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UN Security Council: Russia vetoes Syria humanitarian aid

July 11, 2023

The situation arose when Russia vetoed a nine-month extension and failed to gain support for an alternative six-month plan. The UN-brokered lifeline expired Monday.

A loaded semi tractor-trailer at the Bab al-Hawa crossing between Turkey and Syria
More than 80% of all aid entering Syria crosses at Bab al-Hawa Image: Abdulmonam Eassa/Getty Images

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on Tuesday failed to renew a vital aid delivery program for Syria, thrusting an estimated four million people in the country into an evermore dire situation as the country's civil war grinds on in its second decade.

The original UN deal — first brokered in 2014 — that allowed for aid to be shipped overland from Turkey into rebel-held areas of Syria's northwest Idlib Province via the Bab al-Hawa crossing, expired Monday after its last extension.

Permanent UNSC members USA, UK and France had been calling for a full one-year extension but backed a compromise put forth by Switzerland and Brazil in the face of Russian opposition to the Western plan. In the end, 13 of the Council's 15 members voted in favor of an extension.

However, permanent member Russia vetoed the nine-month plan, killing it. Moscow was then only able to win support from trusted ally China, another permanent Security Council member, for a six-month extension.

After the vote, US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield called Russia's veto, "an act of utter cruelty."

Russia accused the West of having provoked the veto.

Moscow has attempted to gut the deal for years now, arguing it "disregards" the will of the Syrian people. Moscow's protectorate in Damascus, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has railed against aid deliveries as a violation of sovereignty as Damascus never approved of them.

That means only the entire UNSC can reauthorize an extension. Until then, its fate remains unclear.

Only one of four original UN crossings was still in operation Monday — yet 80% of all goods, from diapers to chickpeas, were delivered across it.

Observers have long called for yearly extensions but Moscow has consistently fought such moves, instead insisting on six-month extensions.

Distribution of aid flowing to Syria 'quite unfair'

Russia's veto 'cynical,' UNSC 'not to be entrusted' with humanitarian aid

Outside humanitarian and rights groups such were incensed. Human Rights Watch (HRW) UN Advocacy Officer Floriane Borel slammed the inefficiency of the UNSC, saying, "Russia's cynical veto of a cross-border aid lifeline for millions of Syrians is a painful reminder that the Security Council should not be entrusted with decisions about humanitarian assistance."

"Aid delivery should be based on needs, not politics," Borel said.

Martin Griffiths, who heads UN humanitarian affairs, called the situation, "intolerable for the people of the northwest, and those brave souls who help them go through this every six months."

He also emphasized the extremely complicated logistics measures necessitated by the vote.

Griffiths, too, has called for the opening of more crossings for at least one year at a time.

Though Syrian President Assad agreed to open two additional aid crossings into the country after an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.8 killed tens of thousands of people and devastated large swaths of Turkey and Syria on February 8, most of the 3,700 trucks that have entered the country since then still arrived via the Bab al-Hawa crossing.

Now, the other two are the only ones that remain open, and they are scheduled to close in a little over one-month's time.

Slow start to aid deliveries to Syria

js/lo (AFP, AP, Reuters)