Russia and China veto cross-border aid to Syria's northwest
Russia and China vetoed a U.N. resolution Tuesday that would maintain two border crossing points from Turkey to deliver humanitarian aid to Syria’s mainly rebel-held northwest for a year, which the United Nations says is crucial to save millions of lives.
Russia immediately circulated a resolution that would authorize the delivery of aid through a single crossing point from Turkey for six months.
The defeated resolution, drafted by Germany and Belgium, had dropped their original call for the re-opening of an Iraqi crossing to the northeast to deliver medical supplies for the COVID-19 pandemic. In May, Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said: “Do not waste your time on efforts to reopen the closed cross-border points.”
Russia, which is Syria’s closest ally, has argued that aid should be delivered from within Syria across conflict-lines. But U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock has insisted that the two crossings from Turkey to the northwest remain “a lifeline for millions of civilians whom the U.N. cannot reach by other means.”
The draft resolution, which the 15 council members voted on by email because of the COVID-19 pandemic, would have extended the mandate for the two border crossings from Turkey to the northwest — Bab al-Salam and Bab al-Hawa — for a year.
The Russian-drafted resolution would only authorize cross-border deliveries through the Bab al-Hawa crossing.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ latest report to the Security Council circulated Tuesday said cross-border operations in the northwest “continued at record levels in response to the catastrophic deterioration of the humanitarian situation that occurred when almost 1 million civilians were displaced between December 2019 and March 2020.”
The U.N. chief said the U.N. World Food Program delivered food to 1.3 million people in April and more than 1.3 million in May through the two border crossings, and the U.N. World Health Organization delivered over 420,000 emergency health kits and essential medicines to the northwest in May.
“The cross border crossings are vital to the well being of the civilians in north west Syria. And we very much hope that these will be extended,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Tuesday. “Lives depend on it.”
In January, Russia scored a victory for its close ally Syria, using its veto threat to force the Security Council to adopt a resolution reducing the number of crossing points for aid deliveries from four to just two, from Turkey to the northwest. It also cut in half the year-long mandate that had been in place since cross-border deliveries began in 2014 to six months, as Russia insisted.