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UK presses UN to open new aid routes into Syria amid earthquake crisis

A view of the collapsed building in Azez, Syria on February 6, 2023 [Omer Alven/Anadolu Agency]
A view of the collapsed building in Azez, Syria on February 6, 2023 [Omer Alven/Anadolu Agency]

Britain is urging the United Nations to open up new aid routes to Syria, amid the continuing death toll and humanitarian crisis caused by yesterday's earthquake centred in south-eastern Turkiye.

Following the earthquake and its aftershocks, over 5,000 people have been confirmed dead, so far, throughout both countries, with thousands more wounded and many still stuck under the rubble of collapsed buildings, their situation unknown.

While nations and organisations have rushed to the assistance of Turkiye by transporting aid and emergency teams to alleviate the country's struggle, it has not been so easy for Syria. That is largely due to the fact that the affected areas of Syria are divided between Bashar Al-Assad's regime and the opposition-held areas in the north and north-west.

States, like Russia, have offered their help to the areas under Syrian regime control, but that aid is not able to be provided to the rebel-held areas. That situation has led to calls for the divide between the two to be lifted at this time of urgent need, especially as there is only one remaining border crossing open at the north-western Syrian-Turkish border, which has itself been impacted by the earthquake through damage to the roads and infrastructure surrounding it.

"Some roads are broken, some are inaccessible. There are logistical issues that need to be worked through", UN spokeswoman, Madevi Sun-Suona, said today. The UK's Development Minister, Andrew Mitchell, echoed those comments, saying that "If you look at the geography, the way in [for aid] is from Turkiye. It's over that border which is very constricted, and that's an additional problem at a desperate time for people who've already suffered so much in northern Syria."

OPINION: Turkiye-Syria earthquake: 'It's as though someone dropped a nuclear bomb'

Much of the international community and humanitarian aid sector has urged against the sharing of aid between Assad-held and rebel-held Syria, due to concerns over the regime's past mishandling of international aid and corrupt siphoning of funds. Moreover, many critics of the regime see calls to lift sanctions from it as a way of legitimising Assad and removing his responsibility for the crises in Syria.

As German MP, Lamya Kaddor, cited by The National, stated: "With humanitarian help in an armed conflict it is especially important to bear in mind the risk of international aid being misused, and not to strengthen the Assad regime".

In the midst of that predicament, Britain is calling on the UN to help provide a new aid route to northern Syria, with the Development Minister saying that the first 72 hours after the disaster were the most crucial in that regard. "We hope that the UN will be able to negotiate additional crossing places," Mitchell said.

If the UN – and particularly its Security Council members – agrees to establish a new aid route to the area, it could potentially mean the reopening of other crossings on the Turkish, Iraqi and Jordanian borders which were shut down a few years ago after Assad's ally Russia vetoed their operations.

Syria's refugee camps hit by massive earthquake - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

Syria's refugee camps hit by massive earthquake – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

Europe & RussiaInternational OrganisationsMiddle EastNewsSyriaTurkeyUKUN
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