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The UN Security Council approves a six-month extension of cross-border aid to Syria

#Security #Council #approves #sixmonth #extension #crossborder #aid #Syria

The UN Security Council on Tuesday passed a resolution extending a system of cross-border assistance to Syria by six months, the length Russia has called for, while other members had sought a full year.

The measure was supported by 12 of the 15 members of the Security Council, including Russia, China and the group’s 10 non-permanent members.

Western nations had called for a year-long extension, arguing that six months was insufficient to properly time the delivery of aid to war-ravaged Syria.

Britain, France and the United States abstained, expressing their opposition to the shorter duration.

“Russia forced everyone on hand: either the system would be ended or it would be extended by six months,” an ambassador told AFP, requesting anonymity to discuss the extension agreement reached in principle between the 15-member council on Monday .

“We couldn’t let people die.”

The aid delivery mechanism across the Turkish border into rebel-held Syria at the Bab al-Hawa crossing point is the only way UN aid can reach civilians without navigating through areas controlled by Syrian government forces.

The system that has existed since 2014, on which more than two million people depend, expired on Sunday.

The deal, introduced by Ireland and Norway, breaks an impasse that threatened to derail life-saving supplies.

It also provides for an extension in January 2023 for a further six months, subject to the adoption of a new resolution, diplomats said.

– “Outrageous” –

Both Ireland and Norway expressed relief on Tuesday that the cross-border mechanism was continuing.

But non-state groups have scathingly criticized Russia and denounced the United Nations process as untenable and inadequate.

“It is outrageous that Russia has once again managed to blackmail Council members, this time by reducing the renewal period to six months, causing the permit to expire in the middle of winter,” Human Rights Watch said in a statement.

UK-based charity Oxfam said the system of repeatedly extending short-term aid windows is creating unnecessary uncertainty in an already precarious situation for vulnerable Syrians.

The resolution “is deeply disappointing and could potentially leave more than four million people in north-west Syria without the help they need to survive when the harsh winter months come,” Oxfam’s Brenda Mofya said.

Russia, an ally of Damascus, on Friday vetoed a Security Council resolution that would have extended the mechanism by a year. The Western powers then voted against Moscow’s original competing resolution, which extended approval by just six months.

The new Irish-Norwegian text provides for an extension in January 2023 for a further six months, pending the adoption of a new decision.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, more than 4,600 aid trucks, mostly loaded with food, have passed through Bab al-Hawa this year, helping about 2.4 million people.

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