Moscow push to reduce UN cross-border aid to Syria fails

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) – A Russian bid to get the United Nations (UN) to reduce cross-border humanitarian aid to war-torn Syria was voted down by the Security Council, an official said.

Authorisation for the aid, which comes through two crossing points on the Turkish border – at Bab al-Salam, which leads to the Aleppo region, and Bab al-Hawa, which serves the Idlib region – expires today.

Under its resolution, Moscow had wanted to abolish the first crossing point and put a time limit of six months on the second.

Russia needed nine votes and no veto from a permanent member of the Council to get its resolution passed – but received only four votes, announced the President of the Security Council, German Ambassador Christoph Heusgen.

Seven countries voted against it and four abstained.

“The draft resolution has not been adopted, having failed to obtain the required number of votes,” Heusgen said. Diplomats said that Russia, along with China, Vietnam and South Africa, had voted for the resolution.

Against were the United States (US), the United Kingdom (UK), France, Germany, Belgium, Estonia and the Dominican Republic.

Tunisia, Niger, Indonesia and Saint Vincent abstained, the diplomats said.

The vote came after Russia and China on Tuesday vetoed a draft resolution by Germany and Belgium providing for a one-year extension of the cross-border authorisation and the maintenance of both crossing points.

In an interview with AFP on Wednesday, Washington’s ambassador to the UN, Kelly Craft, said the US opposed any reduction.

“We know the right thing to do is to have both border crossings in the northwest remain open to reach the maximum amount of Syrians that are in need of humanitarian aid,” Craft told AFP.

When asked if the issue was a “red line,” she replied, “Yes, absolutely.” Russia’s move “is just another attempt for them to politicise humanitarian assistance,” she said.

According to Craft, keeping only one border crossing open would cut off 1.3 million people living north of Aleppo from humanitarian aid.

The choice to be made between the Western position and that of Russia and China is “between good and evil, right and wrong,” said Craft, noting that Germany and Belgium “already have a new draft in mind and we are very supportive.”

The two European countries submitted their new draft on Wednesday evening. In their latest draft text, obtained by AFP, Germany and Belgium asked for just a six-month extension of cross-border aid authorisation, instead of one year.