Authorisation for continued transport of aid in Syria, a system put in place back in 2014, came to an end last week. Though the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) authorised the cross border aid operation in Syria, with Jordan and Iraq as one of the access points, those crossings were blocked in January due to opposition from China and Russia. After a week of debate, the UNSC passed a proposal submitted by Germany and Belgium to use Bab al-Hawa access point, an international border between Turkey and Syria, for one more year. This was after caving into Russian pressure to close one of the two access points. Russia still insisting that the Northwest region could still be accessed from within the country, and nothing has changed to have Bab al-Salam border point closed. The measure to have the border point, leading to the Northwest part of the country was approved by twelve of fifteen members of the council, with China, Russia, and the Dominican Republic abstaining.
The humanitarian agencies operating in Syria said in a joint statement that “in the Northwest Syria, where a vital cross border lifeline has been closed, many will now not receive the help they need, and lives will be lost, and suffering will intensify.” Speaking after the vote, Deputy Russian UN Envoy clarified that,” Russia is consistently in favour of humanity deliveries to Syria with full respect of country’s sovereign and territorial integrity and with coordination of its legal government, and this should not be politicized.” Germany and Belgium too, in a joint statement, also claimed that one border crossing is not enough, and no border crossing would threaten the livelihood of an entire region. Reporting from United Nations headquarters in New York, Reporter Aljazeera said that ” the results of the vote, is another example that Humanitarian Aid was increasingly politicized in the war in Syria.”
As experts have warned, the United Nations Security Council’s recent decision will cause the loss of many lives in the region. Allepo has had the highest population of displaced people with over 60 percent of Syrian refugees. For nearly a decade of war in Syria, starvation and lack of aid have been used as a weapon of war. Behind those locked gates are millions of women, children, and men, who believed that the world had heard their pleas. Their physical and mental wellbeing is now at a high risk with this ongoing global pandemic. Cynical and maneuvering of Russia with China’s support clearly reflects a broken UN Humanitarian system.
Russia meanwhile has claimed that the cross border mechanism was used by some other actors as a tool to freeze dividing lines in Syria. The last week vetoes mark the 15th and the 16th veto by Russia against a resolution in Syria. Recently we have witnessed Turkey sending thirty-seven truckloads to the Northwest region, and we still hope for the best and more humanitarian aid. Let’s all stand together and support, the 1.3 million Syrians whose lifeline was cut after the closure of Bab al-salam access point.
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