UN calls new meeting amid deadlock in aid to northwestern Syria

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The UN Security Council called a meeting for Friday after having to postpone a vote on extending humanitarian aid deliveries to rebel-held northwestern Syria from Turkey when it could not be reached. to a compromise on how long it would last.

Russia, one of five council members with veto power, insisted the extension be for only six months, while many other council members, the UN secretary-general and more than 30 non-governmental groups pushed for another term. of a year

Although another council session was called for Friday, it was unclear if there would be further consultations or a vote.

Closed discussions between the 15 council members continued into Thursday night, but failed to bridge differences between the original Irish and Norwegian draft resolution to extend cross-border deliveries by 12 months and a rival Russian text calling for an extension. of six months, with a new resolution necessary for a later extension of six months.

“We are working to get a basis for consensus,” Ireland’s ambassador to the UN, Geraldine Byrne Nason, said after Thursday’s meeting. “No one in that room wants to be divided on an issue of such importance, but we have more work to do. And we’ll get to work now, work through the night, and hopefully be back in the morning with the solution.”

Russia’s deputy ambassador to the UN Dmitry Polyansky said there is 99% agreement on a resolution, but said Russia insists on a new resolution after six months.

When Byrne Nason was asked if there was any way to circumvent the Russian demand, he replied: “We’re working on it overnight.”

The UN said last week that the first 10 years of the Syrian conflict, which began in 2011, killed more than 300,000 civilians, the highest official estimate of civilian casualties. Northwestern Idlib is the last rebel stronghold in Syria and a region where an al Qaeda-linked militant group, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, is strongest.

Russia, a close ally of the Syrian government, has repeatedly called for humanitarian aid deliveries to the northwest from Syria, across conflict lines, to be stepped up. This would give more control to the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

In early July 2020, China and Russia vetoed a UN resolution that would have kept two border crossings from Turkey for humanitarian aid to Idlib. Days later, the council authorized the delivery of the aid through only one of those crossings, Bab al-Hawa.

In a compromise with Russia, that one-year term was extended on July 9, 2021, by six months, with an additional six months subject to a “substantive report” by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. This was effectively a one-year term because a second resolution was not needed, and that term expires this Sunday.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric called cross-border aid critical for men, women and children in the northwest and stressed the importance of long-term planning, including costs.

“In 2021, we had 800 cross-border aid trucks every month, consistently reaching some 2.4 million people,” he told reporters on Thursday. “The number of trucks that crossed in the calendar year, from January of this year to June 30 of this year, was 4,648 trucks.”

The UN has also made five deliveries across conflict lines last year and so far this year with around 2,529 metric tons of assistance, including food and health supplies, it said.

Russia’s Polyansky said he wasn’t sure what would happen on Friday, but US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield told reporters: “Tomorrow we’re going to vote on a resolution and hopefully that’s a vote that extends the resolution for 12 months.”

Thomas-Greenfield, who recently traveled to the Bab al-Hawa crossing, added: “A six-month resolution does not provide the certainty and confidence that Syrian refugees and NGOs require to continue planning and providing support. .”

“Six months ends in January, in the middle of winter, the worst possible time,” he said.

If a compromise cannot be reached, the Irish and Norwegian draft resolution will be voted on first. If it does not get nine votes, or Russia vetoes it, the Russian resolution with a six-month extension will be put to a vote.


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