UN Security Council renews Syria cross-border aid for another six months

Negotiations over aid delivery mechanism have dragged on for several years

Humanitarian workers gather near the town of Sarmada in rebel-held north-western Idlib province in Syria to demonstrate against the closure of the Bab Al Hawa border crossing. AFP
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The UN Security Council on Monday unanimously voted to keep the last border crossing between Turkey and north-west Syria open for another six months for the delivery of much-needed humanitarian aid.

The current mandate for the UN aid operation was due to expire on Tuesday.

The authorisation allows for the delivery of humanitarian assistance to Syria from Turkey via the Bab Al Hawa crossing without requiring the consent of the government in Damascus.

Bab Al Hawa is the only entry into the north-west region of Syria that does not cross government-held territories.

Russia last year vetoed a year-long extension that would allow aid to flow across the border, drawing anger from other Security Council members.

US ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas Greenfield welcomed the unanimous adoption of the resolution to keep the crossing open for another six months. She told council members renewing the resolution represents the “bare minimum”.

“Renewing this resolution should never have been a subject of debate. The debate we need to have is how to strengthen the mechanism to reach more people with more assistance,” she said.

Negotiations on the authorisation of the cross-border aid delivery mechanism have dragged on for several years.

When the Security Council initially authorised the mechanism through Resolution 2165 in July 2014, it approved four border crossings.

In July 2020, China and Russia vetoed a UN resolution that would have kept two border-crossing points open for humanitarian aid for the north-western part of the country.

A few days later, aid delivery was restricted to the Bab Al Hawa crossing for a year.

In July 2021, Russia pressed for a further reduction, finally agreeing to a six-month extension, with a further six months contingent on a report from Secretary General Antonio Guterres on progress in deliveries.

Russia has repeatedly said the cross-border aid deliveries that began in 2014 were meant to be temporary.

Russia’s ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia stressed on Monday that his delegation had made the “difficult decision” to support the adoption of the resolution, but argued that the aid operation violates Syria's sovereignty.

“As it currently stands, the resolution fails to reflect the aspirations of the Syrian people who expect from the Security Council, in addition to effective humanitarian efforts, respect for serious territorial integrity and its sovereignty.”

David Miliband, president and chief executive of the International Rescue Committee, said on Monday that the continued reduction of the resolution's mandate to only six months will mean any certainty it provides will be short-lived.

“Cross-border assistance is still absolutely essential and key to saving lives. Come July, this will inevitably still be the case.”

Border aid deliveries from Turkey to Syria began in response to the 2011 humanitarian crisis sparked by President Bashar Al Assad's violent crackdown on widespread anti-government protests.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Updated: January 09, 2023, 6:59 PM