CNN — The United States, France and the United Kingdom have condemned Russia’s move to block the proposed extension of a United Nations’ cross-border operation that delivers aid to millions of people in Syria from Turkey.
The decision means that UN agencies and humanitarian partners are not authorized to continue using the Bab al-Hawa crossing on the Syria-Turkey border to provide humanitarian aid to people in the rebel-held area in northwest Syria.
After the vote on Tuesday, State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said the US was “deeply disappointed by Russia’s inhumane veto of cross border humanitarian assistance for Syria.”
“We have repeatedly said that the United Nations Security Council should authorize a 12-month extension of cross-border access into Syria in order to secure this vital lifeline for the Syrian people,” Miller added.
Russia had submitted a draft which provided for a six-month extension but it was voted down by France, the UK and the US. China and Russia backed the proposal, while 10 members abstained, according to the UN.
France said the six-month renewal would have “plunged Syria into uncertainty in winter,” a view echoed by other UN members, which expressed their concern over the harsh winter in northern Syria.
However, Russia’s envoy to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, warned that if a six-month extension was not supported, “then we can just go ahead and close down the cross-border mechanism.”
A compromise of a nine-month renewal was voted down.
More than 4 million people rely on aid
Russia and Syria have argued the humanitarian operation violates Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, saying food and other aid should be delivered from inside the country.
The Syrian regime praised Russia’s decision, saying it vetoed “a Western UNSC draft resolution violating Syria’s sovereignty under the pretext of delivering cross-border aid,” Syrian state-run SANA news said on Tuesday.
“Syria’s permanent representative to the UN, Ambassador Bassam Sabbagh, said that western states are still politicizing the humanitarian act and going far beyond in exploiting its mechanism as a tool of pressure and political blackmail against Syria,” SANA reported.
According to the UN Secretary-General’s reports from June 9 and 22 on humanitarian needs in Syria, cross-border aid “remains an essential part of the operation of the UN and its partners, reaching 4.1 million people, 80 percent of whom are women and children.”
Both reports said a 12-month renewal of the cross-border aid mechanism was “critical.”
The crossing was a crucial point for aid delivery to people in Syria after devastating earthquakes in February toppled buildings and killed tens of thousands of people.
In a statement published Tuesday, three Syrian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) representing over 100 non-profit groups working in Syria said failure to extend the operation was “ultimately putting millions of lives at risk.”
“Rapidly deteriorating living conditions coupled with two massive earthquakes this year have left over 4.4 million people depending on humanitarian assistance” in Syria’s northwest, the statement said.
It added that the “Security Council failed to stand up for Syrian children and families in the northwest and have put their futures in jeopardy.”
Syria’s civil war began in 2011 as a peaceful uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The ensuing civil war has killed an estimated 400,000 Syrians, according to the UN, and has displaced millions more inside and outside the country.
Source: Cable News Network