Russia scored a victory for its close ally Syria on Friday, using its veto threat to force the U.N. Security Council to adopt a resolution significantly reducing the delivery of cross-border humanitarian aid and cutting off critical medical assistance to over one million Syrians in the northeast.
Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Karen Pierce accused Russia of playing politics with humanitarian aid for the first time in the nearly nine-year Syrian conflict, and “playing dice with the lives of Syrian people in the northeast.”
U.S. Ambassador Kelly Craft accused Russia of “triumphantly” supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad’s goveernment “to starve its opposition.” And she warned: “Syrians will suffer needlessly … (and) Syrians will die as a result of this resolution.”
The resolution adopted by the U.N.’s most powerful body reduces the number of crossing points for aid deliveries from four to just two, from Turkey to the mainly rebel-held northwest as Russia demanded. It also cuts in half the year-long mandate that has been in place since cross-border deliveries began in 2014 to six months, as Moscow insisted. The vote capped months of contentious negotiations and came on the day the current mandate for cross-border aid deliveries to Syria expires. It also reflected the deep divisions that have prevented the Security Council, which is charged with maintaining international peace and security, from taking any significant action to end the Syrian conflict.
The resolution that was finally voted on by the 15-member council, received 11 “yes” votes and 4 abstentions from Russia, China, the United States and United Kingdom.
Indonesia’s deputy U.N. ambassador Muhsin Syihab, who voted in favor of the resolution, said afterward he believed all council members were “equally unhappy.”
Germany, Belgium and Kuwait, backed by the U.S., Britain, France and other council nations, initially wanted to add a fifth crossing point and extend the mandate for a year. But to meet Russia’s demands and avoid a total cutoff of cross-border aid they watered-down their resolution to two points for six months.
Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said last month that cross-border aid was meant to be a temporary response to the Syrian conflict and the situation on the ground has changed. He said the Jordan crossing point hasn’t been used “for a lengthy period of time” and the volume through the Iraqi crossing “is insignificant … and could be done from Syria” so only the Turkish crossing points are needed — points he reiterated on Friday.– AP