UN: Moscow again fails to cut cross-border aid to Syria

(United Nations) Russia failed on Friday to have the UN Security Council approve a reduction in cross-border humanitarian aid in Syria, expiring at the end of the day, not collecting during a vote a sufficient number of votes.

Philippe RATER

France Media Agency

According to diplomats, his draft resolution providing for the abolition of an access point in Syria received 4 votes for (Russia, China, Vietnam, South Africa), 7 against (United States, United Kingdom United, France, Germany, Belgium, Estonia, Dominican Republic) and four abstentions (Indonesia, Tunisia, Niger, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines).

A similar attempt on Wednesday had already ended in failure for Moscow with the same result.

A previous vote today on a draft resolution this time from Germany and Belgium ended with a new double veto – the second in three days – from Russia and China, illustrating the deep division of the Security Council.

The UN cross-border authorization, which allows aid to be sent to the Syrian population without the approval of Damascus, has existed since 2014 and expires this Friday.

The system relies on two entry points in north-west Syria, on the Turkish border: at Bab al-Salam, leading to the Aleppo region, and at Bab al-Hawa, serving the insurgent region of Idlib where almost four million Syrians live.

Russia, which judges that this mechanism encroaches on the sovereignty of its Syrian ally, wants to remove the entry point of Bab al-Salam, arguing that it is much less used than that of Bab al-Hawa.

So far, Westerners refuse and want to keep two accesses.

In January, Moscow had already succeeded in forcing the UN to drastically reduce the device, from four to two border crossing points and for six months against one year since its creation.

Five unsuccessful ballots

In total, the Security Council has chained since the beginning of the week five ballots on this subject of the cross-border authorization in Syria, without reaching a solution.

Friday, Germany and Belgium put on the table of the Council a new project which plans to maintain the crossing point of Bab al-Hawa for one year and that of Bab al-Salam for only three months, according to the text obtained by AFP.

The two non-permanent members, in charge of the humanitarian aspect of the Syrian dossier at the UN, could soon request a vote from the Council, possibly with amendments to the text, according to these sources.

The double veto on Friday of Moscow and Beijing was 16 e for Moscow and 10 e for Beijing on a text linked to Syria since the outbreak of war in 2011.

For the UN, maintaining as many crossing points as possible is crucial, especially given the risk of the COVID pandemic – 19 who wins the region.

In June, the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, had asked in a report for the extension of the cross-border system for one year by including the two current access points.

In unison, after the new Russian-Chinese double veto, the NGOs strongly criticized the inability of the Security Council to reach agreement.

David Miliband, president of the NGO International Rescue Committee, denounced “a dark day” for the Syrians and a “shame”.

“Russia and its opponents to the Council see these exchanges as a way to gain political points against each other but it is not a game,” said Richard Gowan of International Crisis Group, while Louis Charbonneau of Human Rights Watch warned of a “pointless worsening of an already disastrous humanitarian crisis”.