The United Nations Security Council has approved aid deliveries from Turkey to Syria, but only after giving in to Russian pressure to close one of the two access points to the war-torn country.
After a week of division and seven ballots, the United Nations Security Council adopted on Saturday a proposal from Germany and Belgium to use the Bab al-Hawa border crossing for one year.
Western nations say that the closure of the second access point will be a lifeline for 1.3 million Syrians in the northwest of the country.
The permit for the further transport of relief supplies to Syria, a system that has been in force since 201
The 15-member UN Security Council had been bogged down and most of the members had opposed the Syrian allies Russia and China on the matter.
Russia and China, which have a veto right in the Council, wanted to halve the approved Turkish border crossings and argued that northwestern Syria could be reached from within the country.
At the meeting, the measure was approved by 12 out of 15 members at the fifth Council vote this week, with Russia, China and the Dominican Republic abstaining.
German UN ambassador Christoph Heusgen asked his Chinese and Russian colleagues to report to their capitals, “How the people who gave instructions to cut off the help of 500,000 children … are ready to look in the mirror tomorrow” .
Russia, Syria’s most important ally, has been calling for an end to the use of the Bab al-Salaam border crossing leading to the Aleppo region in northern Syria for weeks.
The council members also disagreed whether the permit should be extended by six months or a year.
“Russia consistently advocates humanitarian deliveries to Syria with full respect for the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and with the coordination of its legal government. This issue should not be politicized,” said Russian deputy UN envoy Dmitry Polyanskiy after the vote.
The vote was successful after two failed votes on Russian proposals and two vetos by Russia and China on resolutions drawn up by Germany and Belgium.
Acting British Ambassador to the United Nations Jonathan Allen said after the vote that the loss of access to aid through the Bab al-Salaam border crossing would “deprive 1.3 million people in north-western Syria of the cross-border humanitarian aid they need”.
“A border crossing is not enough, but no border crossing would have questioned the fate of an entire region.” Germany and Belgium said in a joint statement after the vote.
China’s UN Ambassador Zhang Jun said that Beijing has always had reservations about providing cross-border aid, but given the current situation in Syria, there is no objection to maintaining it “at this stage.”
Aid agencies operating in Syria said in a joint statement on Sunday that the recent UN Security Council decision will take the lives of many people in the region.
“In northwestern Syria, where an important cross-border lifeline has been closed … Many will not get the help they need now. Lives will be lost. Suffering will increase, “said the agencies.
“Since the first case of COVID-19 has been confirmed in Idlib, an area with a severely weakened health infrastructure, this is a devastating blow,” added the statement.
“Displaced People Cut Aid”
Vanessa Jackson, UN representative and office manager for non-governmental organizations organization Care International said the decision will affect much-needed aid for displaced Syrians.
“The people in Northern Aleppo have the highest concentration of displaced people with over 60 percent [of them]”She said to Al Jazeera.
“These are people who have been displaced several times over the course of the war over nine years. And they are mostly women and children. So these are exactly the people for whom the UN was founded.”
Al Jazeera’s James Bays, who reports from the UN headquarters in New York, said the outcome of the vote is another example Humanitarian aid was increasingly politicized in the Syrian war.
“In almost a decade of the conflict in Syria, hunger has been used repeatedly as a weapon of war. What we saw here last week could be another episode in the international community’s response to the Syrian crisis – this story will be poorly judged,” he said .
When the United Nations Security Council approved cross-border aid to Syria for the first time in 2014, this also included access from Jordan and Iraq. These crossings were cut in January due to opposition from Russia and China.
Russia has vetoed 16 Council resolutions on Syria since Syrian President Bashar al-Assad attacked demonstrators in 2011, leading to a civil war. For many of these votes, Moscow was supported by the United Nations Security Council from China, which vetoed 10 Council resolutions.