‘India must be with other BRICS nations on Syria’

New York, April 19 (IANS) India should respond to Syria’s humanitarian crisis by working with Brazil and South Africa for improved access to humanitarian aid, Human Rights Watch said Friday.

In a briefing to the UN Security Council, UN Under Secretary-General Valerie Amos said the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria was reaching “the point of no return”.

According to him, there were 6.8 million people in need, 4.25 million internally displaced and 1.3 million refugees in neighboring countries. He added that the most urgent needs were in opposition-held areas.

The Security Council, facing opposition from Russia and China, previously refrained from calling on Syria to allow the UN to transport humanitarian aid directly over Syria’s borders, including from Turkey, into opposition-held areas where many civilians are in dire need of help.

Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa issued a statement at the end of their BRICS summit in March calling for “immediate, safe, full and unimpeded access to humanitarian agencies to all in need of assistance” in Syria.

While direct provision of aid across all of Syria’s borders is central to fulfilling this goal, the BRICS declaration did not expressly call on Syria to allow direct provision of humanitarian aid across its borders.

Human Rights Watch called upon Brazil, India and South Africa to speak with a common voice on the importance of providing humanitarian aid directly to Syrians in need, and to urge their BRICS allies, Russia and China, to explicitly support such aid at the Security Council.

“There is no justification for keeping humanitarian aid from going directly to people who need it in Syria,” said Carroll Bogert, deputy executive director for external relations at Human Rights Watch.

“The Indian government, along with Brazil and South Africa, should engage with members of the UN Security Council to be more explicit in supporting humanitarian relief efforts across borders, and to call on Syria to allow such aid.”

“Nearly one-third of Syria’s population is in urgent need of humanitarian aid,” said Bogert. “India needs to raise its voice in their support.”

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