Russia fails again at U.N. ahead of last-ditch vote on Syria cross-border aid


New York (Reuters) – Russia on Thursday failed in a second U.N. Security Council bid to cut aid access to Syria from Turkey, diplomats said, and the council will now vote on a last-ditch attempt to extend approval for cross-border aid deliveries before it expires on Friday.

The 15-member council has been split, with most members pitted against veto-powers Syrian ally Russia and China, who want to halve the number of border crossings for aid deliveries to Syria from Turkey to one, arguing those areas can now be reached with humanitarian help from within Syria.

The United Nations says millions of Syrian civilians depend on the humanitarian aid delivered from Turkey.

“The cross-border operation into NW (northwest) Syria is a vital lifeline,” Mark Cutts, U.N. deputy regional humanitarian coordinator for the Syria crisis, said in a post on Twitter. “It’s vital that the Security Council extend the cross-border resolution … We cannot fail these people.”

A crackdown by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on protesters in 2011 led to civil war, with Moscow backing Assad and Washington supporting the opposition. Millions of people have fled Syria and millions have been internally displaced.

For six years, the Security Council annually authorized the delivery of aid to Syria from four border crossings, two in Turkey, one in Jordan and one in Iraq. In January, it allowed the aid operation to continue from Turkey for six months, but dropped Iraq and Jordan due to opposition by Russia and China.

On Tuesday, Russia and China vetoed an attempt to extend for a year the approval of the Turkish border crossings. The remaining 13 members voted in favor of the resolution, drafted by Germany and Belgium.

Russia then proposed that just one crossing be authorized for six months, but it failed with just four yes votes on Wednesday.

Germany and Belgium have now put forward a compromise that would authorize the two Turkish crossings for six months. Russia put forward an amendment to cut it to one crossing. The council voted on the amendment and diplomats said on Thursday that it had failed, only receiving two votes in favor.

So now the council will vote on the compromise by Germany and Belgium. During the coronavirus pandemic, the council has been operating virtually and members have 24 hours to vote.

The result will be announced on Friday. If the resolution is not adopted, then the U.N. cross-border aid operation will end.

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