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U.N. Yields to Russia’s Limits on Aid Mission in Syria

WASHINGTON – World powers agreed on Tuesday to continue the United Nations aid mission to northwest Syria for another six months, meeting a deadline demanded by Russia that would, for the time being, avoid halting life-saving deliveries to the nearly four million people living amid 11-year war. eligibility.

Just days ago, Russia vetoed a plan in the UN Security Council to keep the humanitarian corridor, from Bab al-Hawa on the Turkish border to Idlib province, open for another year. In response, Western diplomats rejected a Russian proposal to allow the mission to stay for six months instead, calling it too short and unacceptable, given that food, medicine and other supplies would be cut off in the middle of winter, when aid begins. more than others.

But with little alternative to helping war-weary Syrians – more than a million of whom live in tents during the conflict that began in 2011 – the council has adopted the six-month mission as officials consider how to help after the conflict ends.

“What is most important today is that the Council, with this resolution, keeps the cross-border mechanism open and operational – and that humanitarian assistance continues to reach those in need,” Ireland’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Geraldine Byrne Nason, said.

Ireland and Norway have drafted a compromise proposal that sticks to Russia’s six-month deadline, but also allows the possibility of extending the aid mission for another six months with a new vote after it expires in January.

Tuesday’s vote also demonstrated the limits of Western determination to contain Russian power around the world, as the United States and other countries have sought, since Moscow invaded Ukraine in February. Twelve members of the council approved the new measure, and no one opposed it, although the United States, Britain and France abstained.

Russia’s Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations, Dmitry Polyansky, said, “The world is not limited to Western countries, and it is time for you to get used to respecting the interests of other countries – first of all, only those countries that are directly affected by Security Council resolutions.”

Russia is the main beneficiary of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the war, and has used its veto in the UN Security Council to help close three more humanitarian corridors to Syria in 2020. Sovereignty, that it is up to Mr. Assad to decide how and where international aid is delivered.

On Tuesday, China’s deputy ambassador, Dai Bing, reiterated Moscow’s demands that “humanitarian aid to Syria should respect Syria’s sovereignty and the property of the Syrian government.”

UN officials have described Bab al-Hawa Road as the gateway to the world’s largest humanitarian aid operation, an operation that has transported more than 56,000 trucks of life-saving supplies to Idlib province in northwest Syria since 2014. Aid groups estimate that 70 percent of Syria’s population has no supplies reliable food.

Russian diplomats also warned that aid delivered to Idlib – the last major opposition stronghold in Syria and a region that has also become a haven for al-Qaeda-linked extremists – was vulnerable to being seized by terrorist groups.

Russia agreed last year to keep Bab al-Hawa open after intense negotiations with the United States, on the understanding that the UN mission’s mandate would expire last Sunday. But in recent months, Russia has indicated that it will refuse to continue the annual process of extensions throughout the year.

“We will continue to monitor progress and implement the resolution we adopted today for ultimate self-determination,” said Mr. Polyansky.

Richard Mills, the deputy UN envoy, said Moscow’s support for Assad was even more lethal for Syrians, given the food shortages caused by limited wheat and oil exports from Russia and Ukraine.

“Russia knows that some of the most recent urgent needs in Syria are a direct result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the shocks that the brutal invasion has caused to food systems in Syria and around the world,” said Mr. Mills. “The simple fact is that Russia does not care.”

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