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PHR Welcomes Agreement to Supply Aid to Besieged Syrian Cities, Urges Vigilance to Enforce Pact

For Immediate Release

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) today cautiously welcomed an international agreement to facilitate aid deliveries in Syria’s besieged cities and towns, including a provision that if Syria’s government does not permit immediate access by June 1, the UN may begin airdropping supplies. Throughout the conflict, PHR has called for an end to sieges and open, unhindered access for humanitarian supply convoys.

The following statement is PHR’s reaction to the agreement – negotiated at a meeting of the International Syria Support Group in Vienna – attributable to PHR Director of Programs Widney Brown:

“We are cautiously optimistic that this latest agreement will bring life-saving aid to hundreds of thousands of Syrians who continue to suffer under siege. The real test is whether there is a willingness on the part of the members of the International Syria Support Group to make this work – particularly Russia.

“So many previous promises of aid delivery have fallen far short. And even if aid flows, it is too little, too late for countless civilians who have died as a result of the barbaric and unlawful practice of besieging communities – literally blocking food and medicines from civilians under siege, most of whom live in opposition-held areas.

“What’s more, the agreement fails to end the root cause of this suffering: the sieges themselves. For years, the UN Security Council has demanded that all parties to the conflict end the sieges. Nearly two years ago, the Security Council gave the UN full authorization to deliver aid without the Syrian government’s approval, yet deliveries continue to be blocked. Dozens, perhaps hundreds of people have died as warehouses filled with food and medical aid sit just a short drive away.

“This latest agreement is a chance to show Syrians that the world isn’t ignoring their suffering and will take concrete actions, albeit belatedly, to ensure that no one else dies for lack of basic food or medical supplies. But the international community cannot be duped again. If the Syrian government, in order to prevent airdrops, purports to grant access to humanitarian convoys and then resumes its practice of stripping convoys of basic supplies, the suffering will not end.

“Without enforcement, this agreement will be seen as more political posturing by world leaders who are too spineless to take a stand for Syria’s civilians and stop war crimes that have been committed for years under their watch.”

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

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