Thu. Jan 20th, 2022

Bab al-Hawa crossing serves three million people in the Idlib region, enabling the passage of aid without going through government channels in Damascus.

Cross-border humanitarian aid to northwestern Syria has been de facto extended for six months without a new vote at the United Nations Security Council.

The 15-member body had previously issued a six-month authorization, providing assistance in rebel-held areas through the use of the Bab al-Hawa Crossing at the Turkey-Syria border until January 10, 2022.

Bab al-Hawa is the latest cross with a UN mandate that allows aid to be delivered directly to Syrian areas in need without going through the government channels in Damascus. More than 1,000 trucks carrying food, medicine and other humanitarian items pass through each month.

In his December report, UN chief Antonio Guterres stressed the impossibility of replacing the cross-border mechanism at this stage for one that had crossed the front lines of Damascus, which President Bashar al-Assad ally and permanent security adviser Russia advocates in recognition of the Syrian government’s sovereignty over the whole country.

Russia has previously raised the possibility of requesting a new Security Council vote on the issue, but has not taken that step.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric on Monday described the cross-border delivery of aid as “essential”.

“We need help that must be delivered through the border and through the border line. “These are essential elements for us to provide for the humanitarian needs of all Syrians,” he told a daily news release.

Asked by Al Jazeera about the lack of a new vote in the Security Council and Russia’s decision, he said: “We will welcome any decision that will allow us to continue with this vital cross-border assistance.”

Aid through the Bab al-Hawa crossing mainly serves the approximately three million people living in the Idlib region, who remain outside the government’s control. Humanitarian advocates have warned millions of people will face “catastrophic” consequences if the aid operation is closed.

In a rare display of unity, the Security Council unanimously a last minute compromise resolution on July 9, 2021, enabling the extension of the cross-border operation.

Resolution 2585 allows the UN to use the Bab al-Hawa crossing for the delivery of humanitarian aid to Syria for six months with an automatic extension of an additional six months.

Four humanitarian border crossings into war-torn Syria were erected by the Security Council in July 2014, but in subsequent renewals of that mandate, the number was reduced by Russia and China, which used their veto powers to strike three crossings.

Moscow has repeatedly accused the United States and Europe of politicizing humanitarian aid by supporting the continuation of cross-border aid without going through government channels in Damascus.

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