UK development secretaries appeal for safe havens in Syria
Clare Short, Labour international development secretary until 2003, and Andrew Mitchell, aid secretary in David Cameron’s first government, made their appeal as the Syrian peace talks in Geneva heard calls for the sieges to be lifted and for aid convoys to be given unfettered access, The Guardian reported.
Starvation as a tactic of war is likely to be a central discussion in Thursday’s Syria aid conference, jointly hosted in London by David Cameron and the German chancellor Angela Merkel.
Short and Mitchell said the introduction of safe havens, notably around Idlib in the north and Derra in the south, must urgently return to the agenda. “We must insist that Syrians, driven from their homes and terrified, are protected,” they said in a joint statement.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4 Today programme, Mitchell added that there had been a lull in the discussion about safe havens due to the Russian intervention. “The political track is taking a very long time and safe havens run and policed by the United Nations are required,” he said.
Mitchell said as many as 14 areas were under siege, cutting off 3 million Syrians. All those areas are running out of food and risk becoming like Madaya, the town close to Damascus where residents’ descriptions of starvation attracted global attention.
Mitchell said the London conference must ensure the refugee camps on the border were fully funded so that the World Food Programme did not have to cut its supplies, as it did last year. Short and Mitchell have claimed these cuts are intolerable since they have reduced rations in camps to meet 50 of their basic needs.