UN Security Council fails to renew humanitarian aid delivery to Syria's northwest
The United Nations Security Council has failed to renew the authorization for the delivery of crucial humanitarian aid to Syria's rebel-held northwest region, via Turkey.
The U.N. Security Council on Tuesday failed to renew authorization of the delivery of humanitarian aid to Syria’s rebel-held northwest from neighboring Turkey, officially ending a U.N. operation that had been vital to helping a region of 4.1 million people.
The council failed to adopt either of two rival resolutions to authorize further deliveries through the Bab al-Hawa border crossing, where the latest six-month mandate expired on Monday.
Russia vetoed a compromise resolution that would have extended the operation for nine months, and which was supported by 13 of the 15 council members, as well as by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and humanitarian organizations. A rival Russian resolution that would have extended the aid deliveries for six months but added new requirements failed to get the minimum nine "yes" votes for approval and was only supported by Russia and China.
The delivery of aid to the Idlib area has increased significantly following the devastation caused by the magnitude 7.8 earthquake that ravaged southern Turkey and northwestern Syria on Feb. 8.
Syrian President Bashar Assad opened two additional crossing points from Turkey to increase the flow of assistance to quake victims, and he extended their operation for three months in May until mid-August.
Those crossings were not mentioned in either resolution and U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia of Russia — which is Syria's closest ally — indicated that the two other crossing points will remain open for now.
Brazil and Switzerland had originally circulated a draft resolution calling for a 12-month extension of the mandate for the Bab al-Hawa crossing and reduced the time frame to nine months on Monday in an attempted compromise, which failed.
Russia has pushed for more aid to be delivered across front lines within Syria, which would give the Syrian government control over the shipments.
Nebenzia told the Security Council after vetoing the nine-month resolution that the Bab al-Hawa crossing could be salvaged — but only if Russia’s rival six-month resolution was approved. If it wasn’t, he said, Russia would not accept any short extension of the current mandate known as "a technical rollover" and the cross-border mechanism would close down.
U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Russia had acted like a "bully in the playground" in trying to force its version of the delivery authorization.
She said the Russian proposal would not ensure that aid reached people during all the cold winter months and that the U.S. "could not in good conscience support the text that Russia forced upon the council."
Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib is home to about 4.1 million people, many of whom have been forced from their homes during the 12-year civil war, which has killed nearly a half million people and displaced half the country’s pre-war population of 23 million. Hundreds of thousands of people in Idlib live in tent settlements and rely on aid that comes through the Bab al-Hawa border crossing.
The earthquake caused more than 4,500 deaths in northwest Syria and about 855,000 people had their homes damaged or destroyed, according to the U.N.
The Security Council initially authorized aid deliveries in 2014 from Turkey, Iraq and Jordan through four crossing points into opposition-held areas in Syria. But over the years, Syria’s close ally Russia, backed by China, had reduced the authorized crossings to just Bab al-Hawa from Turkey — and the mandates from a year to six months.