Security Council re-authorizes cross-border aid mechanism for Syrians
The UN Security Council on Friday re-authorized the cross-border aid mechanism for the Syrian people, which expires at midnight, after heated discussion.
The 15-member council adopted a resolution, prepared by Belgium and Germany, which re-authorized two of the existing four crossings on the Syria-Turkey border under the mechanism for six months.
The meeting to hold the vote was postponed for about three hours, as "the text might be still being worked on" till the last minute, according to British Permanent Representative to the UN Karen Pierce, who spoke to reporters during the delay.
Since 2014, the Security Council has authorized the delivery of aid through four border crossings, two in Turkey and the other two in Iraq and Jordan seperately.
The exact number of Syrians relying on the mechanism remains controversial. Belgium, Germany and their supporters said over 4 million Syrians get aid from across the border, but Russia contended that there was only about 1 million, citing a secretary-general's report.
Friday's vote came after the council failed to re-authorize the mechanism on Dec. 20, 2019 as a result of division among members.Germany, Belgium as well as Kuwait (a council member in December) tabled a draft that would also preserve a third crossing in Iraq and would approve a year-long renewal. Russia tabled a rival text that in essence sought Friday's re-authorization. But neither draft was adopted on Dec. 20.
At the insistence of Germany and Belgium, the adopted resolution asked the UN secretary general to report by the end of February on the possibility of using alternatives to the Iraqi crossing to ensure that aid reaches the Syrians in need through the most direct routes.
Belgium's Permanent Representative to the UN Marc Pecsteen de Buytswerve said the Iraqi crossing handles humanitarian aid, in particular medical supplies, for some 1.4 million people in Syria's northeast. But Russia refuted that those people's needs have for long been covered by deliveries from within Syria, which was reflected in the UN secretary-general's report.
Russian Permanent Representative to the UN Vassily Nebenzia said after the vote that the Jordanian crossing has not been used since July 2018, and the Iraqi crossing stopped operating last year.
He said the situation has changed "dramatically" on the ground, and the renewed mechanism should reflect the change.
Zhang Jun, permanent representative of China to the UN, said China always has reservations regarding the establishment of a Syrian cross-border humanitarian relief mechanism.
"China has consistently advocated that in taking any action, the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country concerned and the will of its government must be respected," he said.
"Cross-border humanitarian relief is a special relief method adopted under specific circumstances. It should be evaluated and adjusted in a timely manner in light of the developments on the ground," he added.
Zhang called on all relevant parties to step up cooperation with the Syrian government and prioritize providing humanitarian assistance from inside Syria.