GENEVA: The humanitarian situation in Syria is now so bad that the Red Cross is struggling to cope, the new head of the international aid agency said yesterday.
“The humanitarian situation is getting worse despite the scope of the operation increasing,” Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, told reporters in Geneva. “We can’t cope with the worsening of the situation.”
The ICRC, which works in collaboration with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) to deliver aid in the conflict-wracked country, has “a lot of blank spots” with regard to meeting the needs of the people on the ground, he said.
“There is no doubt the seriousness of the crisis is deepening every day, and this trend has been uninterrupted since the summer,” he said.
Maurer said the amount of aid getting into the country had increased following his visit after dipping to a “low level in the summer months” owing to “serious obstacles.”
After the talks, Damascus had allowed 14 ICRC aid lorries carrying food and medicine to enter the country, Maurer said, adding that the agency had also secured the use of warehouses inside Syria.
“There is an unknown number of people in Syria who do not get the aid they need,” Maurer said, adding that the Red Cross had no strategy in the country beyond taking action when and where it could.
“There is no point in planning. You try every day to fill the crack that is opening.”
The main opposition Syrian National Council, under pressure to unite and bring in all parties, has elected a new leadership with conservatives heavily represented, SNC officials said yesterday.
They said a president of the opposition coalition would be chosen today, after the 40-member general secretariat was elected overnight at a meeting in the Qatari capital.
The secretariat is tasked with electing 11 members to appoint a successor to outgoing president Abdel Basset Sayda.
The process has been delayed until today to allow four members representing women and minorities to be added to the secretariat ahead of the vote, the officials said.
Sayda remains a secretariat member but other prominent figures such as his predecessor Burhan Ghalioun, George Sabra and Riad Seif do not figure in the new list, effectively ruling them out as SNC president.
Some 400 SNC members voted from 29 lists of groups.
Assad meanwhile rejected calls that he seek a safe exit, vowing he would “live in Syria and die in Syria” in an interview with Russian-backed international channel RT.
“I am not a puppet. I was not made by the West to go to the West or to any other country,” Assad, told the channel in English.
“I am Syrian, I was made in Syria, I have to live in Syria and die in Syria,” he said.
Assad also warned against a foreign intervention to deal with Syria’s escalating conflict, saying such a move would have global consequences and shake regional stability.
“We are the last stronghold of secularism and stability in the region... it will have a domino effect that will affect the world from the Atlantic to the Pacific,” he said.
In a separate video extract of the interview, Assad also said: “The price of this invasion, if it happens, is going to be big, more than the whole world can afford.”
An Armenian plane carrying humanitarian aid for Syria was made to land in Turkey yesterday for what officials said was a “routine” search of its cargo.
The plane, which was carrying 15 tons of food, was ordered to land in the Erzurum airport in eastern Turkey where teams of police and troops with sniffer dogs conducted a search of the cargo.
The plane was allowed to take off for Syria after nothing suspect was found aboard, NTV television reported.
The Armenian foreign ministry said the landing was planned.