Russia vetoed on Tuesday at the UN Security Council to prolong the opening of a border crossing with Turkey through which humanitarian aid for millions of inhabitants of rebel areas in Syria passes that expired on Monday.
The 15 members of the Council have been trying, for days, to reach an agreement to extend the mechanism that since 2014 allowed food, water and medicine to be brought from Turkey through the Bal Al Hawa border post to the inhabitants of northwestern Syria, without authorization. of Damascus.
Given the pressing needs, which were aggravated by the February earthquakes, the UN, humanitarian personnel and a majority of the members of the Security Council demanded that it be extended for at least another year to allow better organization of aid.
The initial text, drawn up by Switzerland and Brazil, proposed extending it for another twelve months.
But Russia interposed its veto to this resolution that had the abstention of China. The rest of the 13 members voted in favor.
The Council also rejected by two votes in favor, 3 against and 10 abstentions, the parallel text presented by Russia in which it proposed a six-month extension and denounced Western sanctions against Syria.
This is a sad moment for this Council, except for one country,” said US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, calling Russia’s veto “absolute cruelty.”
This calendar would have allowed us to get through the harsh winter months,” lamented the Swiss ambassador, Pascale Baeriswyl, who said she was very “disappointed.”
We will not let this veto put an end to our efforts to find a solution,” he said, before adding that with his Brazilian counterpart “they will resume work immediately.”
The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, expressed his “disappointment” at this failure and asked “all members of the Security Council to redouble their efforts to continue distributing cross-border aid,” said his spokesman Stéphane Dujarric, before add that the UN had stored aid inside the country in anticipation of the suspension.
The Russian ambassador, Vassili Nebenzia, accused the Western countries of “provocation to push Russia to resort to its veto” by estimating that the mechanism “does not take into account the interests of the Syrian people at all.”
Humanitarian aid should be based on needs, not politics,” said Floriane Borel of Human Rights Watch, who denounced Russia’s “cynical veto.”
The UN “should immediately explore alternative means to ensure Syrians receive enough desperately needed food, medicine and other aid without having to plead with Russia or the Syrian president for access,” Borel said.
The mechanism created in 2014 allows the UN to bring humanitarian aid to the populations of the rebel areas of northwest Syria, without authorization from the Damascus government, which regularly denounces the violation of its sovereignty.
Initially, the agreement provided for four entry points into rebel-held Syria, although now the Bab al Hawa crossing was the busiest.
The aid mechanism is renewed every six months due to pressure from Moscow, an ally of Damascus, which complicated aid planning.
At the moment, two other border crossings are still open, although they are much less used than the one at Bab al Hawa.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had authorized its opening after the February earthquakes, but only until mid-August.
I am very hopeful that it will be renewed again,” UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths, who met Assad in Damascus in late June, said last week.
After the deadly earthquakes on February 6, more than 3,700 UN aid trucks crossed the border crossings, according to the UN, but the vast majority went through Bab al Hawa. Only on Monday 79 arrived.
According to the UN, four million people in northwestern Syria, most of them women and children, depend on humanitarian aid to survive after years of conflict, economic crises, epidemics and growing poverty aggravated by devastating earthquakes.
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The mechanism made it possible to bring aid to 2.7 million people per month.
With information from AFP