NEW YORK - Russia failed on Wednesday to push a draft U.N. resolution through the U.N. Security Council that would have cut aid access from Turkey into northwest Syria, leaving the humanitarian operation and millions of needy Syrians in limbo as the mandate’s expiration approaches on Friday.
Moscow’s text, which proposed closing one of two remaining crossing points to humanitarians and only renewing the remaining one for six months, failed to win enough support in the 15-nation Security Council. Only four council members (Russia, China, Vietnam and South Africa) supported the measure, while seven opposed it and four abstained.
It was the second vote in as many days. On Tuesday, Russia and China vetoed a text put forward by Belgium and Germany that all other council members supported. That draft called for the reauthorization of two crossing points for one year.
In a joint statement after the vote, Belgium and Germany, who hold the Syrian humanitarian file on the council, said they voted against the Russian measure because it did not meet the basic requirements requested by the United Nations and aid groups.
“One thing remains clear: Millions of people are counting on the Security Council to allow for as much humanitarian access as possible,” they said in a statement. “This council has a responsibility to the Syrian people and the humanitarian aid workers who support them.”
The U.N. has also asked for more humanitarian access in Syria, requesting that a third crossing point between northern Iraq and Syria, which Russia and China forced the council to close in January, be reopened.
Moscow, a staunch ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has argued that all aid should go through Damascus to other parts of the country.
“This text was not to support Syrians, who are suffering from nine years of war and chemical attacks,” said Estonia’s Ambassador Sven Jürgenson, who voted against the resolution. “Instead, Russia tried with this draft to arm-twist the Security Council members into enhancing Moscow’s political and military objectives.”
There is still time to reach a consensus before Friday, when the operation’s authorization will expire. Otherwise, the six-year-old cross-border operation could be closed.
In addition to the effects of conflict and COVID-19, Syria is facing its worst financial crisis of its nine-year conflict. The currency is in free fall, commodity prices are skyrocketing and many Syrians are struggling to afford food.
“Cross-border aid is needed now more than ever, as Syrians face the threat of COVID-19,” said Oxfam Syria Director Moutaz Adham after the vote. “All available avenues for delivering aid will be critical in helping the more than 11 million people in need of assistance across Syria.”