The U.N. chief has warned in a new statement that the already dire humanitarian situation in Syria is worsening and if aid deliveries from Turkey to the rebel-controlled northwest aren’t renewed next month millions of Syrians may not survive the winter.
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in the report to the U.N. Security Council made public to the press on Monday that cross-border aid to the northwest remains “an indispensable part” of humanitarian operations to reach all people in need.
Deliveries across conflict lines within the country, which Syria’s close ally Russia has pressed for, have increased but Guterres said they cannot substitute for “the size or scope of the massive cross-border United Nations operation.”
Russia has also pushed for early recovery projects in Syria and Guterres said at least 374 have taken place throughout the country since January, directly benefitting over 665,000 people, adding “further expansion” is needed.
The council asked for a report from the secretary-general on Syria’s humanitarian needs in the July resolution that extended the delivery of food, medicine and other desperately need aid through the Bab al-Hawa crossing from Turkey to northwest Idlib for six months until Jan. 10. Russia has sought to reduce cross-border aid, with the aim of eliminating it.
In July 2020, China and Russia vetoed a U.N. resolution that would have maintained two border crossing points from Turkey for humanitarian aid to northwest Idlib. Days later, the delivery of aid was reduced to just the Bab al-Hawa crossing for a year as they demanded.
In July 2021, Russia pressed for a further reduction, finally agreeing to a six-month extension with another six-months contingent on a report from the secretary-general on progress in cross-line deliveries. But in July this year, Russia insisted on U.N. authorization for just six months.
Strongly appealing for Bab al-Hawa to remain open for U.N. assistance, Guterres warned that “a halt to cross-border deliveries in the midst of winter months would risk leaving millions of Syrians without the aid needed to endure harsh weather conditions.”