt with through a joint effort by all parties involved. Russia has been providing humanitarian assistance to the people of Syria ever since the conflict started.

We have been doing this jointly with the Syrian Government as well as through the International Committee of the Red Cross, the UN Refugee Agency, the UN Development Program and other authorized international agencies. We are in contact with Damascus to facilitate the activities of the UN agencies and NGOs in Syria. The Russian air forces in Syria started its own humanitarian mission on January 15. Humanitarian assistance is also sent to Syria by Russia's NGOs (for more details read here).

It is obvious that due to the conflict and spread of terrorism the humanitarian potential of the Syrian Government is limited to the areas under its control. Even under these circumstances, Damascus provides vital social and economic services in uncontrolled regions, providing people with water and electricity, paying out wages and welfare benefits.

The humanitarian problems are to be a subject, but not a precondition, of the forthcoming intra-Syrian negotiations in Geneva on the basis of the UNSC Resolution 2254. A solution of the humanitarian crisis is to be pursued by each party to the conflict as well as "external players". It will not be an overstatement to say that the best way to put an end to the human suffering in Syria and beyond is to reach a political settlement starting with a cease-fire and accompanied by international reconstruction assistance. But terrorists with their barbaric agenda have to be isolated and defeated first.

Attention should also be paid to the areas where people are under siege by the opposition and terrorists. About 250,000 are trapped in the city of Deir al-Zour, which is surrounded by the ISIS jihadists. Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic group Ahrar al-Sham laid siege to the two villages in Syria's northern Idlib province - Kefraya and al-Fua. 80,000 people have been blocked in Nubul and Az-Zahra in Aleppo Province.

Meanwhile, there is evidence provided by NGOs that the Syrian authorities closely cooperate with the United Nations and a number of NGOs in providing humanitarian aid to the people of Syria. Thus, the Syrian Government meets its obligations specified in the UNSC "humanitarian" resolutions. At the same time, anti-government forces have often been breaking the Istanbul cease-fire agreement of 24 September, 2015. Terrorists have been using civilians as a "human shield". Militants on a regular basis have been refusing UN officials access to the besieged areas.

It is worth mentioning that the sanctions and embargoes imposed by the West on Syria is a major factor in the dire humanitarian situation. I wonder if this issue will be brought up at the forthcoming "humanitarian" conference on Syria in London.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.