Syria: Security Council extends cross-border aid delivery for six months |
Ireland and Norway put forward the resolution, which renews humanitarian deliveries through the Bab-al Hawa border crossing through January and calls for an additional six-month extension which will require another separate resolution.
Twelve countries voted in favour, while three nations – France, the United Kingdom and the United States – abstained.
Humanitarian needs in Syria are at their highest levels since the start of the conflict more than a decade ago.
The cross-border mechanism has been in place since 2014, and the most recent authorization, from July 2021, expired on Sunday.
Last month, UN Secretary-General António Guterres appealed to the Council to renew the cross-border operations for 12 months, stressing the “moral imperative” of addressing the suffering of more than four million people in the region.
‘A difficult negotiation’
The extension comes after ambassadors rejected two competing resolutions on Friday.
The first draft, put forward by Ireland and Norway, was vetoed by Russia. The second, presented by Russia, was only supported by the country and China.
“It’s no secret that this has been a difficult negotiation,” said Irish Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason, speaking ahead of Tuesday’s vote.
“We recognize that a six-month renewal is shorter than we as penholders aimed for when we started this negotiation. We recognize also that the vast majority of the Council shared that view, and the view of humanitarian actors on the ground, that a 12-month mandate was needed.”
Resolution 2642 keeps the cross-border mechanism open, said Norway’s Ambassador, Mona Juul, speaking after its adoption.
“For those in humanitarian need in northwest Syria who have been in an uncertain situation with the negotiations running into overtime, we can assure them – and that’s what matters. The cross-border operation is their lifeline and today, the cross-border operation remains,” she said.
A “precarious renewal’
Ambassador Nicolas de Rivière of France commended the efforts by Ireland and Norway towards reaching a compromise. Yet his country abstained from supporting “this precarious renewal” as the six months will expire during the winter, when aid is most needed, and without firm guarantees of continuation.
“The call by the Secretary-General and the whole of the humanitarian community to renew this mechanism for 12 months was clear, and ignored,” he said.
Barbara Woodward, the United Kingdom’s Ambassador, recalled the immense humanitarian needs in Syria. Of the 4.1 million people in the northwest who require aid, 2.4 million are reliant solely on the cross-border mechanism.
She warned that without the confidence of at least 12 months, UN agencies and non-governmental organizations risk being caught in a perpetual cycle of pre-positioning and contingency planning.
“The UK will continue to support the UN’s efforts to deliver its humanitarian response plan, but we will not consider providing any reconstruction assistance without a credible, substantive and genuine political process firmly underway,” she told the Council.
Accelerate crossline delivery
Ambassador Dai Bing of China welcomed the resolution, noting that it is normal for Council members to hold differing views, and that at times these divergences “may be sharp”.
He underlined that humanitarian assistance to Syria must respect the nation’s sovereignty and the ownership of the Syrian Government of the process.
“Crossline delivery should become the main channel for humanitarian assistance to Syria,” said Mr. Dai, China’s Deputy Permanent Representative at the UN.
“Cross-border delivery is a temporary arrangement made under specific circumstances. It is necessary to speed up the transition to crossline relief and establish a clear timetable for eventual determination of cross-border relief.”
Russia will continue to monitor progress in implementing the resolution in efforts to decide the ultimate fate of the cross-border mechanism, Ambassador Dmitry Polyansky told the Council.
“We’re convinced that it is only through candid and substantive dialogue on the issues in the Syrian humanitarian track whilst involving all of the interested parties, we will be able to in six months’ time come up with a well-considered decision,” he said.
Mr. Polyansky added that the Council must now work on many important areas, including increasing delivery of crossline aid in all regions of Syria, and lifting unilateral sanctions against the country in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
For Ambassador Richard Mills of the United States, the vote revealed what happens “when one Council member takes the entire Security Council hostage.”
The resolution has resulted in a scaling down of humanitarian aid, which will only hurt the Syrian people, he said.
“Some of the recent dire needs in Syria are a direct result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the shocks that brutal invasion has caused to food systems in Syria and around the world. And the simple truth is Russia does not care,” said Mr. Mills, his country’s Deputy Permanent Representative.
“Russia is so brazen in its disregard for Syrian lives that it has not even bothered trying to justify its stance on a humanitarian basis. This is an immoral and cynical approach to humanitarian needs.”