China, Russia continue to block delivery of lifesaving cross-border aid to Syria

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The UN Security Council failed to adopt draft resolutions that would have renewed its authorisation for the cross-border mechanism that enables the United Nations and its implementing partners to deliver humanitarian aid into Syria.

Thirteen of the Council’s 15 members voted in favour, but the text failed to be adopted owing to the negative votes cast by China and the Russian Federation, who as permanent members wield a power of veto.

This was the third attempt this week to extend its authorisation for lifesaving food, medicine and shelter to cross into northwest Syria from Turkey.

Meeting via video-teleconference on Friday, the Council took up a draft resolution – presented by Belgium and Germany – that would have kept humanitarian aid flowing through the Bab al-Salam and Bab al-Hawa crossing points until January 10, 2021.

The Council was scheduled to discuss the stalemate during closed-door consultations immediately after the results of the vote – conducted by a special written procedure due to the COVID-19 pandemic – were announced.

Its current authorisation for the cross-border mechanism, agreed at the last minute in January after lengthy negotiations, expires on Friday.

Belgium and Germany, the Council’s pen holders on the humanitarian aspects of the Syrian conflict, had initially put forward a largely similar draft that would have extended the so-called cross-border mechanism, for a full year.

But it was vetoed by China and the Russian Federation on Wednesday, with delegations accusing each other of politicising the humanitarian assistance that more than 11 million Syrians depend upon.

A competing draft resolution from the Russian Federation that would have authorised deliveries only through Bab al-Hawa until January 10, 2021, then failed to be adopted on Thursday as it lacked the required number of votes.

The result was four in favour (China, Russian Federation, South Africa, Viet Nam) to seven against (Belgium, Dominican Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, United Kingdom, United States), with four abstentions (Indonesia, Niger, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Tunisia).

Bab al-Salam is the humanitarian gateway to northern Aleppo while Bab al-Hawa serves Idlib.

In his latest report to the Council on the implementation of the cross-border mechanism, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said that the deliveries through Bab al-Salam and Bab al-Hawa are not only operating at record levels, but must be further scaled up in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He recommended that authorisation for both crossing points be extended for an additional 12 months, adding that a failure to renew would severe a lifeline for millions whom the United Nations cannot reach by other means. (Source: UN News)

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