Russia vetoes extension of UN humanitarian aid in Syria

Russia has vetoed this Friday a proposal by the United Nations (UN) Security Council to extend for one year the deliveries of humanitarian aid from Turkey to northwestern Syria, a program that expires this Sunday, July 10.

The resolution, which was drafted by Ireland and Norway, has received 13 votes in favor. For its part, Russia has voted against, while China has abstained.

Russia’s deputy representative, Dimitri Polyanski, has argued that his “overriding consideration” was to safeguard Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The Chinese representative to the UN, Zhang Jun, has indicated that “the leadership of the Syrian government must be fully respected” and called for continued negotiation to achieve a compromise.

For their part, representatives of other countries, such as that of the United States, have called for a specific schedule so that agencies have a “predictable time” to plan humanitarian operations.

“This is a matter of life and death and, tragically, there will be people who will die because of this vote and the country that has cynically deployed the veto,” U.S. Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the Council.

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Thomas-Greefield was referring to a second draft resolution submitted by Russia calling for a six-month renewal.

However, this proposal also failed to gain sufficient support to be adopted: only Russia and China voted in favor; the United States, United Kingdom and France voted against, and the ten non-permanent members abstained.

At least nine votes in favor and the veto of none of the permanent members–Russia, China, the U.S., Britain, or France–are needed for a resolution to pass.

The UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria already noted in May that it would be a “failure of the first order” for the Security Council not to extend the period for humanitarian aid deliveries.

The commission has stressed that in a context in which Syria is facing its “worst economic and humanitarian crisis since the beginning of the conflict,” the international community must guarantee assistance to the country and extend the current commitment.

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Experts warned that the interruption of this aid would “undermine the rights of the population that depends on the support of the international community.”

“Humanitarian aid must not be used as a weapon of war, and the humanitarian aid needs of the country’s population must be prioritized by all parties concerned. The life, health and dignity of a significant part of the population depend on the negotiation of the future resolution,” these experts added.

The United Nations estimates that 14.6 million Syrians are dependent on humanitarian assistance, while some 12 million people face acute food insecurity, a figure that has increased by 51 percent since 2019.

Throughout its 11 years of investigating the conflict, the Commission has documented how hostilities have hindered the delivery of humanitarian aid across the country, and found that both the government and armed groups have used humanitarian aid for political bargaining, even deliberately withholding it from specific populations, particularly those under siege.

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