UN chief seeks cross-border aid for NW Syria

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres during a news conference June 8, 2022, at United Nations headquarters. Photo: AFP

Monday, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reminded the Security Council that it is a "moral imperative" for members to renew a Turkish-to-northwest Syria assistance mission that aids over 4 million people.

"It is a moral imperative to alleviate the suffering and vulnerability of the 4,1 million people in the region who require aid and protection," he said. "In northwest Syria, eighty percent of those in need are women and children,"

The 15-member council must decide by July 10 whether or not to extend the permission for the United Nations and its humanitarian partners. Through the Bab al-Hawa bridge in Turkey, humanitarian organizations reach 2,4 million Syrians in the nongovernment-controlled Northwest each month with life-sustaining aid.

Russia has made it clear for some time that it would like to eliminate the eight-year-old cross-border mechanism. It has made the annual renewal a contentious process inside the council, leaving aid groups and recipients in a tense limbo.

Moscow has previously used its veto or the threat of it to reduce the number of crossing sites from four to one. How Moscow's war in Ukraine may affect the council's negotiations remains to be seen.

Cross-border versus cross-line

Moscow and Damascus want all help to be channeled via the regime.

"We are absolutely convinced that coordination with Damascus is possible for all of Syria," Russian deputy ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy told the council, adding that crossline deliveries might rise after "Bab al-Hawa is closed."

Hundreds of trucks carrying food for 1.8 million people each cross from Turkey to Northwest Syria. In comparison, only five crossline convoys delivering food for 43,000 people each have reached the Northwest this year.

Additionally, China's envoy indicated Beijing might not support an extension.

"A clear timeline should be established for the end of cross-border delivery, and the transition to a crossline approach should be pushed in accordance," said Ambassador Zhang Jun. "China hopes that after the expiration of resolution 2585, the members of the council will, through dialogue and consultation, find a viable solution to the arrangement."

The authority for the cross-border mechanism is contained in Resolution 2585, which expires on July 10.

Population on the verge of extinction

After more than a decade of war, a pandemic, and an economic crisis, ninety percent of Syrians live below the poverty line.

"People are living on the edge, unable to cope," added Guterres.

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield assessed the situation at the Bab al-Hawa border earlier this month.

"I have rarely seen such desperation in the eyes of aid workers," she added. "They were uncertain whether they would be able to continue delivering food, medicine, and other essential aid to those who need it most."

The United Nations has expressed its desire to extend the cross-border operation for another year. The organization also intends to increase cross-border delivery within Syria.

"While increasing cross-border assistance was a significant accomplishment, it is currently insufficient to replace the massive cross-border response," the secretary-general stated. He said that all channels for aid should remain available.

Six U.N. humanitarian agencies, including the World Food Program, filed a unified petition to the council last week, requesting that the mandate be renewed.

They added, "Our priority and only objective is to deliver humanitarian aid to families in need in the safest, most direct and efficient manner, free of political calculations or agendas."

According to the United Nations, 14.6 million Syrians require humanitarian aid, and 12 million are food insecure. This year, the group has requested $10 billion to support those within the nation and those who have fled. According to the United Nations, only a lasting ceasefire will end the suffering.

Publish : 2022-06-21 08:31:00

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