Russia Vetoes U.N. Measure on Cross-Border Aid to Northern Syria
Russia vetoed on Friday a Western-backed measure in the United Nations Security Council to continue supplying aid to more than four million people in a rebel-held area of northern Syria, prompting fears of a humanitarian crisis.
The U.S. and other Western powers put forward a resolution that would have extended the program to send food, water and medicine to areas outside the control of Syrian President
for another year, through a border crossing from Turkey.
Russia had insisted that the arrangement be continued for only six months, a period that relief organizations said would hamstring their ability to sustain humanitarian operations.
Thirteen nations voted in favor of the measure. China abstained. Russia used its veto to block the measure.
“This is a dark, dark day in the Security Council,” U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.
said. “The impact of this vote will be swift and dire.”
Russia’s deputy ambassador to the U.N., said that the West was being stubborn and said its resolution “ignored the sovereignty of Damascus.”
The impasse came amid escalating tensions between Russia and Western nations over the Russian invasion of Ukraine and provided a telling example of how that crisis has spilled over into other arenas.
At issue was the U.N.’s continued use of the Bab al-Hawa crossing from Turkey, the corridor through which the overwhelming amount of aid is provided.
In an effort to achieve a compromise, under the measure drafted by Norway and Ireland the aid would have been continued for an initial six months. It would then have been automatically extended for a further six months if the Security Council didn’t intervene.
Russia has long said that the Bab al-Hawa border crossing undermines the authority of President Bashar al-Assad’s government, which it has supported politically and militarily.
After wielding its veto, Russia put forward its own resolution for a six-month extension, which was defeated. Russia and China voted for the measure, but the U.S., Britain and France voted against it while the rest of the 15-member Council members abstained.
The U.N.’s current authorization to use the Bab al-Hawa border crossing expires Sunday. Diplomats said they would continue to look for a solution over the next two days, but a ready compromise did not appear to be at hand.
Mr. Polyanskiy told reporters that Moscow would not consider one compromise that some diplomats have floated: authorizing U.N. use of the border crossing for nine months.
In 2021, President Biden spoke with Russian President
about the importance of keeping the cross-border aid flowing. But with U.S. and Russian relations at a low point, similar top level discussions have not been held this year.
Limiting the U.N.’s authorization to use of the Bab al-Hawa crossing to six months would mean the world organization’s use of the aid corridor would expire in winter when the needs are the greatest, Western diplomats and relief officials said.
“We cannot plan, we don’t know what’s going to come next, not only our colleagues but also the people on the ground who don’t know if they will be able to receive their food basket,” said Yakzan Shishakly, the co-founder of the Maram Foundation, an aid group providing food and other aid to half a million people in Syria.
Write to Michael R. Gordon at [email protected] and Jared Malsin at [email protected]
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Appeared in the July 9, 2022, print edition as ‘Russia Vetoes U.N. Measure on Aid to Syria.’