UN Council rejects Russia bid to limit Syrian aid deliveries

UN Council rejects Russia bid to limit Syrian aid deliveries

TANZANIA, Tanzania — A Russian resolution that would have limited the delivery of humanitarian aid to Syria’s mainly rebel-held northwest to one crossing point from Turkey was defeated in the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday.

The resolution needed a minimum of nine “yes” votes in the 15-member council and it got support from only four countries — Russia, China, Vietnam and South Africa.

Seven countries voted against it — the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Belgium, Estonia and the Dominican Republic. And four countries abstained — Tunisia, Niger, Indonesia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Russia, Syria’s closest ally, circulated the draft resolution after it joined China on Tuesday in vetoing a draft resolution co-sponsored by Germany and Belgium to maintain aid deliveries through two border crossing points from Turkey for a year.

The current Security Council mandate for U,.N. cross-border deliveries expires Friday, and Germany and Belgium are expected to circulate a new proposal, likely for two crossings from Turkey for six months.

Whether the differences can be resolved in the next 48 hours remained to be seen.

Russia 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.”

David Miliband, president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, accused Russia and China of prioritizing “politics over humanitarian principles” with their vetoes and putting “millions of Syrian men, women and children at risk — even as COVID-19 cases are increasing across a country whose health system has been decimated by a decade of war.”

In January, Russia scored a victory for 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 yearlong mandate that had been in place since cross-border deliveries began in 2014 to six months, as Russia insisted.

The defeated German-Belgian resolution had dropped a 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.”

The German-Belgian resolution 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 for six months.

China’s U.N. Ambassador Zhang Jun on Tuesday blamed unilateral sanctions against Syria, which have been imposed by the U.S. and the European Union, for exacerbating the country’s humanitarian situation and urged that they be lifted.

The Russian draft expressed “grave concern” at “the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures,” saying such measures “worsen the socioeconomic and humanitarian situations, undermine the livelihoods of civilians, and further compromise the capacity of Syria to ensure access to food, essential health supplies and medical support to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

It asked Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to provide a report on “direct and indirect impact of unilateral coercive measures” on humanitarian deliveries and Syria’s socioeconomic situation by Aug. 31.

The United States and the European Union have stated repeatedly that their sanctions have exemptions for humanitarian aid.

Edith M. Lederer, The Associated Press

Syria

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