UNITED NATIONS — The UN Security Council moved quickly Wednesday to follow through on its newfound resolve to deal with Syria, issuing an urgent appeal for immediate access to all areas of the country to deliver desperately needed humanitarian aid to millions of civilians enduring the 2½-year-old conflict.
The council adopted a presidential statement addressing what it described as ‘‘the significant and rapid deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Syria’’ five days after unanimously approving its first legally binding action since violence erupted in Syria — a resolution ordering the elimination of its chemical weapons.
British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant called the international focus on Syria in recent days ‘‘a very welcome, positive step after years of paralysis in the Security Council.’’ He cited the humanitarian statement, the chemical weapons resolution, and an agreement to hold a peace conference on Syria in mid-November.
The statement, aimed at helping the nearly 7 million Syrians affected by the fighting, urges the Syrian government to facilitate ‘‘safe and unhindered humanitarian access to people in need through the most effective ways, including across conflict lines and, where appropriate, across borders from neighboring countries.’’
Without urgent increased humanitarian action, the council warned that the lives of several million Syrians ‘‘will be at risk.’’
A presidential statement is a step below a resolution. Some diplomats consider presidential statements legally binding.
UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos praised the council for addressing ‘‘the horrifying humanitarian situation.’’
She said she would have preferred a resolution, and still hopes the council will pass one, but negotiations on a resolution take much more time.
‘‘If the commitments and practical steps in this statement are implemented, humanitarian workers will be able to reach over 2 million people who have been unreachable for many months,’’ Amos said. ‘‘Our operations will be faster and more effective, delivering more supplies — like lifesaving medicines, food for children, and chlorination tablets to provide clean water — to more people.’’
The presidential statement urges Syrian authorities to take immediate steps to expand humanitarian relief operations by lifting ‘‘bureaucratic impediments and other obstacles.’’
Syria’s UN ambassador, Bashar Ja’afari, welcomed the council’s first-ever reference to violations of human rights and humanitarian law carried out by terrorist groups. President Bashar Assad’s government calls rebels fighting to topple the regime ‘‘terrorists.’’
Ja’afari said the government is committed to an agreement signed with Amos, ‘‘so the Syrian government is part of the overall collective effort aiming at providing humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people, wherever they are.’’ He said the government will study Wednesday’s statement then respond .