'Time is of the essence': US pushes for UN resolution on Syria border crossings

White House fears Bashar Al Assad will renege on this week's agreement to keep borders open for humanitarian aid

It has been difficult for aid — and people — to cross the border between Turkey and Syria since the earthquake. Getty
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The White House on Thursday called for the UN Security Council to pass a resolution that would allow earthquake relief to flow from Turkey to Syria.

“People are literally dying here," National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters. "Time is of the essence.”

The UN this week said Syrian President Bashar Al Assad had agreed for aid to flow through two more border crossing points for at least three months. But the White House lacks confidence that he will abide by the agreement, fearing he could act “in capricious ways”.

“We believe a UN Security Council resolution could add some additional gravity and weight to the decisions that have already been made about opening these crossings,” Mr Kirby said.

Mr Kirby added that the White House wanted a resolution “as soon as possible”.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, US ambassador to the UN, said last week's agreement should not replace a UNSC resolution on delivering aid.

Since the 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Turkey and Syria early last week, 117 aid lorries have been delivered to the rebel-held region of north-west Syria to date. But UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres insists aid is not being provided quickly enough.

“Life-saving aid has not been getting into Syria at the speed and scale needed following last week’s earthquakes,” he said in a tweet.

More than 40,000 people have been killed by the February 5 earthquake and its aftermath, including about 4,400 in north-west Syria, a UN agency reported.

A Security Council resolution on increased aid to Syria would have to be taken up by Brazil and Switzerland, the two countries in charge of the Syria file.

For any resolution to be passed, nine of the 15 member nations would need to vote in favour without any vetoes from China, France, Russia, the UK or US.

The UN has delivered aid to people in north-west Syria through Turkey under a 2014 UNSC mandate. Russia, an ally of Syria, has said the previous mandate permitting one border crossing was sufficient.

Washington last week accused Moscow of complicating efforts to send humanitarian aid to Syria.

Under Mr Assad's agreement, Syria would reopen Bab Al Salam and Al Ra’ee from Turkey in addition to Bab Al Hawa.

Updated: February 16, 2023, 4:41 PM