Russia, Western nations set for new clash at UN Security Council over Syria aid

Russia, Western nations set for new clash at UN Security Council over Syria aid
The UN Security Council is set for a new vote on Friday over urgent cross-border aid deliveries to Syria. This will likely see Russia and Western countries clashing again.
3 min read
10 January, 2020
Russia has used its UN veto 14 times over Syria-related resolutions [Getty]

The UN Security Council is set to vote on Friday on extending cross-border humanitarian aid to Syria, according to diplomats, with Russia pushing for aid reduction and setting up a showdown with the West.

The authorization for the aid, which enters the country without the formal permission of the Assad regime in Damascus, has been in place since 2014 and is set to expire on Friday.

Four million Syrians directly benefit from the cross-border aid shipments. Syrian aid agencies on Wednesday urgently called on the UN to resume the deliveries, saying that hundreds of thousands of recently displaced people in Idlib faced a humanitarian catastrophe amid harsh winter conditions.

Rebel-held Idlib province has been under a bloody regime and Russian assault since the middle of December, but Russia announced a ceasefire on Thursday following talks with Turkey.

A vote on cross-border aid in December saw the Security Council's 15 members split as Russia and China vetoed a European proposal to extend the aid entering through three spots in Turkey and Iraq for a year.

"The Russian Federation's and China's veto yesterday of a Security Council resolution that allows for humanitarian aid to reach millions of Syrians is shameful," US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement at the time, saying the two countries "have blood on [their] hands."

Read also: Maarat Al-Numan evacuation brings new dangers for Syrians

Deputy UN aid chief Ursula Mueller said at the time that without cross-border operations “we would see an immediate end of aid supporting millions of civilians [which] would cause a rapid increase in hunger and disease, resulting in death, suffering, and further displacement.”

A competing Russian resolution included only two entry points at the Turkish border and would have extended the authorization for only six months, but it failed to get the minimum nine votes.

After a week of negotiations without an agreement - including a rare four meetings on the same subject with the council's permanent members - Germany and Belgium on Thursday suggested an option that is similar to the Russian position, according to a proposal obtained by AFP.

The new proposal maintains two access points on the Turkish border and one on the Iraq border, and calls for just a six-month renewal until July 10, instead of a year.

Russia again came back with a counter-offer, repeating its request to authorize only two aid access points on the Syria-Turkey border for six months.

Russia, which intervened militarily in the Syrian conflict on the side of the Bashar al-Assad regime in 2015, has used its veto 14 times on Syrian issues since 2011, when the conflict started after the brutal suppression of pro-democracy protests by the regime.

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