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U.N. council mulls authorizing cross-border Syria aid access

By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. Security Council members are considering a draft resolution to authorize cross-border aid deliveries into Syria at four points without government consent, diplomats said on Thursday, after an earlier council demand for greater access was ignored.

The 15-member Security Council achieved rare unity in unanimously approving a resolution in February that demanded rapid, safe and unhindered aid access in Syria, where a three-year civil war has killed more than 150,000 people.

But deputy U.N. aid chief Kyung-wha Kang told the council on Thursday that the resolution had failed to make a difference. About 9.3 million people in Syria need help and 2.5 million have fled, according to the United Nations.

Council members Australia, Luxembourg and Jordan have drafted a stronger follow-up resolution that U.N. diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, said would authorize deliveries into Syria at specific points from Turkey, Iraq and Jordan to reach millions of Syrians in opposition-held areas.

"Ninety percent of the aid goes to government held areas, it's not getting to Syrians in zones which are controlled by the opposition," Australian U.N. Ambassador Gary Quinlan told reporters after Kang's briefing.

The resolution would threaten "measures" in the event of non-compliance, diplomats said. The draft has been circulated to the permanent five veto-wielding council members - the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China. Negotiations are due to take place among the eight members in the coming days.

The draft text is under Chapter 7, diplomats said, which would make it legally binding and enforceable with military action or other coercive measures such as economic sanctions. The February resolution was binding, but not enforceable.

Russia, supported by China, has previously vetoed four resolutions threatening any action against its ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. It blocked a council bid to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court for possible prosecution of war crimes.

Moscow has previously made clear it was against allowing cross-border access without the consent of Syria's government.

The United Nations says it can only deliver aid into Syria without the government's approval under a Chapter 7 resolution.

Diplomats said the draft resolution would likely be circulated to the remaining seven council members early next week ahead of a possible vote in early June. Russia assumes the rotating presidency of the Security Council for June.

In a report last week, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon demanded the Security Council take urgent action to ensure humanitarian aid reaches more Syrians.

"All delivery routes must be made available to us – both cross-line and cross-border," Kang told the council, according to a statement after the closed-door briefing on Ban's report.

"Bureaucratic obstructions on the delivery of assistance must stop. We don't have the time for arbitrary restrictions on how and to whom we are allowed to deliver aid," she said.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Grant McCool)

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