Aid to Syria threatened as UN fails to approve rival resolutions

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - The UN Security Council failed to approve rival resolutions that would continue cross-border aid deliveries from Turkey and Iraq to more than 1 million Syrians every month in mainly rebel-held areas, leaving future deliveries in question.

The resolution drafted by Belgium, Kuwait and Germany would have allowed cross-border humanitarian deliveries for a further 12 months from two points in Turkey and one in Iraq. But Syrian ally Russia only wanted to approve the two Turkish crossings for six months and had proposed its own draft text.

Russia and China vetoed the text drafted by Belgium, Kuwait and Germany. The remaining 13 members of the Security Council voted in favour. A resolution needs a minimum nine votes in favour and no vetoes by Russia, China, the United States, Britain or France to pass.

US Ambassador Kelly Craft told the council after Russia and China's vetoes that she was in a state of shock as the consequences "will be disastrous."

She described Russia and China's opposition as "reckless, irresponsible and cruel".

The Russian ambassador to the UN Vasilly Nebenzia, left, speaks with US ambassador Nikki Haley and Chinese ambassador Liu Jieyi after a UN Security Council meeting. AFP

The council then voted on the rival Russian draft resolution that would have approved the two Turkish crossing points for six months, but it failed with only five votes in favour, six against and four abstentions.

"Who won today? Nobody. Who lost? The Syrian people," Russia's UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told the council. He had argued that the humanitarian situation in Syria has improved dramatically and that the council had to recognise that change.

"Do not attempt to shift blame for this on us," he said.

Deputy UN aid chief Ursula Mueller had warned the council on Thursday that without the cross-border operations "we would see an immediate end of aid supporting millions of civilians".

"That would cause a rapid increase in hunger and disease, resulting in death, suffering and further displacement - including across-borders - for a vulnerable population who have already suffered unspeakable tragedy as a result of almost nine years of conflict," Ms Mueller said.

Since 2014 the United Nations and aid groups have crossed into Syria from Turkey, Iraq and Jordan at four places annually authorised by the Security Council.

In a bid to compromise with Russia, the Jordanian crossing point was dropped by Belgium, Kuwait and Germany from their draft.

The current authorisation for the four border crossings in Turkey, Iraq and Jordan ends on January 10, so the Security Council could still attempt to reach an agreement, though some diplomats acknowledged this could now be difficult.

Russia has vetoed 14 council resolutions on Syria since a crackdown by Syrian President Bashar Al Assad on pro-democracy protesters in 2011 led to civil war.

ISIS militants then used the chaos to seize territory in Syria and Iraq.

Indonesia's UN Ambassador Dian Triansyah Djani told the council on Thursday: "The world is watching. The international community is watching. But we are not here to just watch ... we are here to help and take action ... It is not about us. It is all about saving Syrian people on the ground."

Updated: December 20, 2019 11:10 PM

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