Russia, China Veto Syria Aid Resolution as UN Deadline Arrives

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Russia and China blocked an effort to extend deliveries of humanitarian aid to Syria for the second time this week, just as the deadline for renewing a United Nations authorization was set to expire on Friday.

With their veto power on the UN Security Council, Russia and China won out over 13 council members who voted in favor of the resolution drafted by Germany and Belgium. Their proposal would have kept two aid crossings from Turkey open for an additional six months.

“There are millions of people in dire need of cross-border assistance in Syria,” diplomats from Germany and Belgium said in a statement after the vote. “Russia and China chose to veto this purely humanitarian approach” needed to address the urgency of continued aid deliveries, they added.

The UN has been delivering aid to war-ravaged Syria from across the border for the past six years, but its authorization must be regularly renewed by the UN Security Council.

Russia has been working since late last year to gradually bring the UN operation delivering goods from neighboring countries to an end, arguing that aid should flow through Damascus and President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

Pushing back on Western efforts, China and Russia have also sought to insert language critical of sanctions in their own resolutions on Syria, arguing the U.S. and its allies are to blame for Syria’s collapsing economy.

“Humanitarian situation in Syria is dire largely because of the US unilateral sanctions,” the Chinese mission to the UN tweeted on Friday. “The so-called humanitarian exemption brings no difference. It is more urgent than ever for the US to lift its ruthless sanctions against the Syrian people.”

Council members were still planning to hold another round of talks on Syria on Friday afternoon, diplomats said. Compromise was still possible, they said, with the likely solution being a decision to keep one cross-border operation from Turkey open for 12 months while the second one is given a three-month extension before it’s phased out, diplomats said.

In January, Moscow scored an initial victory: Under the threat of a Russian veto that would have ended all aid, the Security Council agreed to cut the number of crossings to two from four, while reducing their mandate to six months from a year.

Last month, Germany and Belgium proposed extending the two remaining aid crossing authorizations for a year while reopening one of the closed crossings, from Iraq, for six months to help Syria cope with the spread of Covid-19. They have since backed down from their demand due to opposition from Russia and China.

The stalemate prompted criticism earlier in the day from U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo.

“In Syria, the actions of the Assad regime, Russia, and China to constrict the flow of lifesaving supplies, medicine, and food have exacerbated an already dire situation,” Pompeo said in a tweet before the vote results.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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