Russia’s envoy to the United Nations has strongly dismissed efforts by the US to transfer "humanitarian aid" to Syria by keeping the existing border crossing open and reopening another one from Iraq to the war-torn Arab country.
Speaking at a press conference, Vasily Nebenzya made the remarks in New York, stressing that what the US side says “about reopening the closed cross-border points is really a non-starter,” Syria's official news agency SANA reported on Thursday.
The Russian envoy said the US push would constitute a full violation of the principle of providing humanitarian aid and the rules of international law.
Back in 2014, the UN Security Council (UNSC) for the first time authorized cross-border aid operations into Syria at four points, namely Bab al-Hawa between Turkey and Syria’s north-west, Bab al-Salam between Turkey and northern Syria, al-Ramtha near the Jordanian border, and al-Yaroubia on the northeast frontier with Iraq.
Last July, the Security Council restricted access to only Bab al-Hawa following opposition from China and Russia, Syria’s important ally in curbing the foreign-backed militancy since 2015.
Nebenzya on Wednesday was commenting on a draft resolution circulated to the council last Friday that would keep Bab al-Hawa open and reopen the al-Yaroubia crossing from Iraq in the mainly Kurdish-controlled northeast.
The mandate for the Bab al-Hawa crossing will end on July 10.
The Russian envoy reiterated Moscow’s criticism of cross-border aid, stressing that humanitarian assistance should be delivered across conflict lines within the Arab country in a bid to reinforce the Syrian government’s sovereignty over the entire country.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has already said that Western donors are “blackmailing” Moscow by threatening to cut humanitarian financing for Syria if the mandate for Bab al-Hawa is not extended.
According to Russia’s top diplomat, continuous attempts have been made by the West since April 2020 to block a convoy by the UN, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and Syrian Arab Red Crescent to Idlib from Syria’s capital, Damascus.
Nebenzia said Damascus wants to close cross-border deliveries and rejected claims that there is no alternative.
There were predictions of “disaster” when al-Yaroubia was closed, “but today facts on the ground confirm, and the UN says that they have increased humanitarian assistance to the northeast ... through the cooperation with the Syrian government,” he said.
Nebenzia said cross-border aid was initially approved in 2014, some three years after the foreign-backed militancy broke out in Syria, “in special circumstances when there was no access to many parts of Syria.”
“But, of course, today it is now an outdated operation and eventually it will be closed,” he added.
Syria has adopted new mechanisms and initiatives to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance to those in need across the country. Furthermore, it has welcomed all previous efforts to help the Arab country reduce this humanitarian burden on its people.