UN – AP current mandate for cross-border deliveries expires on Saturday.
The key question is whether the UN Security Council should approve deliveries through the Bab al-Hawa transition for another year, as the West, the UN and humanitarian groups want, or for just six months, as Russia, Syria’s closest ally, insists.
The council is expected to vote on Friday, and Russia’s UN ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, told reporters on Thursday that “12 months is not flying.”
Norway and Ireland have put their draft resolution to the vote, which will allow a one-year extension of supplies through Bab al-Hawa to Syria̵
Russia circulated a rival decision on Thursday that would approve a six-month extension “pending renewal”, subject to a report by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on “transparency” in aid deliveries and progress in sending aid directly across conflict lines. Syria.
Nebenzia told the Security Council two weeks ago that aid moving across conflict lines “is the only legitimate option for a humanitarian operation to provide assistance.” He accused Western nations of wasting the past year that could have been used “to find a hassle-free and constructive solution and an optimal balance between Idlib’s procurement through both Bab al-Hawa and domestic channels.”
He also claimed that some aid went to Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the strongest militant group in Idlib, and not to needy Syrians. He demanded greater transparency in the cross-border operation.
Nebenzia was asked why Russia accepted an extension by one year last year but is against this year.
“We accepted a year last year. Nothing happened. Nothing happened. We offer more or less the same thing, so it is now for the other side to decide, ”he said. “Whatever happens, there’s a decision tomorrow.”
The issue of cross-border aid to Syria was raised by US President Joe Biden at his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin last month and has generated other senior interventions aimed at keeping at least Bab al-Hawa in operation.
The Security Council approved four border crossings when aid deliveries began in 2014, three years after the start of the Syrian conflict. But in January 2020, Russia used its veto threat in the Council first to limit aid deliveries to two border crossings in the northwest, and then in July last year to cut the crossings to just Bab al-Hawa.
Ireland and Norway also initially proposed reopening the Al-Yaroubiya border crossing from Iraq to Syria’s mainly Kurdish-controlled northeast. But last week, Nebenzia called this idea “a non-starter”, so Norway and Ireland revised their proposal to just keep the Bab al-Hawa crossing open.
Acting UN humanitarian chief Ramesh Rajasingham told the Security Council in late June that failure to extend the mandate of Bab al-Hawa “would disrupt lifesaving assistance to 3.4 million people in need in the northwest, millions of whom are among the most vulnerable in Syria. . ”