ARUN RATH, HOST:
The U.N. Security Council today voted for greater access to humanitarian aid for millions of war-ravaged Syrians. The resolution was more than a year in the making. In a first, Russia and China backed the resolution. But as NPR's Eric Westervelt reports, now the hard work of turning a vote into action on the ground begins.
ERIC WESTERVELT, BYLINE: The resolution calls for rapid, safe and unhindered aid access for U.N. agencies throughout Syria. The U.N. estimates that some nine million Syrians are in need. Hundreds of thousands of civilians are cut off in cities including parts of Homs and Aleppo. Assad's military has used crude, indiscriminate barrel bombs, oil drums packed with explosives and shrapnel as well as heavy artillery to pound opposition strongholds and regularly block delivery of food, medicine and other badly needed aid.
The resolution today calls for an end to the deliberate targeting of civilians. Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. says the resolution sends a strong message to the Assad regime.
SAMANTHA POWER: After the barrel bombs, the arbitrary detentions, the systematic use of torture and the use of starvation as a weapon of war, today, this council has unanimously articulated a set of demands to alleviate the worst humanitarian crisis of this generation.
WESTERVELT: Opposition groups, including jihadists, have also indiscriminately attacked civilians and blocked aid delivery. And today's resolution condemns rights abuses by both the Syrian regime and opposition armed groups. That language helped get support from China and Russia, which previously had shielded the Syrian government in all Security Council votes. After the council action, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon lamented that the resolution was even necessary.
BAN KI-MOON: Humanitarian assistance is not something to be negotiated. It is something to be allowed by virtue of international law.
WESTERVELT: The resolution calls for unspecified further steps in case of noncompliance. But it's not clear that threat has teeth. Russia and China are likely to block any further steps if the fighters on the ground continue to ignore the U.N. as they largely have for three years. Eric Westervelt, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.