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Turkey, Western countries and the United Nations urge renewed aid operations in northwestern Syria

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Turkey, Western countries and the United Nations have encouraged the extension of a resolution allowing the delivery of vital humanitarian aid to besieged northwestern Syria through the Bab al-Hawa border crossing.

The long-term assistance process has been in place since 2014, and the most recent six-month permit expires on January 10, 2023.

Speaking at the UN Security Council meeting, Turkish Ambassador to the United Nations Feridun Sinirlioglu said continued provision of life-saving humanitarian aid is as critical as ever as the humanitarian crisis has been protracted over the years with ever-growing needs.

The cross-border operation has proven to be a reliable lifeline for humanitarian aid for millions of people in northwest Syria. This assistance goes beyond material aid and also includes vital support in the areas of education, protection and health services.”

Sinirlioglu said the scale, scope and efficiency of the cross-border process is unparalleled or alternative, and added, ‘There is no hidden agenda in the dispute here. The aim is nothing but to save the lives of those who depend on this assistance.”

According to the United Nations, some 15.3 million people will need protection and humanitarian assistance in 2023, the highest level since the start of the conflict in 2011.

Irish Ambassador Fergal Mithen urged all channels of access to be constantly available as he spoke on behalf of Norway and Ireland as participants in the Syrian humanitarian file. Mithen said that although cross-line aid convoys into northwest Syria continue to increase in frequency and volume, they are unable to replace the scale or landscape of massive cross-border operations. “The closely monitored cross-border mechanism remains an indispensable lifeline to provide food, shelter, washing, protection, vaccines and vital medical services to millions of Syrians in need,” he said.

The US Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations, Robert Wood, said the cross-border operation is among the most secure and transparent anywhere in the world. “There is simply no substitute for cross-border assistance,” he added.

UN aid chief Martin Griffiths said the socio-economic downturn is the worst since the start of the crisis and stressed the importance of maintaining a lifeline for millions in the northwest amid a cholera outbreak and in the middle of winter. The United Nations has reported 62,000 suspected cholera cases, including 100 deaths from the disease, as of December 18, 2022.

According to the United Nations, nearly 600 trucks delivered food and other essential aid across the border into northwest Syria each month in 2022.

Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Vasily Nebenzia, accused the West of politicizing humanitarian aid operations in Syria. “The picture surrounding the border crossing mechanism was not transparent,” he said. He also said that Western sanctions affecting the lives of ordinary Syrians are “totally unacceptable, illegal and unilateral”.

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