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UN urges extension of cross-border Syria aid mechanism

SARMADA, SYRIA (AFP) – A United Nation’s (UN) official visiting Syria’s Idlib on Tuesday urged a 12-month extension of a cross-border aid mechanism to the rebel-held, quake-hit region, just days before the current six-month period expires.

“There is no substitute in size and scope to the UN cross-border resolution if we want to meet the needs of the most vulnerable people in northwest Syria,” said David Carden, the UN Deputy Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria crisis.

“It’s a joint message that you’re hearing from the UN, the non-governmental organisations and the communities themselves in northwest Syria about the need for a 12-month renewal of the cross-border resolution,” he told a press conference at a World Food Programme (WFP) warehouse in Sarmada.

The mechanism, which is renewed by a vote of the Security Council, allows vital UN assistance to reach people in rebel-held northwest Syria without navigating areas controlled by government forces.

It was last renewed in January and is set to expire on July 10.

Carden said a 12-month extension of the resolution would “ensure that aid will continue to flow during the desperate winter months. It will ensure that early recovery programmes can be implemented”.

The UN largely delivers the relief via neighbouring Turkiye through the Bab al-Hawa crossing, which is controlled on the Syrian group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS).

After a February 6 earthquake devastated parts of Turkiye and Syria, Damascus agreed to open two more crossings from Turkiye – Bab al-Salama and Al-Rai – for three months, and in May extended that access for another three-month period.

“There are 4.1 million people in need in northwest Syria,” Carden said, adding that “the needs are immense. They’ve got more severe since the earthquake”.

“The UN and its partners have been reaching 2.7 million people with aid every month,” he added, noting that “about 75 to 80 per cent of the trucks that cross the border through Bab al-Hawa into Idlib contain food”.

Trucks loaded with United Nations humanitarian aid for Syria parked at Bab al-Hawa border crossing with Turkiye, in Syria’s Idlib province. PHOTO: AP