UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador says he sees no reason to continue humanitarian aid deliveries from Turkey to rebel-held northwest Syria, accusing the West and the United Nations of insufficient efforts to deliver aid from Damascus and failing to finance “early recovery projects” to improve life for millions of Syrians.
Dmitry Polyansky told the U.N. Security Council on Friday that “we are not okay” with preserving the status quo at any cost, and cannot “turn a blind eye to the fact that terrorists from HTS,” the strongest militant group in northwest Idlib, “usurp the authority and manipulate humanitarian assistance.”
He said supporters of cross-border aid deliveries “show no wish” to enable aid deliveries across conflict lines from Damascus which could be easily arranged, “which leaves us no reason to preserve the cross-border mechanism.”
Polyansky said that fighters for Al Nusra, al-Qaida’s branch in Syria, “openly state that they are not going to let through humanitarian cargo from Damascus to the detriment” of cross-border aid deliveries.
In early July 2020, China and Russia vetoed a U.N. resolution that would have maintained two border crossing points from Turkey to deliver humanitarian aid to Idlib. Days later, the council authorized the delivery of aid through just one of those crossings, Bab al-Hawa. That one-year mandate was extended for a year on July 9, 2021 and expires in about six weeks.
U.N. humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths told the council Friday that the U.N. is doing its “utmost” to expand cross-line aid deliveries, and is working toward a fifth convoy this year. But he stressed that “cross-line operations cannot under current conditions replace the size or the scope of the massive U.N. cross-border operation.”
“Failure to renew the authorization will disrupt life-saving aid for the people living in the northwest, including more than one million children,” he said.
Last month, his deputy Joyce Msuya, told the council “a staggering 4.1 million people” in the northwest need humanitarian aid, with almost a million people, mainly women and children, living in tents, “half of which are beyond their normal lifespan.” She said last year the U.N. sent some 800 trucks of cross-border aid to the northwest each month, “consistently reaching 2.4 million people.”
U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who said she will be making a return visit to the Bab al-Hawa crossing in the coming weeks, stressed that it is in the interest of everyone, including Russia and Syria, “to prevent a dire humanitarian situation in Syria from growing worse and more desperate.”
That’s why the Security Council voted unanimously last year to extend cross-border deliveries through Bab al-Hawa “and why we must do so again this year in the interest of all Syrians,” she said.