State Department calls on all sides in Syria to protect civilians

The U.S. Department of State, in response to concerns raised by the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) and a broad cross-section of Armenian American civic and church leaders, has stressed the urgency of ongoing U.S. diplomatic initiatives to remind all sides in Syria of their obligations under international law to protect civilians and to allow humanitarian organizations safe access to all people in need, the Armenian Weekly reports.

The Department’s letter comes following a July 17th U.S. government briefing on Syria humanitarian assistance efforts hosted by the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) for representatives of Armenian American civic, church, and charitable organizations from across the United States. The letter to the ANCA underscores the importance that the United States attaches to ensuring regular medical and humanitarian access to Aleppo, and notes the life-saving U.S. contributions to meeting basic needs for those in host countries, including Armenia and Lebanon.

The full array of urgent humanitarian issues of concern to Armenian Americans has consistently been raised by community leaders, including:

1) Ensuring the balanced and needs-based distribution of U.S. humanitarian aid to all areas of Syria, including those like Aleppo with large Armenian and other Christian populations;

2) Preventing humanitarian blockades of civilian populations, such as those creating crises in Aleppo;

3) Providing additional assistance to the Armenian government and NGO’s supporting and helping to settle Syrians who have fled to Armenia, and

4) Assisting the Armenian Church and charitable groups in Lebanon as they support the very considerable humanitarian needs of refugees from Syria.

In his Aug. 5 letter to the ANCA, State Department Director of the Office of Europe, Central Asia and Americas, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration for John Underriner referenced community concerns about getting vital humanitarian aid to the affected communities in Syria and the devastating effects of a recent blockade of assistance to Aleppo.

“We recognize the critical need to ensure regular medical and humanitarian access to those who remain in Aleppo and for all displaced and conflict-affected people in Syria,” noted Underriner.

“Humanitarian workers are risking their lives to provide life-saving assistance to those suffering and have worked tirelessly with contacts on all of the conflict to attempt to negotiate humanitarian pauses to allow aid delivery. We have reminded all sides to the conflict of their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect civilians, and urge them to allow humanitarian organizations safe access to all people in need.”

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