UN does not extend aid to Syrian rebel-held areas

UNITED NATIONS – The UN Security Council failed in two competing votes on Friday to expand humanitarian aid supplies from Turkey to 4.1 million Syrians in the rebel-held northwest, with the US ambassador warning that “people will die because of this vote” .

After days of consultations, the UN’s most powerful body remained divided on the key question of how long an extension would last.

Almost all Council members favored a one-year extension, which the UN Secretary-General and more than 30 NGOs say is the minimum timeframe required, but Russia called for a six-month extension, with a new resolution required for an additional six months.

The failure of the United Nations’ most powerful body to agree on an extension came two days before the Council’s current year-long mandate for supplies through the Bab al-Hawa border crossing from Turkey to northwestern Idlib expired on Sunday.

Many ambassadors, including those from Ireland, Norway, the United States, France and China, said after the two votes that they will continue to try to reach an agreement among the 15 council members so that aid is not halted.

Council members entered closed consultations shortly after the two votes and speeches, and discussions are expected to continue over the weekend.

Russia’s deputy ambassador Dmitry Polyansky told reporters there was “99 percent approval” for a resolution and that Russia would not support a nine-month extension proposed by Brazil and the United Arab Emirates.

If council members don’t go with Russia’s six-month proposal, Polyansky said he sees no chance of an agreement. When asked if that meant Russia would veto any proposed resolution that didn’t follow his draft with six months’ notice, he replied: “Obviously.”

The first vote concerned the decision for a one-year extension, prepared by Norway and Ireland. It was backed by 13 countries, with China abstaining and Russia vetoing the move to thwart the measure.

Council members then voted on the rival Russian resolution for a six-month extension. The vote was only 2 countries for, 3 against and 10 abstentions.

China was the only country to join its ally Russia in backing the resolution, while the three other permanent councilors who vetoed it – the United States, Britain and France – voted against. Their vetoes were not required, however, as the resolution did not receive the minimum nine “yes” votes required for adoption.

US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield called it “a dark, dark day in the Security Council” and told members after the vote that the impact on Syrians in the Northwest will be “quick and bad”.

“I’ve long said this is a matter of life and death,” she said, blaming Russia’s veto for the likely deaths to come.

Thomas-Greenfield, who visited Bab al-Hawa in June, said aid workers told her that a six-month extension would be “a disaster” for her supply lines and “meant that life-saving assistance would be halted in the dead of winter.” would be at its highest when needed, which would be a nightmare scenario for a region where millions are still displaced.”

International aid groups have urged the Security Council to reach an agreement before the July 10 deadline, warning that the Russian veto will hurt millions of people in dire need of help.

International Rescue Committee President David Miliband said there is currently no viable alternative to cross-border aid, meaning “this already extreme crisis will become a humanitarian catastrophe”.

Tamer Kirolos, Syria response director at Save the Children, warned that failure to reauthorize the Bab al-Hawa crossing “risks the lives of hundreds of thousands of children” in camps who don’t know where their next meal will come from .

Mercy Corps CEO Tjada D’Oyen McKenna said the people of north-west Syria are witnessing one of the worst times of the 11-year conflict, also citing the worsening drought, the economic crisis and the impact of the war in Ukraine on the country food and fuel prices. The suspension of aid from Turkey means the future of the 4 million people in the North West who have relied on these supplies to provide food and other necessities for their families “is now even more uncertain,” she said.

Syrian military analyst Ahmad Rahhal, a former brigadier general who defected during the conflict and joined the opposition, tweeted that “Russia’s crimes” are not only caused by its military and support for President Bashar Assad’s government, but now ” have reached the level of depriving children, women and the elderly in northern Syria or Essen.”

Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador, vowed to keep her promise to aid workers and refugees that “I would do everything in my power to renew this resolution.”

In case the Security Council doesn’t act, Thomas-Greenfield said aid organizations have told her they have about three months of pre-positioned supplies and hopefully more supplies by now.

She stressed that “the border will not be closed” unless a UN resolution is passed and UN monitoring of aid shipments ends, and “we will continue to work with the humanitarian community to find ways to continue delivering humanitarian aid directly.” to contribute to the people of Syrian people.”

The United Nations said last week that more than 300,000 civilians were killed in the first 10 years of the Syrian conflict, which began in 2011 – the highest official estimate of civilian casualties. Northwest Idlib is the last rebel-held bastion in Syria and a region where an al-Qaeda-linked militant group, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, is strongest.

Russia, a close ally of the Syrian government, has repeatedly called for increased humanitarian aid flows from Syria across the lines of conflict to the northwest. This would give the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad more control.

In early July 2020, China and Russia vetoed a UN resolution that would have maintained two border crossings from Turkey to Idlib for humanitarian aid. Days later, the council approved the delivery of relief supplies through just one of those crossings, Bab al-Hawa.

In a compromise with Russia, that year-long mandate was extended by six months on July 9, 2021, with an additional six months subject to a “substantive report” from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. This was effectively a one-year mandate as a second resolution was not required.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric described the cross-border aid for men, women and children in the north-west as critical and stressed the importance of long-term planning, including when it comes to costs.

“In 2021, we have had 800 cross-border aid trucks passing through each month, which have consistently reached about 2.4 million people,” he told reporters Thursday. He said 4,648 trucks were crossed in the first six months of this year.

The UN made five shipments across lines of conflict last year and so far this year, with about 2,529 tons of supplies including food and health supplies, he said.

Bassem Mroue contributed to this report from Beirut

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/un-sets-new-meeting-amid-impasse-on-aid-to-syrias-northwest/2022/07/08/f40fd328-fe72-11ec-b39d-71309168014b_story.html?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=wp_world UN does not extend aid to Syrian rebel-held areas

Dustin Huang

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