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Extension of UN Syria aid mechanism for 6 months 'outrageous', rights group says

Syrian refugees are seen at the refugee camp in Idlib, Syria on June 17, 2022 [Muhammed Said/Anadolu Agency]
Syrian refugees are seen at the refugee camp in Idlib, Syria on June 17, 2022 [Muhammed Said/Anadolu Agency]

The UN Security Council adopted a resolution to extend the system for the entry of aid to northern Syria through the Bab Al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey by six months, until 10 January based on a Russian proposal.

The resolution was adopted by 12 votes out of 15. The votes in favour of the resolution were made by Russia, China and the ten non-permanent members of the Security Council.

The US, UK, and France abstained from the vote because they did not agree to the duration, considering it insufficient to properly plan the delivery of aid.

The previous UN mandate expired on Sunday after the Security Council failed to approve its extension on Friday, due to a Russian veto.

The ambassador of a member state in the Security Council told AFP, on condition of anonymity, that what happened in the council was that "Russia succeeded in twisting everyone's arm; either the system would end or extended for six months. We couldn't let the people die of starvation."

READ: Russia vetoes 12-month extension of UN aid into Syria from Turkiye

The agreement stipulates that the UN will resume use of the Bab Al-Hawa crossing on the border between Syria and Turkey, knowing that it is the only corridor through which UN aid can be transferred to civilians without passing through areas controlled by Damascus.

Human Rights Watch considered the six-month extension "outrageous", while Oxfam expressed its "great disappointment."

Tamer Kyrillos, Syria response director for Save the Children, said: "The six-month renewal is not enough and is failing some of the world's most vulnerable children."

He added that it poses "big challenges…especially because this decision will end during the harsh winter in Syria when children and their families – most of whom live in camps – endure unimaginably cold temperatures without warm clothes, food, or heating to protect them."

In turn, the US confirmed that it "will not abandon the Syrians in their time of need," and that it will continue to work with its humanitarian partners to expand access inside Syria.

Russian airstrikes in Syria - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Russian airstrikes in Syria – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Washington's representative to the UN,  Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said in a statement that the US "will continue to work with our humanitarian partners to expand access inside Syria. We will look at all options to stave off the worst-case scenarios about which we have warned. We will take a hard look at our aid posture in Syria and do everything in our power to help those in need."

She explained that the US abstained from voting on the resolution because the UN mandate was held hostage by the Russian Federation.

"The humanitarian needs in Syria are greater than at any point since the start of the conflict. But instead of providing more access to provide Syrians with the food, water, medicine, and humanitarian supplies they desperately need, Russia wielded its veto to stop us from doing what the Secretary-General, UN agencies, and so many others described as the bare minimum: renewing the sole remaining UN-authorized border crossing for a straightforward 12-month extension," Greenfield added.

Moscow vetoed the extension of the aid delivery mechanism for one year. Russia considers the cross-border mechanism a violation of Damascus' sovereignty and has long wanted to prioritise humanitarian aid across the front lines from the Syrian capital. The UN believes it needs both mechanisms to meet the needs of the Syrians.

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