The failure of the United Nations’ Security Council to extend the delivery of aid to northwestern Syria through a key passage via Turkey has been branded a “low point” in the body’s humanitarian record.
Either of the rival resolutions on the table failed to be approved by the Security Council as a row exploded between Russia and other member states.
This, a major international humanitarian agency delivering emergency relief has warned, will have real-life consequences on 4.1 million people hugely affected by the war and a recent devastating earthquake.
The first resolution, which would have seen the aid operation taking place through the Bab al-Hawa crossing extended for nine months, was vetoed by Russia – a close ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Moscow’s representative at the UN, Vasily Nebenzya, lashed out at the West’s claim that keeping this passage open was a matter of “life or death” for millions in Idlib, whom be branded “terrorists”.
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But UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric explained 85 per cent of the United Nations’ aid to the northwest of Syria goes through Bab al-Hawa by truck, with the passage being closest to those in need.
After vetoing the nine-month resolution, Mr Nebenzya told the Security Council that the crossing could be salvaged — but only if Russia’s rival resolution was approved.
This would have extended the aid deliveries for six months while adding new requirements, but failed to get the minimum number of approval votes needed – nine.
Prior to the vote, Mr Nebenzya had warned the Council that if its resolution didn’t pass Russia would not accept any short extension of the current mandate and would prompt the shutting down of the cross-border help.
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US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Russia had acted like a “bully in the playground” in trying to force its version of the delivery authorisation, before explaining the decision to reject Moscow’s resolution was due to the fact it would not ensure that aid reached people during all of the cold winter months.
Aid to rebel-held Idlib has increased in the wake of the shattering 7.8-magnitude earthquake that ravaged the area in February.
The tremor, which also badly hit Turkey, killed more than 50,000 people and injured at least 107,204 more across the two nations.
The two additional crossing points from Turkey opened by Mr Assad for three months in May in a bid to increase the flow of assistance to quake victims were not mentioned in the resolutions, and Russia’s UN ambassador indicated they will remain open for now.
However, Mr Assad hasn’t publicly committed to keeping the crossings open beyond August 13.
Moreover, Mr Dujarric warned the UN won’t be able to “match” the flow of aid sent through Bab al-Hawa using only these two crossing areas.
Syria, which has been ravaged by war since 2014, had initially been granted by the Council four crossing points through Turkey, Iraq and Jordan, but over the years Russia had reduced the authorised crossings to just Bab al-Hawa from Turkey.
Commenting on the row at the Council, Sofia Sprechmann Sineiro, secretary general at CARE International, told Express.co.uk: “The veto at the United Nations Security Council today preventing the renewal of the Syrian cross-border mechanism marks a low point in the Council’s humanitarian record since the start of the Syrian conflict.
“Ever since 2014, when the Council first authorised the UN to conduct a cross-border operation to meet the humanitarian needs of Syrians, member states have always managed to find a compromise to ensure those needs would be met.
“Today, the Council has allowed politics to drive its decision, rather than the humanitarian needs of the Syrian people. The UN Security Council’s decision will have catastrophic consequences for the region’s population of 4.1 million people whose survival depends on UN assistance.
“Within weeks, essential goods and services will become scarce and even less affordable, including food, clean water, vital health-care services, dignified shelter, protection services and education.
“UN humanitarian funding for Syrian organizations will dry up, causing many of the NGOs who are the backbone of the humanitarian response to have to close their doors.”
The Security Council, she added, needs to “overcomes its division” and “puts the needs and rights of the Syrian people first”.
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