US to push for aid to Syria to continue

Syria’s ally Russia has sought to shut down UN checkpoints for getting food and medicine into the country

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken removes his mask as gives a press briefing at the end of a NATO Foreign Ministers' meeting at the Alliance's headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, March 24, 2021. Olivier Hoslet/Pool via Reuters/File Photo

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will next week push Russia and other UN Security Council members to allow food, medicine and other aid to enter Syria from Turkey, his spokesman said on Friday.

Mr Blinken will chair a Security Council meeting on Monday to tackle the humanitarian situation in Syria, where more than 11 million people need handouts to survive a decade after anti-government protests spiralled into civil war.

"Secretary Blinken ... will reinforce the United States' support for the Syrian people, for a nationwide ceasefire, and for unhindered access that will allow humanitarian assistance to reach vulnerable communities throughout the country," said State Department spokesman Ned Price.

The 15-member council first allowed cross-border aid operations into Syria in 2014 at four entry points. Last year, it reduced access to only the Bab Al Hawa crossing on the Turkey-Syria border after opposition from Russia and China over renewing all four.

The council will tackle the issue of cross-border aid again in July.

This past decade, the Security Council has been divided over Syria, with Syrian ally Russia and China pitted against western members. Moscow vetoed 16 council resolutions on Syria, often with support from Beijing.

Millions of people left Syria and millions more fled their homes since a crackdown by the government on protesters in March 2011 led to a multifront civil war that has dragged in Russia, Iran, Turkey, the US and others.

Mr Blinken will on Monday also meet remotely with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and other officials at the UN as part of the Biden administration’s efforts to repair links with global bodies that were damaged in the Trump era.