Russia defends veto of aid to northwest Syria for one year

Jul 21, 2022, 8:22 AM | Updated: 8:24 pm

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Russia defended its veto of a U.N. resolution that would have extended humanitarian aid deliveries to 4.1 million Syrians in the rebel-held northwest from Turkey for a year, insisting that its demand for only a six-month extension was essential and accusing Western nations of using “sly” tactics and trying “to govern the world.”

Russia’s deputy ambassador Dmitry Polyansky had to defend Moscow’s veto on July 8 of a resolution before the General Assembly for only the second time since the 193-member world body adopted a resolution on April 26 requiring any Security Council member that casts a veto to explain its reasoning during an assembly debate on the issue.

Polyansky insisted that a resolution should be limited to six months, with a new resolution needed for another six months, in order to assess progress on Russia’s demands. He said these include stepped up aid deliveries across conflict lines within Syria, more early recovery programs in the country, greater transparency in aid operations, and stopping “international terrorists” from receiving aid deliveries.

He accused Western supporters of a year-long extension of failing to make progress on cross-line aid deliveries and early recovery projects. These demands were included in last year’s resolution extending aid deliveries from Turkey for a year, he said.

U.S. deputy ambassador Richard Mills shot back, accusing Russia of abusing its veto power for the 17th time on a Syria resolution, this time on a measure aimed at facilitating humanitarian help for millions of people suffering from 11 years of war.

To avert a shutdown of aid deliveries through the Bab al-Hawa crossing point in Turkey, the Security Council approved a six-month extension on July 11 but Mills stressed the consequences: A second resolution will be needed in January when humanitarian needs, which are now greater than they have ever been, “will be greatest.”

“That timeline risks leaving Syrians without blankets, without heating fuel, depriving them of a steady supply of basic food items during the coldest of months if the resolution confirming the second sixth-month extension is not adopted,” he warned.

Mills urged the international community to come together “and firewall any further politicization of what is a purely humanitarian issue.”

Northwest Idlib is the last rebel-held bastion in Syria and a region where an al-Qaida-linked militant group, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, is the strongest. The U.N. said recently that the first 10 years of the Syrian conflict, which started in 2011, killed more than 300,000 civilians, the highest official estimate of civilian casualties.

Polyansky accused Western countries of “supporting international terrorists who they trained and equipped to oust the legitimate Syrian authorities.”

By exercising its veto, he said, “the Russian Federation once again protected the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria.”

He asked ambassadors representing their countries in the assembly chamber: “Who will protect you if you allow yourselves to be dragged into other games? Who will shield you from transforming into yet another Ukraine, which became a mere pawn in the West’s geopolitical chess game against the Russian Federation, and claimed the lives of its citizens for the advancement of the interests of the U.S. and their NATO allies.”

European Union counselor Thibault Camelli, stressed that humanitarian actions in Syria “must not be disrupted, targeted or politicized,” pointing out to the assembly that the EU and its member states are the biggest aid donor to the country.

“”Humanitarian needs in Syria have increased and will likely continue to increase, especially in light of the food crisis due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” he said. “Today, over 12 million Syrians are food insecure, relying on external food assistance for their survival.”

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Russia defends veto of aid to northwest Syria for one year