Reacting to the Russian and Chinese veto of a UN Security Council draft Resolution that would have renewed the provision of cross-border humanitarian aid to civilians in Syria, Sherine Tadros, Amnesty International’s Head of UN Office, said:
“It’s impossible to overstate the importance of ensuring the crossing points, delivering vital aid, stay open. For millions of Syrians, it is the difference between having food to eat and starving. For hospitals, it is about having enough supplies to save lives. That’s why Russia and China’s abuse of the veto power is despicable and dangerous.”
There have been months of negotiations between Security Council members over which crossing points into Syria should remain open for the delivery of humanitarian aid and other key services, including health and education. The UN cross-border delivery mechanism, set up in 2014 and renewed ever since, is due to expire in just three days, on 10 July. If that happens it will severely impact the ability to deliver aid to millions of Syrians in time.
“What is also regrettable is the fact that the crossing point of Al-Yarubiya in north-east Syria seems to have been sacrificed along the way in the search for a compromise with Russia and China. The members of the Security Council must hold firm. There are over one million Syrian civilians in those areas that rely on that crossing point for the delivery of aid. With rising cases of COVID-19 in Syria, this aid is more vital than ever. Will the Security Council act to help them, or will they be abandoned?”
The UN cross-border aid delivery mechanism was established by resolution 2165 (2014). The most recent mandate renewal expires on 10 July 2020. That renewal, adopted on 10 January, re-authorized two border crossings (Bab al-Salam and Bab al-Hawa on the Syria/Turkey border) for six months but did not re-authorize the al-Ramtha (Syria/Jordan border) and the Al Yarubiyah (Syria/Iraq border) crossings. The draft was adopted as resolution 2504 by a vote of 11 in favour, none against, and four abstentions (China, Russia, the UK, and the USA).
In May, Amnesty International published a report detailing 18 cases – the majority in January and February 2020 – where Syrian and/or Russian government forces targeted medical facilities and schools in Idlib, western Aleppo and north-western Hama governorates in north-west Syria.
As a result, before the 5 March ceasefire almost 1 million people in Idlib – many of whom had been displaced repeatedly – were forced to flee again and languished in dire conditions in recent months. Amnesty International has campaigned since then for the resolution to be adopted to continue the lifeline of humanitarian assistance reaching them and others in the area who are dependent on aid.