Russia has vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that would have extended cross-border aid to Syria by one year without Damascus’s backing.
The authorisation for aid deliveries across the Syria-Turkey border at Bab al-Hawa, which has been in effect since 2014, is set to expire on Sunday.
The aid is a lifeline for more than 2.4 million people in the northwestern Idlib region of Syria, under the control of rebels.
Thirteen of the 15 council members voted in favour of the text.
China, which often votes the same way as Russia, chose to abstain, while Russia’s preferred option of a six-month extension with the option of another six months is opposed by other states.
The opposing members believe Russia’s proposal creates significant organisational challenges for NGOs on the front line. The vote had been set for Thursday but was scrapped following disagreement between Russia and the West.
Sunday’s deadline still leaves time for members of the Security Council to find common ground, observers note.
Louis Charbonneau, United Nations director at Human Rights Watch, said it’s unclear how life-saving aid would be delivered to Syrians if the mandate is not renewed. “There is no plan B that is anywhere near as good as plan A,” Charbonneau said.
“Millions of people depend on the aid that is coming through Bab al-Hawa. It’s a huge operation, and it’s very well run. It’s completely transparent; everything that the Russians were complaining about is completely lopsided.”
The vetoed text, proposed by Norway and Ireland, would have provided for a six-month extension until mid-January 2023, and then an additional six-month extension “unless the Council decides otherwise”.
The extension would also be conditional on a “substantive report” by the secretary-general, including on the operation’s transparency, progress on channelling aid across the front line, and progress on meeting humanitarian needs.
US envoy Linda Thomas-Greenfield termed it “a dark, dark day” for the Security Council.
“It is unfathomable that one security council member, Russia, put their own political interests above the humanitarian needs of the Syrian people,” she said.