The UN Security Council passed a resolution on Saturday approving a Syrian aid program designed to provide aid to the rebel-held northwest through only one border crossing – after previous efforts to approve further crossings were torpedoed by vetos from Russia and China .
The resolution received 12 votes, with three abstentions (including China and Russia). It took nine voices and no vetos. It will renew the Syrian cross-border aid program that expired on Friday, but only through a single border crossing in the northwest.
RUSSIA, CHINA BLOCK’S LATEST UN SECURITY COUNCIL TRIES TO EXTEND THE SYRIA CROSS-BORDER PROGRAM
The program enables aid to be channeled to Syria by keeping the border crossings in the north of the war-torn country open. Russia vetoed a resolution opening four intersections in January and forced the Council to adopt a resolution that reduced it to just two in the northwest on the Turkish border: Bab al-Salam and Bab al-Salam Hawa.
Humanitarian groups and officials had warned of a humanitarian catastrophe if the program was allowed to end, especially with the COVID 19 outbreak – and US Ambassador Kelly Craft told Fox News last week that there could be “mass graves” if Russia didn’t his opposition to the expansion would fall.
RUSSIAN RESOLUTION TO CUT THE US-BACKED SYRIAN CROSS-BORDER AID PROGRAM CLOSES IN THE UN SECURITY COUNCIL
A majority in the Council, including the United States, wanted both crossings to be extended, and a third crossover – Al Yarubiyah – was opened on the northeastern border with Iraq to help an estimated 1.3 million stranded Syrians in need of medical care allow .
Al Yarubiyah has been removed from the resolution to overcome a Russian veto, but Russia and China still exercised their vetoes twice on Tuesday and Friday. The amendments and resolutions drawn up by Russia have since been repeatedly overwhelmingly shot down without the need for vetos.
Saturday’s resolution keeps Bab al-Hawa open for 12 months, but it means that Bab al-Salam will be closed and there will be no open border crossing in the northeast.
Craft, who visited the refugee camps in March, said it was a victory that Bab al-Hawa was kept open, but was disappointed with the loss of the other two crossings.
“To be clear, today’s result makes us sick and outraged by the loss of the Bab Al Salam and Al Yaroubia border crossings. Behind these closed gates are millions of women, children and men who believed that the world had heard their requests. Her health and well-being are now at great risk, ”she said.
UN AMBASSADOR’S CRAFTS WARNING OF MASS DIFFERENCES IF RUSSIA DOESN’T RETURN IN SYRIAN AID IMPASSE
“There is no question, however, that Bab al-Hawa’s approval of the Council for 12 months of cross-border humanitarian access is a victory given the willingness of the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China to use their veto to force a dramatic reduction in humanitarian aid “, she said.
Secretary Antonio Guterres, meanwhile, said the renewed approval would ensure support for 2.8 million people in the northwest.
“The Secretary General also reiterates his call to all parties to the conflict to ensure humanitarian access to all people in need in accordance with international humanitarian law,” said spokesman Stephane Dujarric.
Russia meanwhile claimed that “the cross-border mechanism has been used by some external actors as an instrument to freeze dividing lines in Syria, thereby jeopardizing Syria’s integrity by breaking apart its regions.”
“It contradicts the principle of respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic, which has been repeatedly confirmed in Security Council resolutions, including this resolution,” said Russian Ambassador Vasily Nebenzia in a statement of his vote.
The blockade of broader resolutions by Russia and China has also been criticized by humanitarian groups.
“The cynical and cruel maneuvering of Russia with China’s support is another tragic example of the broken United Nations humanitarian system and defamation of the Security Council charter,” said Susannah Sirkin, director of politics for US-based human rights doctors in one Opinion. “If they veto the Council’s will and successfully close a critical border crossing, there is a risk that more than four million Syrians will receive life-saving aid.”
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The negotiations highlight the difficulties facing the U.S. and other countries in overcoming opposition, particularly from Russia – the closest ally of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad – to adopting Syria-related resolutions given Russia’s veto right on the Security Council.
Friday vets mark Russia’s 15th and 16th veto against a Syrian resolution since the Syrian conflict began in 2011 and China’s ninth and tenth veto.
Ben Evansky and Fox News’ Associated Press contributed to this report.