UN extends critical aid from Turkey to Syria’s rebel north

Jan 8, 2023, 5:22 PM | Updated: Jan 9, 2023, 9:10 pm
This is a locator map for Syria with its capital, Damascus. (AP Photo)...

This is a locator map for Syria with its capital, Damascus. (AP Photo)

(AP Photo)

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Monday to keep a key border crossing from Turkey to Syria’s rebel-held northwest open for critical aid deliveries for another six months. Syria’s ally Russia — in a surprise move — supported the resolution.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said after the vote that cross-border aid remains “an indispensable lifeline for 4.1 million people in northwest Syria.”

The vote, the U.N. chief stressed, “comes as humanitarian needs have reached the highest levels since the start of the conflict in 2011, with people in Syria grappling with a harsh winter,” according to his spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

All eyes had been on Russia, which in the past abstained or vetoed resolutions on cross-border aid deliveries. It has sought to replace aid crossing the Turkish border to northwestern Idlib province with convoys from government-held areas in Syria. Since the early years of the war, Turkey has sided with and supported Syria’s rebels.

Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said supporting the resolution was “difficult,” describing the northwest as an enclave “inundated with terrorists.” The vote, he said, is not a change in Moscow’s “principled position” that cross-border aid deliveries — which began in 2014 — are temporary and should be replaced by Syrian government-controlled deliveries.

Syria’s U.N. Ambassador Bassam Sabbagh criticized Western countries for “politicizing humanitarian work,” and said Western sanctions “have aggravated the suffering of the Syrians.” He claimed the government has been “working relentlessly” to provide basic services to Syrians.

Last month, Guterres warned in a report to the council that Syria’s already dire humanitarian situation is worsening. If the aid deliveries from Turkey to Idlib weren’t renewed, millions of Syrians might not survive the winter, he warned.

Deliveries across conflict lines within the country cannot substitute for “the size or scope of the massive cross-border United Nations operation,” Guterres said. On Sunday, a convoy of 18 trucks entered the area of Idlib through front lines held by Syrian government forces.

The resolution put the Security Council on record as “determining that the devastating humanitarian situation in Syria continues to constitute a threat to peace and security in the region.”

Guterres said humanitarian access across Syria — both through cross-border operations and deliveries across front lines — must be expanded. He urged Security Council members and others “to continue supporting humanitarian partners’ efforts to deliver assistance to those who need it throughout Syria,” Dujarric said.

The Security Council initially authorized aid deliveries in 2014 from Turkey, Iraq and Jordan through four crossing points into opposition-held areas in Syria. But over the years, Russia backed by its ally China, has reduced the authorized crossings to just one from Turkey — and the time frame from a year to six months.

Many of the people sheltering in the northwestern Idlib area have been internally displaced by the nearly 12-year conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced half the country’s pre-war population of 23 million.

The resolution, co-sponsored by Brazil and Switzerland, will allow for aid deliveries through the Bab al-Hawa crossing from Turkey for the next six months, until July 10.

Speaking on behalf of the Security Council’s 10 elected members, Ecuador’s U.N. Ambassador Hernan Perez Loose said the resolution will address “the dire and urgent needs of the Syrian people,” but he reiterated the need for “more certainty and predictability for humanitarian organizations.”

U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield stressed that an extension of only six months — while allowing the “Syrian people to breathe a sigh of relief” — makes it “harder and more costly for aid workers to procure, hire and plan” assistance. It also hinders so-called recovery projects, or restoration of critical functions that helps communities bounce back — a key Russian demand.

“A 12-month extension is needed for the U.N., and it is needed for our humanitarian partners and for recipients,” she said, a view echoed by Britain, France and other council members.

David Miliband, CEO of the International Rescue Committee, expressed relief at the cross-border aid renewal guaranteeing assistance over the winter, but stressed that the six-month extension “will once again be short-lived” and that deliveries from Turkey will still be needed in July.

