UN Aid Chief to Pay Visit to Syria

The UN's top aid official will pay his first visit to Syria next week to step up relief efforts in the world's worst humanitarian crisis, AFP reported on Friday.

Stephen O'Brien, who took up the job in May, is to hold talks with Syrian officials in Damascus and hopes to meet refugee families in Homs and in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, his office said.

The visit comes amid a new push by the United States and Russia, Syria's ally, along with other key players in the Gulf for renewed peace talks to end the war, now in its fifth year.

O'Brien told the Security Council last month that the crisis was worsening in Syria and that a political solution was more urgent than ever.

A tragic milestone was recorded last month when the number of Syrian refugees fleeing to neighboring countries rose to more than four million, making it the biggest exodus from war in a generation.

An additional 7.6 million are displaced inside the country, uprooting more than half of Syria's pre-war population.

The humanitarian crisis now tops the UN list of global emergencies, with 12.2 million people in need of aid, including more than 5.6 million children, noted AFP.

O'Brien will travel to Lebanon and Syria from August 14-17 for a first-hand look of the humanitarian impact of the war, in which 240,000 people have died.

His predecessor, Valerie Amos, last visited Syria in January 2014.

Earlier this week, the push to restore peace in war-torn Syria took a step back when Venezuela delayed a UN Security Council approval of a draft statement on Syria.

The resolution strongly backs intensive preparatory talks on key issues to restore peace to the conflict-torn country, but the vote was delayed when Venezuela asked for changes to some language about a political transition.

Meanwhile, after talks with Moscow's top diplomat, Syria's main opposition group insisted Friday that Russia is "not clinging" to President Bashar Al-Assad.

The head of Syria's National Coalition, Khaled Khoja, who met Thursday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, reiterated that Assad must go immediately and hinted that Russia's support for the strongman may be wavering.

"We have found that the Russian authorities are not clinging to Bashar Al-Assad personally, but rather they're clinging to the Syrian state, its territorial integrity, and the preservation of its institutions," Khoja told journalists at a press conference.

A spokeswoman for Russia's foreign ministry said in response that Moscow's position remained unchanged.

"We have always said that we do not support Assad in a personal capacity but that we support the legitimately elected president of Syria," spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told AFP.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)

Source: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/199479

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