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UN Security Council deadlocked on cross-border aid to Syria

#Security #Council #deadlocked #crossborder #aid #Syria

Russia on Friday vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that, without Damascus’ support, would have extended cross-border aid to Syria by a year.

The Western powers then voted against a competing Moscow resolution proposing an extension of the permit by just six months.

The permit for aid deliveries across the Syrian-Turkish border near Bab al-Hawa, which has been in effect since 2014, expires on Sunday.

The aid is a lifeline for more than 2.4 million people in Syria’s northwestern Idlib region, which is under the control of jihadists and rebels.

Thirteen of the fifteen Council members voted in favor of the text proposed by Norway and Ireland. China, which often votes in the same way as Russia, abstained.

The vote was supposed to take place on Thursday but was scrapped after disagreements between Russia and the West.

The Norwegian-Irish text would have provided for a six-month extension until mid-January 2023, and then a further six-month extension “unless otherwise decided by the Council”.

The extension would also be conditional on a “significant report” from the secretary-general, including on the transparency of the operation, progress in channeling aid through the frontline and progress in meeting humanitarian needs.

This text is already “an extreme compromise,” said US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield, accusing Russia of “putting its own political interests ahead of the humanitarian needs of the Syrian people.”

“Tragically, people will die because of this vote,” she told the chamber.

British Ambassador Barbara Woodward said Moscow had used a “deeply irresponsible veto that will have tragic repercussions”.

Russia’s deputy ambassador to the world body, Dmitry Polyanskiy, meanwhile, accused the West of “stubbornness” and said the resolution “ignored the sovereignty of Damascus”.

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The United States, France and Britain voted against Russia’s draft text, while the 10 non-permanent members of the Security Council abstained. Moscow secured Beijing’s vote.

Western states found the text unacceptable as there was no guarantee of an extension early in the new year.

For a resolution to be adopted, at least nine of the 15 members must support it, with none of the permanent members being able to veto it.

Sunday’s deadline gives Security Council members time to find common ground, observers note.

Diplomats said the council’s non-permanent members could propose a nine-month extension to try to break the impasse.

Almost 10,000 trucks loaded with humanitarian aid passed through Bab al-Hawa towards Idlib last year.

It is the only crossing through which aid can be brought to Idlib without navigating through areas controlled by Syrian government forces.

Moscow, an ally of Damascus, has curbed a range of Western-backed measures in recent years and has vetoed Syria 17 times since the war broke out in 2011.

Russia sees the approval as a violation of Syria’s sovereignty and believes that the delivery of aid to the north-western region should only be made from Damascus through the front line.

Russia had hinted in recent months that it would resist an extension, having already enforced a reduction in the number of border crossings allowed.

Dozens of NGOs and several high-ranking UN officials had lobbied members of the Security Council for years of cross-border aid processing.

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