UNITED NATIONS, United States: The United Nations Security Council has agreed to prolong a critical mechanism for cross-border supplies to war-torn Syria for six months, as requested by Russia, diplomats told AFP on Monday.
Western nations had requested a one-year extension, but a vote by the 15 members on half of that is expected later today or Tuesday.
“Russia coerced everyone’s hand. Either close the mechanism or limit it to six months. On the condition of anonymity, one diplomat told AFP: “We cannot let people die.”
The aid delivery mechanism through Turkey’s border into rebel-held Syria via the Bab Al-Hawa crossing is the only option for the UN to reach civilians without passing through areas controlled by Syrian government forces.
The system, which had been in existence since 2014, had expired on Sunday.
The accord resolves a deadlock that had threatened to delay life-saving supplies for more than 2.4 million people in Syria’s northern Idlib region, which is controlled by jihadists and rebels.
Syria’s ally Russia vetoed a Security Council resolution that would have extended the mechanism’s permission by a year on Friday, and Western nations then voted down Moscow’s rival proposal, which suggested extending approval by only six months.
The earlier draft by Ireland and Norway proposed that the mechanism may be suspended in January of next year if the Security Council so determined.
The new Irish-Norwegian wording calls for a six-month extension in January 2023, subject to the passage of a new resolution.
It also mandates a two-month update on the system’s implementation and a specific report on humanitarian needs in the region to the UN secretary-general by December 10.
Dmitry Polyanski, Russia’s deputy UN ambassador, claimed the resolution would be adopted with “minimum changes.”
An envoy from a powerful Security Council member stated that his country would support the resolution.
Resolutions must be supported by at least nine of the 15 members, with no permanent members possessing veto power.
In recent years, Moscow has limited a number of Western-backed measures, using its veto 17 times in relation to Syria since the conflict began in 2011.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, more than 4,600 relief trucks, largely carrying food, have passed Bab Al-Hawa this year, assisting around 2.4 million people.
In the past, the mechanism was only extended for six months, which aid workers say made planning delivery difficult.
Dozens of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and top UN officials have urged Security Council members for the year-long cross-border humanitarian clearance.