UN announces suspension of Syria cross-border aid system

UN announces suspension of Syria cross-border aid system
The UN has said that unless world powers renew a system for cross-border aid delivery to Syria, it will expire at the end of this week.

3 min read
09 January, 2020
Tens of thousands of civilians are fleeing bombardment in Syria's Idlib region [AFP/Getty]

The United Nations announced Wednesday that a vital system for cross-border aid delivery to Syria will be suspended from Friday. 

Spokesperson for the Secretary-General of the United Nations Stéphane Dujarric said that unless there is a new Security Council resolution, the mechanism for aid delivery to Syria will be suspended, according to news oulets.

"We've been underscoring here repeatedly, almost on a daily basis, the alarming humanitarian situation in the northwest and the northeast of Syria. That situation would be markedly worse if we did not have cross-border operations," Dujarric said in a press briefing.

"We very, very much hope that Security Council members will find a way forward and a solution in the days ahead."

Under the current system, set up by the UN Security Council in 2014, humanitarian aid is allowed into Syria through four border crossings from Iraq, Jordan and Turkey.

Laerke said around 30,000 UN aid trucks had gone into Syria through the crossings since the operation began. The arrangement is set to expire on Friday.

Read more: Syria Weekly: Maarat Al-Numan evacuation brings new dangers for Syrians

The UN also urged global powers Tuesday to renew the cross-border aid delivery system for Syria, saying there was no alternative.

"There is no plan B. There is this operation, which helps hundreds of thousand of people and has done so for a very long time," said Jens Laerke, spokesman for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

"It is the only viable, sustainable method that we have for reaching these people in need so it is critical that we get renewal of the provisions," he told reporters in Geneva.

When the UN Security Council took up the matter on December 20, Russia and China vetoed a resolution that would have allowed continued aid deliveries for a year.

Russia, a key supporter of the Syrian government, has said it would support only a six-month extension, involving only two passage points on the Turkish-Syrian border.

Rounds of talks since then have failed to end the deadlock.

Laerke said some four million people in northern Syria were supported by UN cross-border aid, including 2.7 million in northwest Syria who relied solely on it.

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The aid is particularly important for Idlib, an embattled opposition stronghold that has come under increasing bombardment from Syrian and Russian forces in recent weeks.

"The millions of people in Idlib, they are trapped," Laerke said, explaining that UN cross-border assistance could save lives by helping people on the ground.

The UN said at least 300,000 people have been internally displaced by the fighting in the Idlib region since mid-December, bringing the total number of displacements in the region to 700,000 over the last eight months.

This story was updated to remove reports that the Security Council's five permanent members had agreed a two week temporary extension to the aid mechanism. No extension has been agreed.

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