UNITED NATIONS (PA) – The Russian ambassador to the UN on Wednesday called a proposal to reopen a border post between Iraq and northeastern Syria to provide humanitarian aid “a no- starting “. He also declined to say what would happen to Turkey’s only currently operating crossing point in the northwest of the rebel-held country.
A draft UN Security Council resolution proposes to send aid through the two crossings, but Vassily Nebenzia told a press conference that Russia was only discussing the possible continuation of the deliveries via the passage from Bab al-Hawa to Idlib, in northwestern Syria. He declined to say whether Russia would vote to keep it open or use its veto to shut it down.
Russia has come under intense pressure from the UN, US, Europeans and others who warn of dire humanitarian consequences for more than a million Syrians if all border crossings are closed.
Nebenzia was commenting on a draft resolution circulated to the Security Council last Friday that would keep Bab al-Hawa open and reopen the Al-Yaroubiya crossing from Iraq into the mostly Kurdish-controlled northeast that was closed in January 2020 .
The Security Council approved four border crossings when aid deliveries began in 2014, three years after the start of the Syrian conflict. But in January 2020, Russia first used its council veto threat to limit aid deliveries to two border posts in the northwest, and then last July to cut another.
Thus, today, aid can only be channeled through the passage of Bab al-Hawa, and its mandate ends on July 10.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accused Western donors, who are the main providers of humanitarian aid to Syria, of “blackmailing” Moscow by threatening to cut humanitarian funding to its close ally Syria if the mandate of Bab al-Hawa is not extended.
“We consider it important to resist such approaches,” he said in a recent oral statement sent to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and obtained last week by The Associated Press. “We believe that further concessions to Americans and Europeans under the pressure of financial threats will undermine the credibility of the United Nations, its Charter and Security Council resolutions.
Nebenzia reiterated Russia’s criticism of cross-border aid and said humanitarian aid should be provided across conflict lines in Syria to strengthen the sovereignty of the Syrian government over the whole country.
He reiterated Lavrov’s criticism of continued attempts since April 2020 to block a United Nations, International Committee of the Red Cross and Syrian Arab Red Crescent convoy to Idlib from the Syrian capital, Damascus. The Russian minister accused Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, Idlib’s most powerful militant group, “with the connivance” of Turkey, of refusing to allow the cross-delivery.
Nebenzia was pressed at a press conference on Russia’s reaction to the resolution, which was drafted by Ireland and Norway, both serving two-year terms on the Security Council. The project was discussed by experts on the council for the first time on Wednesday, he said.
The Russian Ambassador said he told Ireland and Norway “at the very beginning that what we are hearing from our colleagues about the reopening of closed cross-border points is really a false start”.
This seems to condemn the reopening of Al-Yaroubiya.
US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who recently visited the Bab al-Hawa terminal, expressed disappointment on Friday that the draft resolution did not call for aid deliveries through three passages, including the second passage from Turkey in the northwest to Bab al-Salam, which was closed last July.
“Millions of Syrians are struggling, and without urgent action millions more will be deprived of food, clean water, medicine and COVID-19 vaccines,” she said.
Nebenzia said the Syrian government wanted to shut down cross-border deliveries and rejected claims that there was no alternative.
There were predictions of “catastrophe” when Al-Yaroubiya was closed, “but now facts on the ground confirm it, and the UN says they have increased humanitarian aid to the northeast. (…) through cooperation with the Syrian government, “he said. mentionned.
He said cross-border aid was approved in 2014 “under special circumstances where there was no access to many parts of Syria”.
“But, of course, today this is an obsolete operation and it will eventually be closed,” he said.
When asked if he didn’t see the need for a single crossing now, Nebenzia replied, “I won’t give you a definitive answer just yet. I will just tell you that we are continuing our consultations on this issue.