A recent disagreement between UN security council members regarding a nine-month extension for a crucial aid route in Syria has now thrown the provision of life-saving support to millions of people into uncertainty.
The UN-brokered agreement, enabling aid delivery from Turkey into rebel-held areas, expired on Monday, and a vote to extend the authorization was postponed. Russia exercised its veto on Tuesday, rejecting a nine-month extension and proposing a six-month one instead. However, with the US, UK, and France voting against the Security Council dismissed Russia’s proposal.
The Security Council has long been divided on Syria, with most members, including the US and UK, supporting cross-border operations and advocating for a full-year extension. Despite this, Russia has insisted on just six months. Russia’s Ambassador to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, warned that if their proposal was not supported, they would shut down the cross-border mechanism altogether. China abstained from the vote on the nine-month renewal, while the remaining council members voted in favor.
The Security Council had been negotiating to allow the UN operation, which provides essential aid to opposition-controlled northwest Syria without Syrian government authorization, to continue using the Bab al-Hawa crossing for 12 months. However, Russia proposed a rival text suggesting a six-month extension. Due to the short renewal periods, Syrians in opposition areas fear being cut off from life-saving aid. The veto by Russia was heavily criticized, with the US Ambassador calling it an “act of utter cruelty.”
The International Rescue Committee condemned Russia’s veto, emphasizing the absence of a viable alternative to the critical aid resolution. The organization urged the Security Council to urgently reauthorize access through Bab al-Hawa for another 12 months, considering the years of failure in meeting the needs of the Syrian people.
The Bab al-Hawa crossing is vital, supplying over 80 percent of the needs of people in rebel-controlled areas. The government in Damascus views the aid deliveries as a violation of its sovereignty.