Talks yesterday on Syria between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov offered modest signs of progress towards alleviating the humanitarian situation, halting the violence, and achieving a political solution, said international humanitarian organization Oxfam.
Nearly seven million people require humanitarian assistance in Syria. Another 1.4 million seeking refuge in neighboring countries are in desperate need of shelter, food, and water. More than half of them are children.
The United States and Russia have both expressed their support for a political process to put an end to the conflict, with Russia envisioning a dialogue involving all sides, and the Obama Administration repeatedly emphasizing the responsibility of international leaders to support the political process. Secretary Kerry's remarks yesterday noted "significant common interests with respect to Syria" and Foreign Minister Lavrov "confirmed [Russia's] commitment to the negotiating process." The day concluded with Kerry and Lavrov agreeing to pursue an international conference on ending the conflict in Syria sometime in the next month.
Noah Gottschalk, Senior Humanitarian Policy Advisor for Oxfam, said:
"By aligning their priorities, two of the world's most powerful countries can facilitate a political solution in Syria. The United States and Russia must build on these talks to increase international diplomatic efforts to achieve a ceasefire and ensure humanitarian aid can reach those in need. Both countries must also commit to an embargo on arms transfers to all sides, and cooperate to ensure it is enforced. The announced international conference is a promising step forward, but this commitment must be honored. There are no easy answers to ending this complex crisis, and increased high-level diplomacy is crucial.
"As an aid organization struggling to keep up with the needs of ever-increasing numbers of Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon, Oxfam has seen firsthand the devastating toll this conflict is taking on civilians. Millions of Syrians are homeless and struggling to meet their basic needs.
"The status quo is simply unacceptable. Prolonged conflict will result in more death, displacement and suffering, and threatens to destabilize the region. Increasing transfers of weapons will fuel further violence and human rights abuses, and could spark an arms race with deadly consequences. Our leaders cannot stand by and watch this happen, much less fuel the conflict. The United States, Russia, and the rest of the international community must come together to demand a political process that benefits all Syrians and an immediate end to the bloodshed."