Syrian gov’t says UN can deliver aid from Turkey for six months

Syria says UN aid deliveries would have to be ‘in full cooperation and coordination with the Syrian Government’.

The Syrian government has given the United Nations approval to use a border crossing from Turkey to continue delivering aid to opposition-held northwest Syria for another six months after the Security Council failed to renew its authorisation for the operation.

However, the UN aid deliveries would have to be “in full cooperation and coordination with the Syrian Government”, Syria’s UN Ambassador Bassam Sabbagh wrote in a letter on Thursday to the Security Council, seen by Reuters.

On Tuesday, Russia blocked a nine-month extension of a key Syria aid route at the UN Security Council, throwing the vital mechanism that provides life-saving support to millions of people into doubt. Moscow instead suggested a six-month extension.

That, however, was also rejected by the Security Council, with only Russia and China voting in favour, and the United States, the United Kingdom and France voting against.

The UN-brokered agreement that allows for the delivery of aid overland from Turkey into rebel-held areas of Syria expired on Monday.

The Security Council has long been divided over Syria. Most members support cross-border operations, including the US and UK, which have called for a full-year extension, while Russia has insisted on just six months.

The 15-member Security Council had been negotiating a text to allow the UN operation, which allows for food, water and medicine to be transported to opposition-controlled northwest Syria without the authorisation of the Syrian government, to continue using the Bab al-Hawa crossing for 12 months.

But Russia, which backs the government and has fought in the war in Syria, put forward a rival text proposing six months on Friday.

The cross-border authorisation has for years been renewed for six-month periods, but the short timespan leaves Syrians in opposition areas fearful that they are liable to be cut off from life-saving aid at short notice.

The crossing provides for more than 80 percent of the needs of people living in rebel-controlled areas – everything from diapers and blankets to chickpeas. The government in Damascus regularly denounces aid deliveries as a violation of its sovereignty.February’s massive earthquakes that hit southern Turkey and northern Syria exposed the fragility of the cross-border mechanism and increased scrutiny of the UN’s humanitarian mission in Syria.

Russia has been chipping away at the aid mechanism for years.

The accord originally allowed for four entry points into rebel-held Syria, though now only the Bab al-Hawa crossing remains passable.