USA

UN council voting on Syria aid delivery through 1 crossing

UNITED NATIONS -- The U.N. Security Council is voting on a Russian resolution that would limit the delivery of humanitarian aid to Syria’s mainly rebel-held northwest to one crossing point from Turkey for six months, and diplomats say it is virtually certain to be defeated.

Russia, Syria’s closest ally, circulated the draft resolution to the U.N. Security Council after it joined China Tuesday in vetoing a resolution co-sponsored by Germany and Belgium to maintain aid deliveries through two border crossing points from Turkey for a year. The current mandate expires on Friday.

In order to be adopted, a resolution needs a minimum of nine “yes” votes in the 15-member council and no veto by a permanent member.

U.N. diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because contacts have been private, said the Russian draft does not have support from nine council members.

The results of the council vote, by email because of the COVID-19 pandemic, were expected to be announced Wednesday evening.

If the Russian draft is defeated, diplomats said Germany and Belgium are expected to propose a new resolution authorizing two crossing points for six months.

Russia has argued that aid should be delivered from within Syria across conflict lines. But U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock has insisted that the two crossings from Turkey to the northwest remain “a lifeline for millions of civilians whom the U.N. cannot reach by other means.”

David Miliband, president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, accused Russia and China of prioritizing “politics over humanitarian principles” with their vetoes and putting “millions of Syrian men, women and children at risk — even as COVID-19 cases are increasing across a country whose health system has been decimated by a decade of war.”

In January, Russia scored a victory for Syria, using its veto threat to force the Security Council to adopt a resolution reducing the number of crossing points for aid deliveries from four to just two, from Turkey to the northwest. It also cut in half the yearlong mandate that had been in place since cross-border deliveries began in 2014 to six months, as Russia insisted.

The defeated German-Belgian resolution had dropped a call for the re-opening of an Iraqi crossing to the northeast to deliver medical supplies for the COVID-19 pandemic. In May, Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said: “Do not waste your time on efforts to reopen the closed cross-border points.”

The German-Belgian resolution would have extended the mandate for the two border crossings from Turkey to the northwest — Bab al-Salam and Bab al-Hawa — for a year.

The Russian-drafted resolution would only authorize cross-border deliveries through the Bab al-Hawa crossing for six months.

China’s U.N. Ambassador Zhang Jun on Tuesday blamed unilateral sanctions against Syria, which have been imposed by the U.S. and the European Union, for exacerbating the country’s humanitarian situation and urged that they be lifted.

The Russian draft expresses “grave concern" at “the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures," saying such measures “worsen the socioeconomic and humanitarian situations, undermine the livelihoods of civilians, and further compromise the capacity of Syria to ensure access to food, essential health supplies and medical support to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

It asks Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to provide a report on “direct and indirect impact of unilateral coercive measures” on humanitarian deliveries and Syria’s socioeconomic situation by Aug. 31.

The United States and the European Union have stated repeatedly that their sanctions have exemptions for humanitarian aid.

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