RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
To Syria now, where the opposition has long implored the international community for more help. Yesterday, the U.N. Security Council passed its strongest resolution yet on Syria, calling for rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access. From Beirut, NPR's Alice Fordham reports.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken)
ALICE FORDHAM, BYLINE: We can't buy a kilo of rice, a kilo of wheat, a kilo of lentils, shouts this young man in the neighborhood of Yarmouk in Damascus, which has been surrounded by soldiers for months. In a video uploaded by activists, he says he has nothing to do with the war inside. He just wants to eat and be safe. The new U.N. resolution seeks to address such cases of starvation and siege, which have become widespread and acute across Syria. The U.S. estimates that 250,000 people live under siege and millions more need help. In most cases, supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad surround rebel-held areas. In Yarmouk and across the country, U.N. aid workers say Syrian authorities have denied them access to civilians who need food, water and medicine. Syria officials deny this.
The passing of the resolution was a rare and hard-won moment in international agreement on Syria. Several draft resolutions have been put before the Security Council in the three years since Syria's ill-fated uprising began. Some, related to monetary missions and chemical weapons, have been implemented. But China and Russia, which support Assad, have vetoed three more, which called for sanctions and for Assad to step down. The version passed yesterday was a watered-down version of an initial draft. It omits references to the international criminal court charges against regime officials and it does not make clear what measures the U.N. might take if Assad or the opposition impede aid to those who need it. Still, said Michael Hanna, a Middle East analyst with the Century Foundation, it's a significant moment.
MICHAEL HANNA: This is the first frank Russian acknowledgment of the dire humanitarian situation in a more formalized way. So, I think it is an important step forward.
FORDHAM: Hanna added that an explanation may lie in the events in Ukraine. As Russia seeks to quell the anti-Russian uprising there, it may need diplomatic capital, which it could only earn by compromising on Syria. Alice Fordham, NPR News, Beirut.
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