Today the 15-member U.N. Security Council takes up the issue of humanitarian aid to Syria, just days before a crucial July 10 deadline.
Western powers on the council support a resolution calling for the border crossing between Turkey and rebel-held northwest Syria to remain open, while Russia—Syria’s key backer—has vowed to veto the resolution and maintains that Syria’s government can be trusted to allow aid to cross battle lines within the country.
Since external humanitarian supply lines to Syria were opened in 2014, Russia has successfully wielded its veto power on the council to whittle the number of humanitarian border crossings from four to one. Bab al-Hawa, the remaining open crossing, was itself the subject of a 12-month extension following a similar showdown last year.
Up for discussion today is a resolution drafted by council members, Ireland and Norway, that calls for keeping Bab al-Hawa open as well as reopening an additional border crossing—Al-Yaroubiya on the Iraqi border—to help aid efforts in the Kurdish-held northeast.
The discussions come as Syria’s humanitarian situation has worsened over the past year. The U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) estimates 12.4 million Syrians are food insecure today—almost 60 percent of the population—an increase of 4.5 million over the course of a year. Cross-border assistance, WFP said, fulfills the basic needs of 2.4 million people in Syria—the majority women and children.
As negotiations approach a July 10 deadline when U.N. authorization of aid through Bab al-Hawa expires, France’s U.N. Ambassador Nicolas de Rivière has suggested Western aid to Syria would be held back if Russia continued its veto threat, adding that sending aid across lines of conflict (cross-line) was not possible. “As I said repeatedly, 92% of humanitarian relief to Syria is provided by European Union, U.S., Canada, Japan basically,” de Rivière said. “This is Western money, and nobody should expect this money to be reallocated through cross-line which does not work.” Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called the aid threat “blackmailing.”
As Foreign Policy previously reported, the negotiations are a “strategic test of Russia’s appetite for compromise” with the United States following high-level talks between U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva in June, and worth watching for are what kinds of concessions the Biden administration is willing to offer to Russia in order to keep Bab al-Hawa open.
The source: Foreign Policy