Syria cross-border aid to end Friday if U.N. Security Council fails to break deadlock

by Reuters
Thursday, 9 January 2020 23:20 GMT

A boy holds a cardboard box of food aid received from World Food Programme in Aleppo's Kalasa district, Syria April 10, 2019. Picture taken April 10, 2019. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki

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More than 3 million Syrian civilians are completely dependant on cross-border aid, the United Nations has said

By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 9 (Reuters) - A six-year-long United Nations operation delivering aid across the Syrian border to millions of civilians will expire at midnight on Friday if a deadlocked U.N. Security Council cannot reach a last-minute deal to extend its authorization.

Since 2014, the United Nations and aid groups have crossed into Syria from Turkey, Iraq and Jordan at four places annually authorized by the council. Its approval is needed because the Syrian government did not consent to cross-border deliveries.

After failing last month to extend the cross-border authorization when Russia vetoed one draft resolution and failed to gain enough support for its own rival text, the 15-member council is set to again vote on two proposals on Friday, diplomats said.

"To put it very simply, there is no alternative to reaching the people we need to reach in the northwest and northeast (of Syria) without the cross-border" operation, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters on Thursday.

More than 3 million Syrian civilians are completely dependant on cross-border aid, the United Nations said.

In a compromise bid to win Russian support, Western powers have proposed authorizing three crossing points - two from Turkey and one from Iraq - for six months, instead of one year. The council is set to vote on that draft resolution on Friday, diplomats said.

However, Russia has been adamant that it only wants to approve the two crossing points from Turkey for six months and has put forward its proposal again for a vote on Friday, diplomats said.

Moscow also rejected a Western request to renew the current cross-border aid operation for another two weeks to allow for further negotiations among council members, diplomats said.

To pass, a resolution needs a minimum of nine votes in favor and no vetoes by permanent council members Russia, China, the United States, Britain or France.

Russia and China vetoed a resolution last month that would have allowed deliveries for a further 12 months from two points in Turkey and one in Iraq. It was Russia's 14th veto on action related to Syria since the country's conflict started in 2011.

The remaining 13 council members voted in favor.

The council also voted last month on the rival Russian draft resolution that would have approved the two Turkish crossing points for six months, but it failed with only five votes in favor, six against and four abstentions.

Five council members were replaced on Jan. 1, and some diplomats said Russia could now have more support. (Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Bill Berkrot)

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