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Humanitarian Access

Dáil Éireann Debate, Thursday - 3 April 2014

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Questions (26)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

26. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which it has been found possible, together with the international community, to convince the authorities in Syria to allow the various aid agencies to provide the urgently required assistance to the civilian population, who have been major victims in the conflicts there; if any progress has been made towards enforcement of no-fly corridors or safe havens whereby international relief organisations might be facilitated in their efforts to assist; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15402/14]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The protracted and tragic crisis in Syria has resulted in unprecedented levels of humanitarian need, requiring a sustained response from the international community. The number of fatalities is now estimated to exceed 140,000 people. There are now over 9.3 million people within Syria who are in need of immediate life-saving support, with a further 2.5 million Syrian refugees requiring assistance in neighbouring countries.

Ireland has been doing all it can to help alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people and is one of the most generous contributors to the humanitarian response on a per capita basis, having provided over €20 million in assistance since the crisis began and committed a total of €26 million. As the humanitarian situation in Syria continues to deteriorate, Ireland is acutely aware of the high numbers of people inside Syria who have not received any assistance in a long period of time. We have been consistent in our efforts to ensure that the necessary attention is given by the international community to this crisis, in particular on the issue of humanitarian access.

While United Nations Security Council Resolution 2139 of February 22nd was a very welcome and necessary step in attempting to address humanitarian access and ease civilian suffering, full political weight now needs to be brought to bear through the UN Security Council to ensure its implementation. Ireland is disappointed with the limited impact of this resolution on the ground to date as reported by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on March 24th. One month after the passing of this resolution, humanitarian access in Syria remains extremely challenging for humanitarian organisations, with access to many areas still being denied.

Ireland welcomes confirmation by the United Nations that a major cross-border convoy carrying vital humanitarian aid for Syrian civilians who are desperately in need, crossed from Turkey into North-Eastern Syria on March 21st. However, the fact remains that humanitarian access across many parts of Syria is still exceptionally difficult as a result of the continued disregard by armed groups on both sides of the conflict of their obligations under International Humanitarian Law.

The question of establishing no-fly corridors and safe havens within Syria is a complex one, in that to do so would necessitate the provision of foreign military protection and sanction by the UN Security Council which has not, as yet, provided such legal authorisation. We share the caution of the United Nations’ humanitarian agencies, the International Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement and many of our other partners in respect of potential military intervention in support of humanitarian action, which could have the unwelcome and unintended result of placing already vulnerable civilians and aid workers at further risk. We believe that in most circumstances, negotiated access remains the most effective approach. We support UN Under Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Baroness Amos, in her call for other measures such as humanitarian pauses to ensure safe and unhindered passage of humanitarian conveys into hard-to-reach areas and besieged communities.

The Government has consistently matched our material humanitarian contribution with concrete support to international efforts to find a sustainable political solution to the crisis, and to advocate for safe and unimpeded humanitarian access. We have called for all parties to the conflict to fully respect international humanitarian law and to refrain from the targeting of civilians. Ireland will continue to advocate at all relevant international fora for increased support to the humanitarian relief effort, as well as for the full and immediate implementation by all parties to the conflict of UN Security Council Resolution 2139 on humanitarian access.

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