United Nations, Jan 9 (EFE).- The United Nations Security Council on Monday renewed for six months the cross-border mechanism that allows the provision of humanitarian aid to the remaining rebel bastions in northwestern Syria, aid on which some four million people depend.
The decision came with the support of the 15 members of the Council, including Russia, which has been very critical of this system and which in recent years has used its veto right in the Council to cut the amount.
With the approval of the resolution, aid will be able to continue flowing from Turkey to Syria’s Idlib province and parts of neighboring Aleppo without passing through the hands of the Damascus government, which does not control those territories.
The mechanism, which has been in effect since 2014, was due to officially expire on Tuesday, Jan. 10, after last July the Security Council extended it for six months with the option to vote again to extend it for another six months.
It did so at the insistence of Russia, the main ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, with Moscow in recent years using its veto power to progressively reduce the system for providing aid to Syrian areas controlled by forces opposed to Al-Assad.
The UN-managed mechanism had established four access points for humanitarian convoys – two from Turkey, one from Iraq and the fourth from Jordan – whereby aid can be supplied to people in the zones controlled by the rebels.
Currently, the only authorized access point is Bab al-Hawa, which links northwestern Idlib province with Turkey, and Moscow has said that it feels that the best option would be for all humanitarian aid to be channeled to outlying areas from the country’s interior, a situation that would put distribution of the aid into the hands of the Syrian military.
However, according to UN humanitarian services, cutting the supply of aid from Turkey would endanger the lives of millions of people and ultimately Russia opted to back the aid mechanism “as is” for another six months.
As Russia’s UN Ambassador Vasily Nebenzia said, Moscow’s decision to vote “yes” was “difficult” and was made in recognition of the work done by Norway and Ireland, the countries heading the negotiations, but it does not change his country’s stance favoring ending this cross-border aid mechanism.
Nebenzia said that the system used by the West to pressure Damascus and the provision of aid benefits terrorist groups exercising great power in northwest Syria.
On the other hand, the US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said that the renewal of the mechanism is the “bare minimum” and called for the next extension to be for one year and for the study of formulas to increase assistance to the population in need in the zone.
Syria, which has been mired in internal armed conflict since 2011, is experiencing a serious economic crisis and a devastating humanitarian situation, but this is especially alarming in the northwestern part of the country, where more than four million people need aid and more than two million depend completely on the cross-border mechanism.
According to figures from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Aid, of the 4.6 million people living in the region, 3.3 million suffer food insecurity and 2.9 million are internally displaced, while 1.8 million live in temporary camps under very difficult conditions.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement that the decision to extend the aid comes at a time when humanitarian needs have reached their “highest” levels since the start of the civil war in 2011.
Amnesty International, among many other organizations, had called for the extension to prevent “a humanitarian catastrophe,” while Oxfam hailed the vote but emphasized that a more sustainable system of cross-border aid provision is needed, above all given the current needs in Syria, where a significant cholera outbreak is under way and hunger is increasing among the population.