Russia threatens to stop cross-border UN humanitarian aid to Syria
Russia on Wednesday threatened to stop United Nations humanitarian aid being delivered across the Turkish border into Syria, The New Arab’s Arabic language service Al-Araby Al-Jadeed reported.
Moscow made the threat during the 18th round of the Astana peace process talks on Syria, as it accused the West of not fulfilling promises to ease sanctions on the Assad regime in Damascus or implement reconstruction projects.
The Bab Al-Hawa crossing in southern Turkey has been the only point of entry for United Nations aid into rebel-held areas of northwestern Syria for the past two years.
"The West has not implemented all the commitments it promised a year ago regarding the implementation of reconstruction projects, so we will likely look at cancelling the cross-border aid system," Russian presidential envoy to Syria Alexander Lavrentiev said, according to Russian government media outlet Sputnik.
“We have not yet seen that the West is in the process of easing its sanctions… most people think that it is time for all the aid provided by the international community to be delivered in a legitimate way through Damascus,” Lavrentiev added.
Political analyst Darwish Khalifa told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that Russia’s threats were “mainly directed at Turkey, especially after it announced a military operation against [Kurdish-held] areas of northern Syria”.
“The Russian demand carries a clear blackmail of Turkey to increase pressure on it and to blame it for the deterioration of the economic situation in northern Syria, as it is the controlling guarantor in that region," Khalifa added.
The UN Security Council is scheduled to vote on a decision to extend the transfer of humanitarian aid across the border on 10 July - a decision NGO's say will have direct consequences on the lives of over 4 million people in Syria.
Earlier this week, 32 NGOs called for the council to extend the cross-border aid mechanism for 12 months, labelling it a "humanitarian and economic lifeline" for Syrian families struggling after over a decade of conflict.
The Astana Syria peace talks' 18th round began on Wednesday in the capital Nursultan.
The talks - aimed at “de-escalation” between the Syrian regime and opposition - have been held in Nursultan since January 2017.