UN urges Security Council to expand aid access into Syria

ERBIL, Syria (North Press) – United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres appealed on Monday for the Security Council to expand aid access to Syria and renew Resolution 2585 (2021) on cross-border operations as a “moral imperative”.

Amid international concern of Russian veto, the UN Security Council is expected to hold a session to vote on cross-border authorization of the only remaining border crossing point for humanitarian aid into Syria, Bab al-Hawa, under Resolution 2585 (2021) during the next two weeks.

“I strongly appeal to the members of the Council to maintain consensus on allowing cross-border operations, by renewing resolution 2585 (2021) for an additional 12 months,” Guterres stated to the Security Council on the humanitarian situation in Syria, in New York on Monday.

The UN resolution allowing aid deliveries across the Syrian-Turkish border at Bab al-Hawa has been in effect since 2014, but is set to expire on July 10.

“Humanitarian situation in Syria remains dire for millions of children, women and men across the country. Needs are at their highest since the start of the war over 11 years ago,” Guterres added.

“The figures are stark; 14.6 million people need humanitarian assistance. 12 million people are food insecure, unsure where their next meal is coming from. 90% of the population live below the poverty line,” he remarked.

Donor’s pledges need to be paid

Guterres hinted that the current humanitarian situation requires $4.4 billion to assist people inside Syria and another $5.6 billion to support refugees in the region.

“We have made great strides in scaling up the response, but more is needed,” he noted.

The Secretary-General also called for the grants pledged made at the Brussels VI donor conference “need to be paid”.

Guterres mostly focused on northwest Syria, on the importance of delivering aid to it, “More than 90% of people in the north-west need aid.”

In addition to focusing on northwest Syria, he called for expanding and intensifying aid delivery lines by providing and maintaining all channels.

“When it comes to delivering life-saving aid to people in need across Syria, all channels should be made, and kept, available.”

Russian veto in favor of Syrian government

Since delivering life-saving aid is limited to the Turkish-Syrian Bab al-Hawa border crossing, appeals are repeated in northeast Syria not to be excluded from UN aid, which will be easy to implement if al-Ya’rubiyah (Tel Kocher) crossing with the Iraqi border is reopened.

The Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) repeatedly called on the international community and the United Nations, since the activation of the UN Resolution 2585 (2021),  to open al-Ya’rubiyah crossing with Iraq, and to separate the humanitarian situation from the political interests of some countries.

Some international parties also stressed the need to increase the number of crossing points, in a press briefing on June 13, the spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General, Dujarric said that more crossing points are better, highlighting the importance of continuing “the cross-line operations and, stressing the need to increase the number of crossing points.

Al-Ya’rubiyah (Tel Kocher) crossing, which is located on the Syria-Iraq border and is the only crossing through which UN aid may enter the Autonomous Administration held areas in Syria’s northeast, has been closed due to Russia and China veto since 2020.

The Autonomous Administration was first formed in 2014 in the Kurdish-majority regions of Afrin, Kobani and Jazira in northern Syria following the withdrawal of the government forces. Later, it was expanded to Manbij, Tabqa, Raqqa, Hasakah and Deir ez-Zor after the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) defeated ISIS militarily.

The non-internationally recognized AANES has several camps sheltering thousands of IDPs living in dire living situations due to the lack of support provided by international organizations, repeated Turkish attacks, as well as the blockage of aid access border crossing.

But Russia has already imposed a reduction in the number of border crossings on the grounds stressing that they violate Syria’s sovereignty, and this may be repeated in a future session.

Since cross-border aid was authorized in 2014, over 50,000 trucks have crossed into Syria to provide assistance for those in need, according to the UN Secretary-General.

Political solution  

Despite praising international efforts to deliver aid, Guterres stressed that “The only way to end the humanitarian tragedy in Syria is through a truly nationwide ceasefire and a political solution that enables the Syrian people to determine their own future.”

We must show the courage and determination to do all that is necessary to reach a negotiated political solution in line with Security Council resolution 2254 (2015).

At the end he urged all members of the Council to do everything in their power to encourage the parties to “engage in meaningful negotiations for peace.”

In this regard, before the start of the Council’s session, Norway’s deputy ambassador, Trine Heimerback, said that in addition to humanitarian aid, the resolution’s renewal “will also facilitate further early recovery projects.”

Her statement could be a hint that Western nations will assist in the early stages of Syrian reconstruction projects in exchange for Moscow allowing the cross-border aid resolution to pass.

Russia aims to activate efforts to rebuild Syria, but many council members believe that political reforms must first be carried out in the country that has been mired in civil war for 11 years.

“In the absence of a political solution, there is absolutely no reason to normalize relations with the Syrian regime and move towards reconstruction,” reiterated the French deputy ambassador, Nathalie Broadhurst.

US ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who recently visited the Syrian-Turkish border, said that she “reaffirmed US support for early recovery efforts, which we know continue to be an important component of sustainable response efforts.”

Russia’s deputy ambassador, Dmitry Polyanskiy, said that Moscow is “convinced” that humanitarian aid can reach “all regions of Syria” via Damascus, and blamed international sanctions for Syria’s worsening humanitarian crisis.

Reporting by Hozan Zubeir