The United Nations Security Council approved the delivery of aid to Syria from Turkey, but only after giving in to Russian pressure to close one of two access points to the war-torn country.
After a week of division and seven ballots, the UNSC adopted on Saturday a proposal submitted by Germany and Belgium authorizing the use of the Bab al-Hawa crossing point for one year.
Western countries say the closure of the second access point will cut the lives of 1.3 million Syrians in the northwest of the country.
The authorization to continue transporting aid to Syria, a system in place since 2014, expired Friday evening.
The 15-member United Nations Security Council was at an impasse, with most members pitting Russia and China against Syrian allies on the issue.
Russia and China, who have veto power in the council, wanted to cut approved Turkish border crossings in half, arguing that northwestern Syria could be reached from inside the country.
During the session, the measure was approved by 12 of the 15 members in the Council’s fifth vote this week on the issue, with Russia, China and the Dominican Republic abstaining.
German UN Ambassador Christoph Heusgen told his Chinese and Russian counterparts to report to their capitals “how these people who gave instructions to cut aid to 500,000 children … are ready to look at themselves the mirror tomorrow ”.
For weeks, Russia, Syria’s most important ally, has been calling for an end to the use of the Bab al-Salaam border crossing, which leads to the Aleppo region in northern Syria.
The members of the Council were also divided on the renewal of the authorization for six months or one year.
“Russia is still in favor of humanitarian deliveries to Syria with full respect for the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and with the coordination of its legal government. This issue should not be politicized, “said Russian envoy to the United Nations, Dmitry Polyanskiy, after the vote.
The successful vote came after two failed votes on the Russian proposals and two vetoes by Russia and China of the resolutions drafted by Germany and Belgium.
Acting British Ambassador to the United Nations Jonathan Allen said after the vote that the loss of access to aid via the Bab al-Salaam border crossing would deprive “1.3 million people in the north western Syria of the cross-border humanitarian aid on which they depend ”.
“A single border crossing is not enough, but no border crossing would have left the fate of an entire region in question”, Germany and Belgium said in a joint statement after the vote.
Chinese Ambassador to the United Nations Zhang Jun said Beijing still has reservations about delivering cross-border aid, but given the current situation in Syria, he does not object to it maintained “at this stage”.
Humanitarian agencies operating in Syria said in a joint statement on Sunday that the recent decision by the United Nations Security Council will kill many people in the region.
“In north-western Syria, where a vital cross-border lifeline has been closed … Many will no longer receive the help they need. Lives will be lost. The suffering will intensify, “said the agencies.
“With the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Idlib, a region with a seriously weakened health infrastructure, it is a devastating blow,” added the press release.
“Displaced people cut aid”
Vanessa Jackson, Representative of the United Nations and Head of Office for Non-Governmental Organizations organisation Care International said the decision will affect aid if necessary for displaced Syrians.
“The inhabitants of northern Aleppo have the highest concentration of displaced people with more than 60% [of them] She said to Al Jazeera.
“These are people who have been displaced several times during the war for nine years. And they are mainly women and children. So these are the same people that the United Nations was created to serve. ”
James Bays of Al Jazeera, who reports from the UN headquarters in New York, said the result of the vote is another example Humanitarian aid was increasingly politicized during the war in Syria.
“During almost a decade of conflict in Syria, famine has been used repeatedly as a weapon of war. What we saw here last week may well be another episode of the international community’s response to the Syrian crisis – which history will judge poorly, “he said.
When the UNSC first authorized the cross-border aid operation in Syria in 2014, it also included access from Jordan and Iraq. These passages were cut in January due to opposition from Russia and China.
Russia has vetoed 16 Council resolutions on Syria since Syrian President Bashar al-Assad suppressed protesters in 2011, leading to civil war. For many of these votes, Moscow was supported in the UNSC by China, which vetoed 10 Council resolutions.