Thursday, November 15, 2012

Syria: US support for Australia's plan to protect medical workers in Syria

Source:  Government of Australia

Foreign Minister Bob Carr has won the backing of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for an Australian-led plan to protect medical workers and maintain access to hospitals for families caught in Syria's civil war.

Senator Carr said the plan had been raised with Secretary Clinton during Ausmin talks in Perth yesterday (November 14).

"I welcome Secretary Clinton's support and her commendation of Australia's initiative in supporting medical care for Syrian civilians," Senator Carr said.

"This is a minimalist plan to protect hospitals and health workers in Syria and help the thousands of families cut off from basic care.

"American support will be critical in securing further international backing."

Senator Carr said the plan was not a political or military intervention, and had become necessary because of the Security Council deadlock over a ceasefire.

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

Not to target medical personnel; Not to block access to doctors, hospitals or emergency care; and Not to attack medical facilities. Implementation could be observed by a neutral third party such as a non-government organisation.

The plan has now been positively received from leaders in the United Nations, the Arab League, the Joint Special Envoy to Syria Mr Lakdar Brahimi and from European and Arab foreign Ministers.

Further support would be sought at an upcoming Friends of Syria meeting in Morocco – a global gathering of nations seeking solutions to Syria's ongoing civil conflict.

More than 30,000 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 350,000 Syrian refugees in camps in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq.

Australia is the third largest national contributor to humanitarian aid for Syria, behind the United States and the United Kingdom.