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UN aid to Syria from Turkey likely allowed until January

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Children playing at a camp for displaced people near Maaret Misrin in Idlib province, Syria, on July 9, 2022.

PHOTO: AFP

UNITED NATIONS (REUTERS) – The UN Security Council appears set to allow UN deliveries of aid to some 4 million people in north-west Syria from Turkey until January, diplomats said on Monday (July 11), after days of wrangling with Russia over how long to let the huge operation continue.

The mandate for the operation, which has been delivering food, medicine and shelter to the opposition-controlled area of Syria since 2014, expired on Sunday. Council authorisation is needed because Syrian authorities did not agree to it.

The 15-member body will vote on Tuesday on a draft resolution – put forward by Ireland and Norway – that mirrors a Russian text, which failed when put to a vote on Friday. The United States, France and Britain opposed it because they said six months is not long enough for aid groups to plan and operate effectively.

To pass, a resolution needs nine votes and no vetoes by Russia, China, the United States, France or Britain.

Russia initially vetoed a one-year extension on Friday, which was supported by 13 council members, while China abstained. Russia’s Deputy UN Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy said Moscow would continue to veto any text other than its own.

“The Russians did get to shape the outcome of this process, but they looked pretty lonely along the way,” said Richard Gowan, Crisis Group UN director, noting that China lobbied for a compromise and didn’t join Russia in casting a veto.

Only Russia and China backed the Russian draft on Friday, and the remaining 10 council members abstained.

Russia argues that the UN aid operation violates Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. It says more aid should be delivered from inside the country, raising opposition fears that food and other aid would fall under government control.

The Security Council vote on the authorisation of the aid operation has long been a contentious issue, but this year also comes amid heightened tensions between Russia and Western powers over Moscow’s Feb 24 invasion of Ukraine.

In 2014, the Security Council authorised humanitarian aid deliveries into opposition-held areas of Syria from Iraq, Jordan and two points in Turkey. But veto powers Russia and China have whittled that down to just one Turkish border point.

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