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Under Russia's Pressure, UN Approves Scaled Down Aid Mission to Syria

Under Russia's Pressure, UN Approves Scaled Down Aid Mission to Syria

Saturday, 11 January, 2020 - 07:30
An elderly Syrian man by his tent in a camp for displaced people in northern Syria: Russia and the West are in a struggle at the UN over the renewal of humanitarian aid to millions of such people. AFP

The UN Security Council voted Friday to renew cross-border aid to Syria, however, in a watered down form following pressure by Russia. The program has benefited millions in the war-torn country since 2014.


The aid renewal will be prolonged for up to six months only, whereas it had been extended yearly in the past.


Also, the 15-member council allowed cross-border aid deliveries to continue from two places in Turkey, but dropped crossing points from Iraq and Jordan.


Following a series of concessions by Western countries since late December, the resolution extending the aid was passed by 11 votes in favor and four abstentions which came from Russia, China, the US and Britain, AFP reported.


The existing mandate was to expire Friday.


"Eleven million Syrians need humanitarian assistance," said Belgian Ambassador Marc Pecsteen de Buytswerve.


For her part, US Ambassador Kelly Craft described the resolution as “grossly inadequate.”


“We gave the Russians an inch and they took a million,” Craft said of efforts to reach a compromise, Reuters reported.


“Syrians will suffer needlessly as a result of this resolution. Syrians will die as a result of this resolution,” she stressed.


Last month, Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said the cross-border aid was meant to be a temporary response to the Syrian conflict and the situation on the ground has changed.


He said the Jordan crossing point hasn’t been used “for a lengthy period of time” and the volume through the Iraqi crossing “is insignificant ... and could be done from Syria” so only the Turkish crossing points are needed — points he reiterated on Friday, the Associated Press (AP) reported.


Meanwhile, the UN humanitarian office said it has been supporting 4 million Syrians through cross-border aid deliveries — 2.7 million in the northwest and 1.3 million in the northeast.


UK's ambassador to the UN, Karen Pierce, said the council's vote Friday let down the people of Syria.


"It's an inadequate response for the Syrian people. And it's an inadequate response to what the UN have been asking for," she said.


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