Syria announced on Thursday that it would give state approval to the United Nations to deliver humanitarian aid into rebel-held northern areas through a disputed border crossing with Turkey, effectively handing President Bashar al-Assad’s government control over all aid deliveries to the country’s northern areas. .
Until two days ago, the UN and other international aid agencies had access to the Bab al-Hawa border crossing based on a 2014 Security Council mandate. The government of Syria complied with the resolution and was not involved in the aid deliveries, but attempts by the Council this week to extend the authorization failed.
In a letter sent to the United Nations and the Security Council, Syria said it would allow the United Nations access to the crossing for six months “in full cooperation and coordination” with the Syrian government.
It is unclear whether UN convoys will now require permits from the Syrian government to cross Bab al-Hawa, whether they will face inspections, and whether they will be able to continue working with local partners. Aid agencies said their convoys traveling inside the country between government-held territory and rebel-held areas face obstacles and slowed movement.
The United Nations said Thursday it was studying Syria’s letter and the possible effects on its aid delivery operations.
“The coordination and cooperation with the UN has always been and will be there,” Bassam al-Sabbagh, Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations, told reporters. He did not elaborate on his government’s demands, but said the UN must not work with “terrorists” in the north, an apparent reference to opposition groups that control the area.
Syria’s surprise move came two days after Russia, its ally, vetoed a Security Council resolution backed by the United States and its European allies to extend authorization for the UN to use the crossing for nine months. A rival resolution by Russia for a six-month extension failed to meet the quorum required to pass, and aid operations at the crossing stopped.
“Now President Assad has said he will open Bab Al-Hawa for six months. But without UN monitoring, control of this critical lifeline has been handed over to the man responsible for the suffering of the Syrian people,” said Barbara Woodward, ambassador of United Kingdom at the United Nations, which holds the monthly rotating presidency of the Council this month.statement.
With the help of distributors and local partners, the UN humanitarian agency moves 85 percent of its aid to northern Syria through the Bab al-Hawa crossing, for deliveries of food, medicine and other life-saving aid.
After the devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria in February, the Syrian government opened two other border crossings from Turkey for a period that ends in mid-August. But Bab al-Hawa remained the main lifeline, and more than 3,000 truckloads of goods have passed through it since the quake, the UN said, compared with about 622 who crossed from the other two crossings.
Andrew Tabler, former director of the National Security Council in Syria, called Syria’s decision “Moscow’s checkmate” for the United States and its allies, and another blow to the West’s policy in Syria.
Arab countries that are allies of the United States, such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, recently restored ties with Mr. al-Assad after a decade of avoiding him, and allowed Syria to re-enter the Arab League, to the consternation of Washington.
“The announcement basically gives Assad and Putin a stranglehold on Syrian civilians who have suffered from 12 years of war and displacement,” said Mr. Tabler, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Russia’s mission to the US did not comment on the new development, but its ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, told the Council on Tuesday that aid delivered through the UN would go to “terrorists” and that the previous cross-border mechanism was a “show”. ” that undermined the sovereignty of Syria.