Russia Clashes With UN, West Over Syria06/24 06:17
UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Russia previewed a showdown with the United Nations,
United States and Western nations Wednesday over the delivery of humanitarian
aid to rebel-held northwest Syria from Turkey, rejecting their warnings that
closing the only border crossing will leave more than 1 million people without
desperately needed food and cause people to die because they lack medicine.
Stressing the importance of strengthening Syria's sovereignty and
territorial integrity, Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia insisted that
aid can and should be delivered across conflict lines in Syria, and accused the
U.N. and the West of doing nothing to promote such deliveries during the past
Unless Western nations "both in words and deeds prove their commitment to
this goal," he warned that there is no point in speaking about renewing the
mandate for the one remaining border crossing from Turkey to northwest Idlib
which expires on July 10.
"We still have some time before the `D-Day'. Hopefully it will not be
wasted," Nebenzia said.
U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who visited the Turkish border
crossing at Bab Al-Hawa in early June, said the United States is willing to
work to expand aid to Syrians across borders and conflict lines.
But right now, "without cross-border access, more Syrians will die,"
thousands of children will be denied food and be permanently stunted in growth
and cognitive development, and millions of people will have reduced access to
clean water, medical supplies and COVID-19 vaccines, she said.
"There is no Plan B," Thomas-Greenfield stressed. "The Plan B is to continue
to push for the extension of the mandate. Plan B means that we have failed, and
hopefully we don't fail."
"So, I'm going to work on this every single day until it's accomplished,"
Wednesday's showdown in the U.N. Security Council came ahead of its
consideration of a draft resolution to keep the Bab al-Hawa crossing open,
likely for a year instead of the current six-month mandate, and possibly reopen
The council had approved four border crossings when deliveries began in
2014. Nebenzia said Russia agreed to that because Syria "was being torn apart
by terrorism." He said Damascus since then has liberated almost 90% of its
territory and was trying to improve the Syrian people's lives. "In these
conditions, the cross-border mechanism is a mere anachronism," he said.
In 2020, Russia used its veto threat in the council to score victories for
its close ally Syria, to halve the mandate and limit humanitarian aid
deliveries to just the Bab al-Hawa crossing from Turkey.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, in a virtual briefing to the
council, said more than 70% of the population requires assistance, and almost
all of them are "in severe need" of help to survive.
He stressed that cross-line operations "will never be able to replace
cross-border assistance at the present levels," pointing to the more than 1,000
trucks that move through Bab al-Hawa every month.
"A failure to extend the council's authorization would have devastating
consequences," Guterres warned.
Acting U.N. humanitarian chief Ramesh Rajasingham said the failure to extend
the mandate "would disrupt lifesaving aid to 3.4 million people in need across
the northwest, millions of whom are among the most vulnerable in Syria."
Last week, 42 non-governmental organizations warned that closing the
border-crossing to Idlib would leave more than 1 million people without food
because they only have the capacity to meet the needs of 300,000 people, he
"A cross-line operation would provide a vital addition to the cross-border
lifeline, but it could by no means replace it," Rajasingham said. "Even if
deployed regularly, cross-line convoys could not replicate the size and scope
of the cross-border operations."
But Syria's U.N. Ambassador Bassam Sabbagh echoed Russia, calling the
cross-border aid operation politicized and saying "the reasons and conditions
that led to its adoption no longer exist," so it should end.
Ireland and Norway will be drafting the Security Council resolution to
extend the cross-border mandate.
Ireland's U.N. Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason said the resolution, which
will be circulated in the coming days, "will renew and expand the humanitarian
aid delivery mechanism in response to the pressing humanitarian needs."
She warned that "failure to renew would cause a humanitarian catastrophe in
the northwest of Syria."