UN aid groups say world must act now to save Syria

DUBLIN (Reuters) – World leaders must act urgently to break the diplomatic deadlock around Syria if they want to prevent the crisis from reaching a dangerous tipping point, the heads of the United Nations aid agencies said yesterday in a rare political appeal.

If the international community continues to dither the crisis could turn into a humanitarian catastrophe that could scar the region for a generation, one of the leaders said.

Two years into Syria’s uprising-turned-civil war, which has killed at least 70,000 people, the international community is mired in a diplomatic stalemate with Russia and China opposing sanctions against the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

In Europe, Germany is resisting a Franco-British proposal to lift an arms embargo on Syria to support the outgunned rebels.

The heads of the United Nations World Food Programme, the World Health Organisation and the UNICEF children’s fund joined aid chief Valerie Amos and High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres to say they were “precariously close” to suspending some humanitarian support.

“We, leaders of UN agencies charged with dealing with the human costs of this tragedy, appeal to political leaders involved to meet their responsibility to the people of Syria and to the future of the region,” said the statement, which is to be published in a number of newspapers today.

“We ask that they use their collective influence to insist on a political solution to this horrendous crisis before hundreds of thousands more people lose their homes and lives and futures – in a region already at the tipping point,” it said.

The agencies are responsible for helping nearly 1.3 million Syrian refugees and almost 4 million more people displaced inside Syria by the conflict.

The appeal comes ahead of a briefing by Guterres and Amos before the UN Security Council meeting on Thursday on the humanitarian situation in Syria.

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