UNSC unanimously extends cross border aid to Syria’s rebel held areas

Russia reiterated its demand that this mechanism should be allowed only for a limited period of time and called for the end of Western unilateral sanctions on Syria, the main cause of the humanitarian crisis in the country

January 11, 2023 by Peoples Dispatch
UNSC resolution on Syria
(Photo: OCHA/Sevim Turkmani)

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) adopted Resolution 2672 on Monday, January 9, to extend cross border aid to rebel-controlled areas of Syria’s north-west for another six months. The resolution renewing the mechanism was adopted with unanimous support.  

Russia also voted in favor of the continuation of cross border aid to rebel-held areas in Syria’s Idlib. In July last year, Russia had only agreed to support the extension for a six-month period, instead of a year. The six-month period was set to expire on Tuesday.

UN Secretary General António Guterres welcomed the resolution, claiming that cross border aid delivery remained an “indispensable lifeline for 4.1 million people in northwest Syria.” He added that the decision came at a time when “humanitarian needs [in Syria] have reached the highest levels since the start of the conflict in 2011.” He also demanded the expansion of the humanitarian aid program to the country. 

Russia’s permanent representative to the UN Vassily Nebenzya called the Russian decision to support the resolution a “difficult” one. “As it currently stands, the resolution fails to reflect the aspirations of the Syrian people, who expect from the security council in addition to effective humanitarian efforts, respect for Syria’s territorial integrity and sovereignty,” he stated.

Russia and Syria have previously objected to the continuation of the mechanism first adopted in 2014, claiming that it violates Syrian sovereignty. Russia had vetoed the resolution when a year-long extension was sought in July 2022. It only agreed to support the extension for six months after underlining the need for its review.  

Unilateral sanctions are the root cause of suffering in Syria  

Nebenzya also underlined on Monday that by merely talking about the need to expand humanitarian aid to Syria, “Western delegates” were “diligently avoiding another troubling issue—criminal punitive unilateral sanctions that hit the Syrian people.” He claimed that “these sanctions are the main factor in the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Syria.”   

Russia expressed hope that by next July the UNSC would be able resolve the issues related to its aid program in Syria. It also asked Western countries to drop their unwillingness to “abandon the mechanism” of cross border aid and look for alternatives that respected Syrian concerns.   

The Syrian representative to the UN Bassam Sabbagh also criticized “Western states” for politicizing humanitarian work and pointed out that they have failed to fund the humanitarian response plan for all of Syria but continue to impose unilateral coercive measures that aggravate the suffering of ordinary Syrians. 

The mechanism of cross border aid was first adopted in 2014 when most of Syria was under the control of rebels backed by the US, Turkey, and other countries. The aid mechanism bypassed Syria’s Bashar al-Assad government, which now controls most of the country and has been able to curtail the flow of aid to regions outside its control by shutting most border checkpoints. 

According to reports, around four million people live in rebel-held areas in Syria’s north-west. A large number of them are people who have been displaced from other provinces in the country.  

As per the resolution adopted on Monday, UN aid will flow from Turkey via Syria’s Bab al-Hawa, crossing into Idlib. Nearly 1,000 truckloads of aid enter Idlib across this crossing every month.