A draught UN Security Council resolution circulated on Friday would allow humanitarian aid to be sent to Syria over Turkey and Iraq’s borders, but Syria’s close ally Russia holds the key to its approval.
The UN, the US, and others have put pressure on Russia, claiming that closing all border crossings would have catastrophic humanitarian effects for over a million Syrians. Aid should be given across war lines within Syria, according to Russia, in order to strengthen the government’s sovereignty over the entire country.
When deliveries began in 2014, three years after the Syrian conflict began, the Security Council allowed four border crossings. However, Russia used its veto threat in the UN Security Council to limit assistance deliveries to two border crossings in January 2020, and another in July 2020. As a result, only the Bab al-Hawa crossing from Turkey to Syria’s rebel-held northwest can supply supplies today, and its mandate expires on July 10.
The draught resolution circulated by Norway and Ireland would maintain the Bab al-Hawa crossing open and reopen the Al-Yaroubiya crossing point in Iraq’s mostly Kurdish-controlled northeast, which was shut down in January 2020. It would also abolish Russia’s insistence on a six-month mandate and replace it with a one-year mandate.
The proposed resolution is anticipated to be discussed by Security Council experts early next week. Last month, former UN humanitarian head Mark Lowcock told the council that providing aid across war lines cannot replace cross-border deliveries, and he dubbed the cross-border operation at Bab al-Hawa “a lifeline.”
Food deliveries for 1.4 million people per month, millions of medical treatments, nourishment for tens of thousands of children and mothers, and education materials for tens of thousands of pupils will all be halted if it is not reauthorized, he said.
The resolution “falls short” of the three crossings the United States is hoping to restore, according to US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who recently visited the Bab al-Hawa border. She also suggested that a second bridge from Turkey to the northwest, Bab al-Salam, which was closed in July 2020, be reopened. She claims that no cross-line convoys have reached Idlib in the rebel-held northwest since then. According to her, needs in northeast Syria have increased 38 percent since Al-Yaroubiya was blocked.
The International Rescue Committee’s president and CEO, David Miliband, praised attempts to maintain relief to the northwest and resume delivery to the northeast but voiced disappointment that the resolution did not also aim to restore deliveries through Bab al-Salam. He described the crossing from Turkey as a “direct door” to northern Aleppo, which has 800,000 displaced people.
Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, accused Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the main militant organization in the northwest, of impeding cross-line aid convoys “with the connivance of Ankara.” Lavrov accused Western donors of “blackmailing” Syria by threatening to withdraw humanitarian help if the Bab al-Hawa mandate is not extended.
Vassily Nebenzia, Russia’s UN Ambassador, argued on Wednesday that humanitarian supplies can and should be supplied across war lines in Syria, accusing the UN and the West of doing little to support such deliveries during the past year.
Vassily mentioned that unless the UN and western countries execute their talks in their action, it was pointless to discuss renewing the mandate for Bab al-Hawa, the last remaining border crossing between Turkey and northwest Idlib.
Photo Credit: https://www.unhcr.org/sy/img_0555