The situation in the Middle East - Security Council, 8803rd meeting
Ahead of the 10 July expiration of resolution 2533 (2020) authorizing humanitarian aid deliveries from Turkey into Syria, the Security Council today debated whether such operations should continue, including options for closing the only remaining crossing and for reopening previous border checkpoints.
“Now is not the time” to scale back such operations, said Sherine Ibrahim, Country Director of CARE International in Turkey, as she briefed on the non-governmental group’s work, recalling that earlier this week, CARE and 27 other humanitarian organizations addressed an open letter seeking the Council to scale up humanitarian access into Syria.
The level of the crisis demands the reauthorization of cross-border assistance via two crossings on the Turkish-Syrian border, namely Bab al Hawa and Bab al Salam, for a minimum of 12 months, she said. It also requires reinstating the Al Yarubiyah crossing on the Syrian-Iraqi border in the north-east for a similar period.
The scale and scope of the United Nations cross-border operation cannot be replicated by non-governmental organizations, she continued, stating: “Despite our presence and expertise, we cannot implement the scale of procurement, transportation, warehousing, coordination and funding required to keep this critical humanitarian operation afloat.”
Also briefing, Ramesh Rajasingham, Acting Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said that the Council’s authorization for cross-border operations expires in 17 days. A failure to extend the authorization will have “stark consequences” for the 3.4 million people in need across the country’s north-west, he said, asserting: “With 90 per cent of people in need requiring assistance for their survival, they would face a truly catastrophic situation.”
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said that cross-line convoys inside Syria could never replace cross-border operations, imploring the Council to reach consensus on extending cross-border operations for another year.
Rejecting these calls, Syria’s delegate said the highly politicized cross-border aid delivery mechanism was only meant to be temporary and exceptional in nature, and its implementation only proved that it facilitates violations of Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and serves the interests of the Turkish occupation and the terrorist groups loyal to it, including Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham. Indeed, most humanitarian aid ends up in the hands of the terrorists that control the Bab al Hawa crossing, he warned.
Turkey’s delegate urged the Council to recall the conditions leading to the authorization of cross-border aid mechanisms in 2014; namely, that the Assad regime was killing Syrians and targeting critical civilian infrastructure. The destructive war that regime has waged against its own people has only grown increasingly brutal, and the only hope for millions of people in the country’s north-west region is the cross-border delivery of United Nations aid, without which humanitarian operations in Syria will be less transparent, accountable and effective.
Council members also expressed divergent views on aid deliveries through border crossings.
The representative of the United States, recalling that there had been four aid crossings, whereas now there is just one, said the last closures constricted aid precisely when COVID-19 exacerbated needs. Warning that anything less than a 12-month renewal would upend non-governmental operations, she called for strengthening and expanding this operation, and renewing the mandate with all modalities of assistance. Cross-line aid can be part of the equation, but it is “completely insufficient” to meet the needs, she said, urging the Council to reauthorize Bab al Hawa, as well as Bab al Salam and Al Yarubiyah, through a technical 12-month rollover for these three crossings.
The representative of the Russian Federation described the idea that cross-line routes are inadequate as “laughable”. To compensate for the closing of Al Yarubiyah, assistance to the north-east was increased, a point recognized by United Nations workers themselves. Many are silent on the fact that United Nations channels are being used for dubious schemes by terrorists holed up in Idlib, he said, assuring that the cross-line system is the only legitimate way to deliver assistance.
Ireland’s delegate said that in the coming days, her country and Norway, as the co-leads for the Council’s work on Syria’s humanitarian file, will be circulating a draft resolution aimed at renewing and expanding the humanitarian aid delivery mechanism in response to the pressing humanitarian needs.
Also speaking were the representatives of Tunisia, Kenya, France, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, India, Viet Nam, Niger, China, United Kingdom, Mexico, Estonia and Iran.
The meeting began at 3:03 p.m. and ended at 5:41 p.m.