UN expected to extend Syria aid for six months

The operation to deliver food, medicine and shelter to northwestern Syria began in 2014, but has long been contentious.

The United Nations Security Council looks set to continue crucial cross-border aid to millions of people in northwestern Syria until January, according to diplomats, after days of wrangling with Russia over the huge operation.

The 15-member Security Council is expected to vote on the draft resolution for a six-month extension – put forward by Ireland and Norway and echoing a Russian text – on Tuesday.

“Russia forced the hand of everyone. Either close the mechanism or only six months. We cannot let people die,” one ambassador told the AFP news agency on condition of anonymity.

The operation to deliver food, medicine and shelter to the opposition-controlled area of Syria began in 2014 but expired on Sunday. It needs council approval to continue because it does not have the support of the Syrian authorities.

The United States, France and the United Kingdom have argued six months is not long enough for aid groups to plan and operate effectively, but a proposal for a one-year extension, which was supported by 13 council members, was vetoed by Russia on Friday.

Russia says the UN aid operation violates Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and that more assistance should be delivered from inside the country.

A resolution needs nine votes and no vetoes by Russia, China, the US, France or the UK in order to pass.

The humanitarian operation was initially delivered from Iraq, Jordan and two points in Turkey, but Russia and China have gradually whittled that down to the single crossing at Bab al-Hawa on the Turkish-Syria border.

The latest Irish-Norwegian text provides for a renewal in January 2023 for another six months, subject to the adoption of a new resolution. It also requires a briefing every two months on the implementation of the system and calls for a special report on humanitarian needs in the region to the UN secretary-general by December 10.

While a lifeline to people in Idlib, the aid operation has long been a contentious issue, but Crisis Group UN Director Richard Gowan said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February had “complicated negotiations on Syria this year”.

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