Russia opposed a renewal of an extension of the United Nations aid operation in Syria. The operation, which went for years, had been aiding 4 million people in Syria’s North Western part where rebellions are strong. The extension period of the aid was nine months.
The delivery of aid to rebel-stricken Western Syria was made through an overland route from Turkey into Idlib province through the Bab al-Hawa crossing. The aid expired on Monday after the duration of its last extension ended.
As a result, Russia hampered its own bid to continue the operation for the next six months. Under the aid, starting from 2014, provisions of food, medicine and shelter are being delivered in the area where civil war has entered in its second decade.
Russia exercised its right to veto to block a nine-month extension but suggested a six-month extension in its place. Russia’s extension bid was opposed by the other permanent members of the Security Council, US, UK and France, except China who supported Russia’s decision.
Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia, hinted that the humanitarian operation would not be extended if other members kept on pushing for extensing the period for more than six months. He said, “If our draft is not supported, then we can just go ahead and close down the cross-border mechanism. The technical rollover, for any period of time, we’re not going to accept.” His statement came after Russia had cast its vote and Council was still pending on Russia’s six-month proposal.
In its response, US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield urged Russia to further think on its decision and expressed its wish to continue to support the Council for renewal of the aid programme.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who insisted on renewing the aid programme for 12 months said “members should redouble their efforts to support the continued delivery of cross-border assistance to millions of people in dire need in northwest Syria for the longest possible period,” and expressed dissatisfaction regarding no agreement.
Authorization for the renewal of the humanitarian aid is imperative as the Syrian government with close relations with Russia disagreed to the UN operation over sovereignty issue. The Security Council has been always divided on the aid to Syria issue. After the duration expired in both 2020 and 2022, it was later renewed. In its initial days in 2014 the UNSC allowed deliveries of aid into opposition dominant areas of Syria from Iraq, Jordon and two key areas of Turkey. However, Russia and China allowed only one border point, that with Turkey.
The assistance operation, according to Russia and Syria, undermines Syria’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. They argue that more aid should be distributed domestically, which incites opposition worries that food and other aid may come under government control.
The remaining 13 Security Council members voted in favour of the nine-month extension proposed by Switzerland and Brazil, while China chose to abstain.