Aid agencies express concern over UN-Syrian regime deal opening Bab al-Hawa crossing

Aid agencies express concern over UN-Syrian regime deal opening Bab al-Hawa crossing
The agreement between the Syrian regime and the UN has prompted criticism from aid organisations who said that a six month extension was not enough to ensure a predictable aid flow into north-west Syria.
3 min read
09 August, 2023
The agreement on the the Bab al-Hawa border crossing follows an three month extension for the Bab al-Salam and Al-Ra'ee border crossings [Getty]

Aid agencies have expressed concerns over the reopening of the Bab al-Hawa border crossing following a deal reached by the UN and Syrian regime.

The agreement between the two sides would allow cross border aid to restart following a suspension in July, when Russia vetoed a 12 month extension of the use of the crossing.

The International Rescue Committee (IRC), a humanitarian aid organisation that operates in north-west Syria, said they were "concerned that the removal of certainty and security provided by the Security Council authorization will impact the ability of humanitarian organizations, and particularly Syrian NGOs, to operate effectively."

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The concerns were prompted by a heavily criticised Syrian regime letter to the UN placing conditions on any resumption of aid being delivered through the crossing.

Such conditions include requiring the UN not to "communicate with entities designated as terrorist".

In addition, the free flow of humanitarian assistance would not be allowed without oversight and assistance from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The Syrian regime has previously deemed Syrian NGOs such as the White Helmets civil defence group, as terrorists.

The IRC also noted the time limitations of the six month extension, as the end date of February 2024 threw doubt on the ability of the UN to "scale up needs given the lack of predictability" of the situation in Syria. 

"A six-month agreement raises critical challenges for hiring and retaining staff, producing supplies and delivering services that require much longer than a 6 month guarantee to implement," the IRC added.

They called on the UN to obtain a 12-month authorisation of cross-border assistance to maintain the predictability of humanitarian operations and keep the ability to upscale cross-border aid when required.

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According a statement released by the spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General, the cross-border assistance will be done "at the necessary scale and in a principled manner that allows engagement with all parties for the purposes of seeking humanitarian access and that safeguards the UN's operational independence."

Earlier, Deputy Spokesperson for the UN-Secretary General Farhan Haq said that the UN and regime were "working to resolve those obstacles," that had occured from the Syrian regime's letter, and that the UN would "resume operations if those obstacles are overcome." 

In addition to the resumption of aid through Bab al-Hawa, the UN also secured a three-month extension through the Bab al-Salam and Al-Ra'ee border crossings, opened during the Turkey-Syria earthquake. Likewise, cross frontline aid in Sarmada and Saraqib was also extended for six months.