Russia may agree to extend Syrian aid via Turkey
Diplomats said on Wednesday that Russia is likely to agree to extend humanitarian aid supplies into northwestern Syria via Turkey for another six months.
Permission is required from the 15-member council because the Syrian authorities have not approved the humanitarian operation, which has been providing aid including food, medicine and shelter to opposition-held areas of Syria since 2014.
The Security Council is due to vote on Monday to extend the measure, a day before the current approval expires. To be adopted, a resolution needs nine votes in favor and no vetoes by Russia, China, Britain, France or the United States.
“We are still studying the pros and cons,” Russia’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Dmitry Polyansky, told Reuters, adding that the implementation of the current Security Council resolution – adopted in July – was “far from our expectations”.
He said Russia was consulting with Syria and that the final decision would be taken by Moscow on Monday.
Diplomats said Security Council members informally agreed last week to the text giving the process another six months, which was drafted and negotiated by Ireland and Norway before they end their two-year term on the council on December 31.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the Security Council in a report last month that aid access from Turkey had been a “lifeline for millions of people” and that renewing approval was critical and a “moral and humanitarian imperative”.
Top UN officials, including UN aid chief Martin Griffiths, warned on Monday that ending the aid operation would be “catastrophic” for those who depend on it: “mostly women and children who need help just to survive the height of winter.” And amid Serious outbreak of cholera.
If Russia abstains on Monday – allowing aid deliveries to continue – the council avoids the controversy that has traditionally surrounded the issue. In July, the council voted three times before extending the process — two days after the mandate expired.
The Security Council initially authorized aid deliveries in 2014 to opposition-held areas of Syria from Iraq, Jordan and two points in Turkey. But Russia and China have reduced that to just one Turkish border point.
Russia, which supported Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the civil war that began in 2011, says the aid operation violates Syria’s sovereignty. It says more aid must be delivered from within the country, raising opposition fears that food and other aid will fall under government control.
In his report to the council, Guterres said aid shipments from inside Syria “remain unable to replace the scale or scope of the massive UN cross-border operation.”