UN approves scaled down aid mission to Syria | News | DW | 11.01.2020
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UN approves scaled down aid mission to Syria

The weakened mandate means more than 1 million Syrians could see aid deliveries halted. Russia and other UN Security Council members clashed over the terms of the aid mission.

The UN Security Council on Friday renewed a cross-border aid operation to Syria but in a watered down form that cut the number of border crossings and halved the length of the mission. 

The authorization allows humanitarian aid to enter Syria for another six months and only from two border crossings with Turkey in the northwest of the war-torn country not controlled by President Bashar Assad. Previously, assistance had been extended by a year and at four border crossings with Turkey, Iraq and Jordan.

By limiting the number crossings, more than 1 million people in northeast Syria could be cut off from humanitarian aid. The UN says 2.7 million people in the Syria's northwest Idlib province and 1.3 million in the northeast rely on assistance.

Russia and China abstained in the vote, prompting Britain and the United States to abstain in protest.

Aid vs. sovereignty 

Britain's UN ambassador, Karen Pierce, said that limiting the number of bordering crossing and extending the mission by only six months was "an inadequate response to the situation on the ground."

"There are some 1.8 million people at risk in the northeast if we don't find a way to help them. This is winter. One can imagine how dire the situation becomes," Pierce told reporters.

Russian UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia dismissed her concerns and said areas in northeast Syria are under government control. 

"All these cries about imminent catastrophe, disaster, which the northeast faces if we close one cross-border point is totally irrelevant because humanitarian assistance to that region is coming from within Syria," he told reporters ahead of the vote.

Russia is a key supporter of the government in Damascus and has backed a Syrian military offensive against rebel factions in Idlib in recent months, triggering concerns that an already acute humanitarian situation could worsen. 

The humanitarian situation in northeast Syria has deteriorated in the wake of a Turkish cross-border military offensive last year against the US-backed Arab-Kurdish Syrian Defense Forces. 

Veto wielding Security Council members China and Russia rejected a more robust assistance mission in December. 

The authorization was due to expire on Friday if the Security Council had not approved the mission. Security Council approval was necessary because the Syrian government opposes the cross-border aid shipments.

cw/dr (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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