Australia to raise Syria medical plan at UN Security Council

Media release

17 January 2013

Australia will present its plan to protect medical workers and maintain access to hospitals for families caught in Syria’s civil war, at a meeting of the United Nations Security Council in New York tomorrow (Friday January 18, 2013).

Senator Carr said this would be the first formal opportunity to raise the plan at the UN peak body, and fulfilled a commitment made to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon at the time of Australia’s election to the UNSC.

“In October last year I advised UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon that helping medical workers in Syria was Australia’s first priority following our election to the UNSC,” Senator Carr said.

“Australia is not naive enough to think that we alone can achieve UNSC action to deliver a ceasefire in Syria.

“But we believe we can at least persuade others with influence in that country to press for measures allowing doctors and other medical workers to do their job.

“Our plan is a minimalist plan to protect hospitals and health workers and help the thousands of Syrian families cut off from basic care”

“Our UN Permanent Representative Gary Quinlan will make clear to the UNSC that the plan is a humanitarian intervention and has no political or military aspects.

“We believe all Syrians deserve access to medical facilities, regardless of their stance on their country’s civil war.”

Discussion of Australia’s medical plan at the UNSC would follow a briefing for Council members by Valerie Amos, UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs

The Australian plan would involve securing a commitment from all sides in the Syrian conflict:

Implementation could be observed by a neutral third party such as a non-government organisation.

The plan has already been positively received by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Joint Special Envoy to Syria Mr Lakdar Brahimi and European and Arab Foreign Ministers.

Further support would be sought at an upcoming international conference of Syria in Kuwait on January 30.

More than 60,000 Syrians have died since fighting began, and the United Nations has estimated more than 2 ½ million others are in need of humanitarian care.

There are an estimated 600,000 Syrian refugees in camps in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq.

Australia is the sixth largest national contributor to humanitarian aid for Syria, with $30.5 million for basic food and medical aid and to deploy a six-person expert team of child protection, logistics and engineering personnel.

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