UNITED NATIONS – The UN Security Council failed in two rival votes on Friday to expand humanitarian aid deliveries from Turkey to 4.1 million Syrians in the rebel-held northwest, the ambassador American warning that “people will die because of this vote”.
After days of consultations, the UN’s most powerful body remained divided on the key issue of how long an extension should last.
Almost all council members favored a one-year extension, which the UN secretary-general and more than 30 non-governmental organizations say is the minimum time needed, but Russia demanded a six-year renewal. months, with a new resolution required for another six months. month.
The failure of the UN’s most powerful body to agree on an extension came two days before the expiration on Sunday of the council’s current one-year term for deliveries through the Bab al- Hawa of Turkey northwest of Idlib.
Ambassadors say they will continue to try to reach agreement to continue aid
Many ambassadors, including those from Ireland, Norway, the United States, France and China, said after the two votes that they would continue to try to get an agreement between the 15 council members so that aid is not stopped.
Shortly after the two votes and speeches, council members began consultations behind closed doors and discussions were expected to continue over the weekend.
Russia’s Deputy Ambassador Dmitry Polyansky told reporters there was ‘99% agreement’ on a resolution and that Russia would not support a nine-month extension, suggested by Brazil and the Arab Emirates United.
Unless board members decide to accept the six-month Russian proposal, Polyansky said, he sees no possibility of a deal. Asked if that meant Russia would veto any proposed resolution that didn’t follow through with a six-month deadline, he said, “Of course.”
The first vote was on the one-year extension resolution drafted by Norway and Ireland. It was backed by 13 countries, with China abstaining and Russia using its veto to defeat the measure.
Council members then voted on the rival Russian resolution for a six-month extension. The vote was only 2 countries for, 3 against and 10 abstentions.
China was the only country to join its ally Russia in supporting the resolution while the other three permanent members of the council with veto power – the United States, Britain and France – have voted against. But their vetoes were unnecessary because the resolution failed to gain the minimum nine “yes” votes required for approval.
Calling it “a dark and gloomy day in the Security Council”, US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield told members after the vote that the impact on Syrians in the northwest would be “swift and disastrous”.
“I have long said it was a matter of life and death,” she said, blaming Russia’s veto for the deaths that are likely to occur.
Thomas-Greenfield, who visited Bab al-Hawa in June, said aid workers told him a six-month renewal would be “a disaster” for their supply lines and “would mean that life-saving assistance would be interrupted in the middle of winter when needs are at their highest, which would be a nightmare scenario for a region where millions of people are still displaced.”
Aid groups say failure to act will harm millions
International aid groups have urged the Security Council to reach an agreement before the July 10 deadline, warning that the Russian veto will harm millions of people in urgent need of assistance.
International Rescue Committee chairman David Miliband said there is currently no viable alternative to cross-border assistance, meaning “this already dire crisis is about to turn into a humanitarian catastrophe. “.
Tamer Kirolos, Syrian response director at Save the Children, warned that failure to allow Bab al-Hawa to pass again “risks the lives of hundreds of thousands of children” in camps who will not know where their next meal will come from.
Mercy Corps CEO Tjada D’Oyen McKenna said people in northwest Syria were witnessing one of the most disastrous periods of the 11-year conflict, also pointing to worsening drought, economic crisis and the impact of the war in Ukraine on food and fuel prices. The halt in aid from Turkey means the future of the 4 million people in the northwest who relied on these deliveries to provide food and other necessities for their families “is now still more uncertain,” she said.
Syrian military analyst Ahmad Rahhal, a former brigadier general who defected during the conflict and joined the opposition, tweeted that “Russia’s crimes” are not only due to its army and the support of the Syrian government. President Bashar Assad, but now “have reached the level of deprivation of children, women and the elderly in northern Syria or food.”
Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador, vowed to honor her promise to help workers and refugees that “I will do everything in my power to renew this resolution.”
In case the Security Council does not act, Thomas-Greenfield said aid groups told him they had pre-positioned about three months worth of supplies, and hopefully more supplies now.
She stressed that if a UN resolution is not passed and UN monitoring of aid deliveries ends, “the border does not close” and “we will continue to work with the humanitarian community.” to find ways to continue providing humanitarian aid directly to the Syrian people.”
The UN said last week that the first 10 years of the Syrian conflict, which began in 2011, killed more than 300,000 civilians – the highest official estimate of civilian casualties. Northwest Idlib is the last rebel-held stronghold in Syria and an area where an al-Qaeda-linked militant group, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, is most powerful.
Russia, a close ally of the Syrian government, has repeatedly called for increased humanitarian aid deliveries to the northwest from Syria across conflict lines. This would give Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government more control.
In early July 2020, China and Russia vetoed a UN resolution that would have maintained two border crossing points from Turkey for humanitarian aid in Idlib. A few days later, the council authorized the delivery of aid through only one of these crossing points, Bab al-Hawa.
In a compromise with Russia, this one-year term was extended on July 9, 2021, for six months, with another six months subject to a “substantive report” from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. It was actually a one-year term because a second resolution was not needed.
UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric called cross-border aid essential for the men, women and children of the northwest and stressed the importance of long-term planning, including in terms of costs.
“In 2021, we passed 800 cross-border aid trucks each month, consistently reaching around 2.4 million people,” he told reporters on Thursday. He said 4,648 trucks crossed in the first six months of this year.
The UN also made five deliveries across conflict lines last year and so far this year with around 2,529 metric tons of aid, including food and medical supplies, he said. .