NW Syria will deteriorate if border crossing vetoed, says UN's Paulo Pinheiro

NW Syria will deteriorate if border crossing vetoed, says UN's Paulo Pinheiro
Paulo Pinheiro, the UN's Chair of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, said refusing to renew the border crossing in the country's northwestern region will have a dire impact on the humanitarian situation
4 min read
29 June, 2022
The UNSC will meet next week to vote on the decision [United Nations]

The United Nations Security Council's approval of an extension of the border crossing in northwestern Syria remains vital to secure humanitarian aid to civilians, a UN official told The New Arab.

Speaking at the UN Human Rights Council on Wednesday, Chair of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria Paulo Pinheiro expressed concern for the humanitarian situation in the region as the passageway to allow much-needed aid may be blocked.

The lifeline passage, which has been mandated by the UN, has allowed deliveries from Turkey to Syria's opposition-controlled northwest and will expire on July 10 unless an extension is approved in a UNSC vote next week.

The UNSC will meet next week to vote on the decision.

"The only thing I can do is hope any of the permanent members will not veto the situation in Syria", Pinheiro told The New Arab.

He explained that while one can predict what the permanent members will do but there is fear that Russia will veto the extension of the border crossing and there is uncertainty about China's position.

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"The situation is desperate with displaced people suffering the added consequences of inflation and economic and social hardship which exist around the border crossing where there are hundreds of trucks passing to provide aid", he said.

He urged that closing the border crossing will put 4.4 million Syrians living in the region at risk of starvation and having life-saving aid cut from them.

Pinheiro said should the extension of the border crossing be vetoed, the international community will still have an obligation to provide aid to Syria, despite there being much uncertainty on how it will be delivered to the northwestern region.

"The humanitarian situation will deteriorate even more if the border crossing is closed, even if other member states choose to aid the region. The deliverance will take a lot more time with more complications and interruption and the consequences will be devastating for civilians," he said.

He called on the international community to "take Syrian people's interests into consideration and understand closing the cross border will not help them."

While a ceasefire between Russia and Turkey in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib which was agreed upon in March has consolidated well, prospects for one between armed groups in the region remain grim, Pinheiro explained.

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"The security situation cannot continue in Idlib - it is sitting on a ticking time bomb", he said, speaking of the power struggle between various groups and the number of internally displaced people who continue to suffer after already fleeing violence in other parts of Syria.

He added that the presence of external armies in Syria is making the situation more complicated, leaving less room to find pockets of amnesty for Syrians.

"There are currently five foreign armies in Syria: United States, Turkey, Iran, Israel and Russia. Navigating the situation is extremely complicated. The whole conflict is a terrible situation because everyone has interests in all of Syria."

During his address to the UN, Pinheiro condemned all parties in the Syrian conflict for failing to secure humanitarian aid for civilians, whilst emphasising the brutal regime led by dictator Bashar Al-Assad's crimes against civilians, making it harder for refugees to return.

He said refugees are under immense pressure from their host countries to return to Syria, but risk forced disappearance and torture by the regime.

In 2014 the Security Council authorised humanitarian aid deliveries into opposition-held areas of Syria from Iraq, Jordan and two points in Turkey. But veto powers Russia and China have whittled that down to just one Turkish border point.

Syria's ally Russia argues the long-running operation violates Syria's sovereignty and territorial integrity. It says more aid should be delivered from inside the country, raising opposition fears that food and other aid would fall under government control.

Meanwhile, Russian airstrikes have continuously targeted civilian infrastructure and key resource points for many local citizens in the Idlib province, where over 3 million people reside, including a water plant and agricultural facilities.

The Assad regime regime and Russia have repeatedly targeted civilian infrastructure - such as hospitals, schools, and bakeries - in opposition areas.

The Syrian conflict began in 2011 after the Syrian regime brutally cracked down on peaceful pro-democracy protests.