UN Security Council fails to agree on aid to rebel-held areas in Syria after Russia and West veto resolutions

Syria has long maintained that all aid to the country should flow through the government as the current mechanism violates its sovereignty and prolongs the war 

July 12, 2023 by Peoples Dispatch
Syria aid UN resolution
Syrian ambassador to the UN Bassam Sabbagh. Photo: SANA

The UN Security Council failed to reach a consensus over the cross-border aid delivery mechanism to Syria after Russia and the West vetoed two proposals on Tuesday, July 11. 

The mandate of the aid mechanism expired on Monday. The UNSC was scheduled to vote on a resolution to extend the mechanism on the same day. However, following differences over two contradictory resolutions, one prepared by Russia and another prepared by Switzerland and Brazil, the vote was postponed till Tuesday. 

Russia on Tuesday vetoed against the Swiss/Brazilian draft which was supported by all other members of the UNSC except China, which abstained. The resolution proposed a nine-month extension, instead of the West’s earlier demand of 12 months without any additional measures. 

Russia instead proposed its own draft resolution which provided for a six-month extension to the mechanism, as has been the practice for long, but with additional measures to address the concerns raised by Syria. It was only supported by China while 10 non-permanent UNSC members abstained. The resolution was rejected as the rest of the permanent members, the US, the UK, and France, vetoed it.    

West politicizing humanitarian acts

Reacting to Tuesday’s developments in the UNSC, Syria alleged that “Western states are still politicizing the humanitarian act and going far beyond in exploiting its mechanism as a tool of pressure and political blackmail against Syria,” SANA reported. 

Syrian ambassador to the UN Bassam Sabbagh also noted that any extension of the aid mechanism should address the Syrian concerns about return of the refugees, end of the war in the country, and ensuring that “the Western unilateral measures [sanctions] wouldn’t affect the humanitarian relief process.” 

Reacting to the West’s veto to Russia’s resolution, Vasily Nebenzya, Russia’s permanent representative at the UN, alleged that “it simply reveals your true attitude to the cross-border mechanism you want to use only to support terrorists nesting in Idlib.”

Nebenzia said that “blessing the mechanism within which the terrorists from Iblib will, with impunity, disallow humanitarian assistance into the enclave through crosslines; where Western countries are funding early recovery and humanitarian projects only on those territories which are not under government control, and Syria itself is being suffocated with inhuman sanctions, is not something that we are going to do.” 

Northwest Syria is largely under the control of rebels fighting the government of Bashar al-Assad since 2011. The UN, the US, and various charities and aid groups have been using the Turkish borders to directly provide aid to the region since 2014. They had urged the UNSC to approve the aid for another 12 months, noting its urgent need particularly in the wake of the February earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria.

However, the Syrian government and its main ally Russia have consistently asserted that any aid must be administered through the government authorities, and not doing so would be a violation of Syrian sovereignty. They have repeatedly alleged that the aid mechanism in its current form does nothing to pave the way to address the humanitarian concerns in the whole of Syria. They have demanded that all aid should be negotiated between the rival sides and address the larger impacts of the unilateral punitive measures against Syria adopted by some Western countries such as the US in the form of sanctions.