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Syria, allies rebuke UN call for extension of cross-border corridors

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Trucks carrying aid packages from the World Food Program (WFP) drive through the town of Saraqib in the northwestern Idlib province on June 12, 2022. (File photo by AFP)

The Damascus government and its allies have criticized a UN call for the extension of the cross-border aid mechanism in Syria, saying it hampers the government’s efforts to restore stability in the war-torn country.

During the UN Security Council’s monthly meeting on Syria on Monday, the Arab country’s permanent representative to the UN, Bassam Sabbagh, was backed by envoys from Russia, China, and Iran in calling for respect his country’s sovereignty.

“The [Syrian] government is enhancing its efforts to restore security and stability and overcome the repercussions of the crisis through reconciliation and work to repair the infrastructure,” Sabbagh said, according to an official transcript of the meeting.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday called for the Security Council to extend its authorization of cross-border aid into northwest Syria by a year.

President Bashar al-Assad’s government has repeatedly denounced the cross-border mechanism as a violation of Syria’s sovereignty and a tool to advance Western agendas in the country. Moscow and Beijing have generally agreed. They argue that aid to opposition-held territories should instead be routed “cross-line” from Damascus.

The UN resolution allowing aid deliveries across the Syrian-Turkish border at Bab al-Hawa has been in effect since 2014.

Last July, UN Security Council adopted resolution 2585 to extend the authorization of the cross-border aid mechanism. The resolution allowed the aid into Syria from the Bab al-Hawa border to run for six months until January 10, 2022, and then for an extension of an additional six months until July 10, 2022.

At the time of the adoption of the resolution, Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal al-Mekdad said that adopting resolution 2585 in its written form was an achievement because it included all aspects which Western countries had refused to consider.

The top diplomat underlined that the new resolution has put many restrictions on the movement of goods. He said Western states disrespect international borders and use the crossings to violate Syria’s territorial integrity.

Concerns have also grown over the West’s efforts, made under the guise of humanitarian assistance to support Takfiri terrorist groups that have been suffering heavy defeats against Syrian government forces.

Addressing the UN Security Council meeting, Sabbagh reiterated that Western countries have refused to abide by resolution 2585 in different ways and reneged on their promises to increase the delivery of humanitarian aid from within the country.

“Western countries have, both directly and indirectly, refused to implement resolution 2585, reneging on commitments to enhance the delivery of humanitarian aid from within Syria,” he said.

“They continue to focus on the cross-border mechanism — evident in the disparity between the number of cross-border and cross-line convoys — and propagate misinformation while fighting the implementation of the resolution on the ground,” he said.

Since the adoption of resolution 2585, only five cross-line convoys have been deployed to provide aid to the war-ravaged areas. This is while Last June, the UN reported that over 1,000 aid trucks were entering via Bab al-Hawa every month.

The Syrian envoy stressed that the Turkish regime and its terrorist agents are the only beneficiaries of the cross-border mechanism, adding that “the so-called donor community has unnecessarily linked early recovery and resilience to politicized conditions.”

“The Turkish regime’s threat to establish a so-called safe zone in northern Syria demonstrates its subversive policies to destabilize Syria by supporting terrorism, displacing people, and effecting demographic change,” he said.

“Terrorism against Syria persists, especially through the Turkish regime’s threatened aggression and Israel’s direct aggression.”

Sabbagh said Israel’s June 10 attack on the Damascus International Airport forced the shutdown of the facility resulting in political, humanitarian, military, and economic repercussions for the Syrians.

Despite the fact that all United Nations deliveries of humanitarian workers and life-saving supplies through that airport were forced to a halt following the attack, he said, “certain Western delegations continue to obfuscate and prevent the Council from condemning this violation of international law.”

Iran, Russia, China back Syria’s sovereignty in delivering aid

Russia’s deputy ambassador, Dmitry Polyanskiy, for his part, said that Moscow is “convinced” that humanitarian aid can reach “all regions of Syria” via Damascus.

Recalling that only five cross-line convoys have occurred in the past year, he asked whether this was the Council’s intention when it adopted resolution 2585 (2021).

He too pointed to Israeli air strikes on Damascus airport, which forced a humanitarian route — on which the lives of more than 2 million people depend — to close, saying the lack of reaction by “those parties who are so thrilled about humanitarian deliveries to Syria” is astonishing.

He also regretted that the Secretary-General’s report does not pin responsibility on the United States for its unilateral sanctions and ongoing occupation of northeast Syria.

Similarly, Zhang Jun, who serves as the Permanent Representative of China to the UN, said that while resolution 2585 has played a role in helping Syria, it has not been fully and effectively implemented.

He, too, underscored the importance of respecting the sovereignty of Syria and its government’s ownership of cross-line delivery, describing it as the “primary avenue of assistance.”

He called for the immediate lifting of unilateral sanctions on Syria, which have cost the country tens of billions of dollars.

Moreover, Majid Takht-Ravanchi, Iran’s ambassador to the UN, said that “the 11-year conflict, as well as occupation and terrorism, have created enormous hardships for the Syrian people and have been aggravated by the unilateral sanctions that have prevented the implementation of resolution 2585.”

Takht-Ravanchi also underlined the significance of respecting “Syria’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and national unity” in delivering humanitarian aid.

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