Russia’s Nebenzia warned, however, that there will be “no discussion about a mechanical extension of the cross-border extension” unless Western members of the council “fundamentally change” their views on providing aid to Syria.

He accused the West of not being concerned about the needs of ordinary Syrians and inflating “the myth” that cross-border deliveries can’t be supplanted by convoys across front lines. He also sharply criticized the West, saying Idlib receives half the funds for early recovery projects while the majority of Syrians live elsewhere.

In addition to pushing for more deliveries across front lines, Russia has also pushed for early recovery projects in Syria. Guterres said in the December report that at least 374 early recovery projects have taken place throughout the country since January 2021, directly benefiting over 665,000 people, but he said more is needed.

The resolution also calls on all U.N. member states to respond to Syria’s “complex humanitarian emergency” and meet the urgent needs of the Syrian people “in light of the profound socioeconomics and humanitarian impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

In Syria, an Idlib-based doctor welcomed Monday’s vote.

“The decision to extend aid through the border is the only real lifeline for Syria’s north, especially for the medical sector,” said Safwat Sheikhouni.

Had the resolution not been extended, it would have been a “catastrophe” for local residents because it would have led to the closure of the offices of most humanitarian organizations there, he said.

___

Associated Press writer Bassem Mroue in Beirut contributed to this story.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - John Lydon attends the LA premiere of "Punk" at SIR in Los Angeles, Monday, March 4, 2019. P...
Associated Press

Punk icon Lydon fails in bid to play Eurovision Song Contest

LONDON (AP) — Punk icon John Lydon has failed in his attempt to become Ireland’s entry for the pop music competition the Eurovision Song Contest. The former Sex Pistols frontman entered the song “Hawaii” with his post-punk band Public Image Ltd. in the national runoff for May’s continent-wide contest. Jurors and viewers of a televised […]
1 day ago
A vendor sits at a flea market in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)...
Associated Press

Dozens of soldiers freed in Russia-Ukraine prisoner swap

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Dozens of Russian and Ukrainian prisoners of war have returned home following a prisoner swap, officials on both sides said Saturday. Top Ukrainian presidential aide Andriy Yermak said in a Telegram post that 116 Ukrainians were freed. He said the released POWs include troops who held out in Mariupol during Moscow’s […]
1 day ago
FILE - The British frigate HMS Portland heads through the Suez canal, in Ismailia, Egypt Wednesday,...
Associated Press

Royal Navy sailors hospitalized after drinking water on ship

LONDON (AP) — A Royal Navy warship has returned to port in Britain after several sailors got sick from the vessel’s drinking water, officials said Saturday The navy said frigate HMS Portland had returned to its base at Portsmouth on England’s south coast on Friday “as a precautionary measure, following an issue with one of […]
1 day ago
FILE - An American flag is flown next to the Chinese national emblem during a welcome ceremony at t...
Associated Press

China plays down Blinken’s canceled visit over balloon

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — China played down the cancellation of a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken after a large Chinese balloon suspected of conducting surveillance on U.S. military sites roiled diplomatic relations, saying that neither side had formally announced any such plan. “In actuality, the U.S. and China have never announced any […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Ohio train derailment causes causes fire, home evacuations

EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (AP) — A train derailed in an Ohio town near the Pennsylvania border and caused a large fire followed by orders for area residents to evacuate their homes Friday night, reports said. A post on the East Palestine, Ohio, city Facebook page around 11 p.m. said an evacuation order had been issued […]
1 day ago
Pope Francis meets with a group of the Catholic faithful from the town of Rumbek, who had walked fo...
Associated Press

Pope encourages South Sudanese, will raise plight of women

JUBA, South Sudan (AP) — Pope Francis sought Saturday to console the long-suffering people of South Sudan as he opened his first full day in a country beset by conflict, poverty and humanitarian crises by encouraging priests and nuns to serve their flocks by joining in their tears. After arriving in the world’s newest country […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
UN extends critical aid from Turkey to Syria’s rebel north