UN extends Syria cross-border aid as Russia forces downscale of key humanitarian programme

UN extends Syria cross-border aid as Russia forces downscale of key humanitarian programme
The United Nations Security Council has voted to extend cross border aid to Syria for six months, limited to two points along the Turkey-Syria border.
2 min read
11 January, 2020
Russian pressure forced a scaling-back of the cross-border aid programme [Getty]

The UN Security Council voted Friday to extend cross border aid to Syria but under pressure from Russia drastically scaled back the program that has been helping the war-ravaged country since 2014.

The assistance is being prolonged for six months and deliveries will be made from only from two points along Syria's border with Turkey.

After a series of concessions by Western countries since late December, a resolution extending the aid was passed by 11 votes in favor and four abstentions: Russia, China, the United States and Britain.

Until now the aid had been extended yearly and deliveries were made from four points along the border. The existing mandate was to expire Friday.

Germany, Belgium and Kuwait, backed by the US, Britain, France and other council nations initially wanted to add a new crossing point and extend the mandate for a year.

But Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said last month that cross-border aid was meant to be a temporary response to the eight-year Syrian conflict and the situation on the ground has changed.

He said the Jordan crossing point hasn’t been used “for a lengthy period of time” and the volume through the Iraqi crossing “is insignificant ... and could be done from Syria” so only the Turkish crossing points are needed.

The Western nations and others insisted, however, that the Iraqi crossing point was also critical, especially for the delivery of medicine and surgical supplies to the northeast.

Russia joined the war in 2015, when the Syrian military appeared close to collapse. Since then, and mainly because of Russia's blanket air support, the Syrian regime has largely won the civil war militarily, and has retaken control of most of the country from rebel fighters.

Read also: Syrian war documentary For Sama nominated for record number of Bafta awards

UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock told the Security Council in November that the UN provided 1.1 million people with food through cross-border deliveries in October, double the number in January.

“There is no alternative to the cross-border operation,” Lowcock said. “There is no Plan B.”

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