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UN rights council calls on Syria to allow aid access

The UN’s Human Rights Council called on Syria Thursday to end all rights abuses and allow aid agencies “free and unimpeded” access to those caught up in the bloodshed.

A resolution adopted by the council condemned the “continued widespread and systematic violations of human rights” and urged the authorities to let humanitarian groups, including UN organisations, in to deliver vital aid.

Russia, China and Cuba voted against the resolution while India, the Philippines and Ecuador abstained.

Thirty-seven states voted in favour and four of the body’s 47 members did not vote.

The vote came as Syrian forces pushed on with a ground assault against the Homs neighbourhood of Baba Amr after 27 straight days of bombardments. Attempts to send relief agencies into Homs have met consistent opposition.

It is the fourth time the council has officially condemned human rights violations committed by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad since the crackdown on protests began in March last year, leaving more than 7,500 dead according to the UN.

The Syrian envoy boycotted an HRC debate on the human rights situation in the violence-wracked country on Tuesday.

“With the adoption of this resolution the council will have placed itself once more on the side of the victims,” said Turkish envoy Oguz Demiralp.

The resolution went to a vote following a request by Syrian ally Russia.

“The resolution before us is yet another example of a one-sided political approach to Syria being pushed forward by some countries,” said the Russian representative at the meeting Vladimir Zheglov.

Russia and China vetoed a UN Security Council resolution last month that condemned Syria for its crackdown on dissent and outlined a post-Assad transition.

US ambassador to the rights council Eileen Donahoe said the adoption of its resolution sent a message to the Assad regime “that they are isolated and the international community is unified.”

“It sends probably an even more important message to the three ‘no’ voters about how isolated they are becoming,” said Donahoe.

“The international community sees the humanitarian crisis as literally having been caused by the systematic human rights violations of the Assad government and for that reason everybody is coming together regardless of political stripes to say humanitarian access must be allowed immediately.”

A request by the UN’s humanitarian chief Valerie Amos to visit Syria has so far not been granted by the regime in Damascus.

The Syrian foreign ministry said on Thursday that the timing of Amos’s request was “not suitable” although it was willing to discuss another date.

The council’s resolution calls on Assad’s regime to “permit humanitarian agencies to deliver vital relief goods and services to all civilians affected by the violence, especially in Homs, Daraa, Zabadani and other areas under siege by the Syrian security forces.”

The eight-point resolution also expressed concern over “the lack of access to basic food, medicine and fuel, as well as threats to and acts of violence against medical staff, patients and facilities.”