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Humanitarian Corridors vs. Humanitarian Truce: The Debate Continues


The debate over the best way to provide humanitarian assistance to civilians in Syria continues.  On Tuesday, after Syrian forces bombed a bridge that civilians were using to flee to Lebanon, Turkey’s Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdo─čan, stated that “[h]umanitarian corridors must immediately be opened.”  In response, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reiterated its opposition to this option.  ICRC spokesman, Saleh Dabbakeh, stated, “The ICRC does not believe that humanitarian corridors are the ideal solution to what is happening in Syria,” so “[w]hat we have called for is the humanitarian pause where there is fighting that will last for two hours and it will take place every day.”  News reports indicate that the ICRC has been negotiating the humanitarian truce option with both government and opposition leaders for at least two weeks.
 
As noted in previous HPCR posts, some from the humanitarian sector worry that emergency relief initiatives will inexorably lead to political and military intervention while others, who support political and military intervention, argue that humanitarian aid is not enough in view of the systematic abuses to the civilian populations.  (For a comprehensive examination of the Syrian security crackdown in Homs, see this Human Rights Watch report from last fall.)
 
This debate continues amidst various initiatives geared toward addressing the crisis.  On Wednesday, Valerie Amos, the United Nations Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, will begin a three-day visit to Syria.  And Kofi Annan, the joint United Nations Arab League envoy to Syria, will visit Damascus starting Saturday.  (Though, as the International Crisis Group notes, Annan’s mission represents “a chance to rescue fading prospects for a negotiated transition” but faces a “slim chance” of success.)  Additionally, China’s former ambassador to Syria, Li Huaxin, now China’s special envoy to Syria, will visit Syria this week, and Russia will meet with various Arab League countries in Cairo to discuss the crisis on Saturday.

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