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In Rare Unison, U.N. Demands That Syria Allow Humanitarian Aid

The United Nations Security Council has unanimously called on Syria to immediately allow the delivery of humanitarian aid to millions of needy people in the war-torn country.

Veto-wielding Russia and China, which have been strong supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime in the past, joined other members on the council in passing the resolution.

The move doesn't threaten sanctions, but it does warn of "further steps" if Syria doesn't comply.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, speaking after the vote, welcomed the resolution.

"We are all keenly aware of the profound and prolonged desperation of the Syrian people," he said. "If this resolution is implemented quickly and in good faith, at least some of the suffering can be eased."

"Syrian Government and allied militias have been responsible for countless killings, disappearances, the horrendous use of barrel bombs and torture on a massive scale," he said, adding that opposition groups also "have carried out summary executions, the recruitment of children for combat and the use of terror tactics in civilian areas."

Najib Ghadbian, special representative to the United Nations from the Syrian [opposition] Coalition, called Saturday's resolution "a modest but necessary first step towards addressing the dire humanitarian needs of the Syrian people."

"But at this point, it is only a text," he said. "It is crucial that the resolution is implemented immediately and in full. If the Syrian regime fails to fulfill its obligations rapidly, the Security Council must be ready to take further action to compel the regime to comply."

Update at 3:30 p.m. ET:

Secretary of State John Kerry issued a statement on Saturday calling the resolution "long overdue."

"After three years of slaughter and savagery, people rightfully will question whether progress is possible, but this resolution holds the promise of something real," he said.

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Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.