Russia skips UN talks on access to cross-border aid in Syria – diplomats
NEW YORK, July 6 (Reuters) – Russia on Tuesday ignored UN Security Council negotiations over whether to extend approval for cross-border aid access to Syria, diplomats said, as China sought “solutions” to its concerns about unilateral sanctions and aid transparency.
The council’s mandate for the long-running UN operation providing aid to northern Syria from Turkey is due to expire on Saturday. The veto powers Russia and China are reluctant to renew it, while Western members want to re-authorize and expand it.
UN officials say there can be no substitute for the cross-border aid operation, which was first approved in 2014.
“The cross-border aid operation has been the safest and most reliable way to deliver aid to people,” said Mark Cutts, UN deputy regional humanitarian coordinator for the Syrian crisis, during an event at the United Nations in New York, hosted by Canada, the Dominican Republic, the Netherlands, Qatar and Turkey.
“Over the past year, we have delivered an average of just over 1,000 trucks of aid per month to northwestern Syria. It is absolutely vital now that we continue this aid operation, ”Cutts said.
The Security Council is negotiating a resolution, drafted by Ireland and Norway, to authorize aid deliveries through two crossing points: one from Turkey and the other from Iraq. But Russian Ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia said last week he was only discussing a possible extension of UN approval for the Turkish passage.
While Russia – an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad – did not show up for negotiations on Tuesday, diplomats said they were still in separate contact with key members. The Russian UN mission did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The council first authorized a cross-border aid operation in Syria in 2014 in four points. Last year he reduced that to a point of Turkey in a rebel-controlled area in Syria due to Russian and Chinese opposition to the renewal of the four.
Russia said the aid operation was outdated and violated Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. In a blow to the United States and others, Russia and China have also blamed unilateral sanctions for part of Syria’s fate. Read more
Chinese Ambassador to the UN Zhang Jun said on Tuesday that Beijing wanted to see “solutions” to address concerns over unilateral sanctions against Syria, increase aid deliveries to the front lines in the country and enhance the transparency of the cross-border aid operation.
US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the discussion was not about sanctions.
“It is a matter of humanitarian needs,” she told reporters, warning that if the only remaining border post was closed to aid deliveries: “The repercussions are obvious – people will starve to death.”
Reporting by Michelle Nichols; edited by Richard Pullin
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