Russia, China veto UN extension of cross-border aid in Syria

Beyond Russia and China, the other 13 council members voted to approve the draft, the diplomats said. (File/AFP)
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Updated 08 July 2020

Russia, China veto UN extension of cross-border aid in Syria

  • Beyond Russia and China, the other 13 council members voted to approve the draft
  • Moscow had asked that the extension be limited to six months

United Nations, US: Russia and China on Tuesday vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that would have extended authorization for cross-border humanitarian aid in Syria for a year, though Moscow swiftly proposed a more limited extension.
Germany and Belgium, two of the council’s non-permanent members, had drafted the resolution, which would have allowed aid to continue to pass through two points on the Turkish border without interference from Damascus.
Beyond Russia and China, the other 13 council members voted to approve the draft, the diplomats said.
During negotiations, Moscow had asked that the extension be limited to six months, rather than a year, and that it only be allowed at one border crossing, not two, they said.
“The draft resolution has not been adopted,” Germany’s UN ambassador Christoph Heusgen, the acting president of the body in July, confirmed in a letter to Council members.
Immediately after the vote, Russia proposed its own draft resolution.
Obtained by AFP, it repeats the call for a six-month extension, underlines the improvement in the delivery of humanitarian aid under the control of the Syrian regime, and excludes one of the two entry points into Syria — Bab Al-Salam — from the mechanism.
The results of a vote on that resolution will be known on Wednesday.
Authorization for cross-border humanitarian aid has existed since 2014, with periodic extensions. The latest extension expires on Friday.
Tuesday’s vote was the 15th time that Russia has used its veto since the start of the Syrian war in 2011, and the ninth for China.
They argue that the UN authorization violates Syria’s sovereignty, and that aid can increasingly be channelled through Syrian authorities.
Western nations and the UN secretariat however insist that cross-border aid is the only credible option, and that relief supplies would face multiple obstacles if they had to pass through Damascus’ control.
The veto was an “extremely negative development,” one European diplomat said on condition of anonymity.
“They want to strangle the population even more,” the diplomat said, adding that aid “cannot reach the population from one” crossing point.
“Insisting on only one crossing point is cynical and it doesn’t meet the needs of the people,” the source said.
The Bab Al-Hawa crossing point allows for shipments of humanitarian aid to the three to four million people living in the opposition-held Idlib region.
The International Rescue Committee quickly condemned the veto.
“Blocking access to food, health care supplies, vaccines, and ventilators is unacceptable anytime but in the year of COVID-19, it is even more reprehensible,” said IRC president David Miliband in a statement.
After the vote, China explained that it too was in favor of maintaining the cross-border authorization.
Its veto is due to the refusal of Germany and Belgium to take into account its request for a statement condemning the unilateral US sanctions imposed on Syria, Chinese diplomats said.
In January, Moscow, Syria’s closest ally, succeeded in having the crossing points reduced from four to two and in limiting the authorization to six months instead of a year, as had been done previously.
In a report in late June, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for a one-year extension of the use of the two crossing points.
Guterres said that since 2014, 4,774 trucks have used the Bab Al-Salam crossing and 28,574 have used Bab Al-Hawa.
According to a report published by the UN in Geneva on Tuesday, the humanitarian situation in Idlib province is disastrous.
“Syria’s economy is devastated,” said Hanny Megally, one of the authors of the report.
“The country has been in a nine-year conflict. People are suffering.”


Archaeologists unearth 27 coffins buried 2,500 years ago in Egyptian tomb

Updated 22 September 2020

Archaeologists unearth 27 coffins buried 2,500 years ago in Egyptian tomb

  • Egyptian antiquities officials believe the discovery to be the largest of its kind in the region

CAIRO: Archaeologists in Egypt have discovered 27 coffins that were buried more than 2,500 years ago in a pharaonic cemetery.

The sarcophagi were found at the Saqqara site in the governorate of Giza, south of the Egyptian capital, Cairo.

Egyptian antiquities officials believe the discovery to be the largest of its kind in the region. Saqqara was an active burial ground for more than 3,000 years and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Initial studies indicate that the coffins and shrouds inside have remained tightly sealed since burial, according to the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities.

The discovery was part of an Egyptian dig in the Saqqara area which unearthed an 11-meter-deep well containing colorfully painted wooden coffins stacked on top of each other along with other smaller artefacts.

Khaled Al-Anani, the Egyptian minister of antiquities, postponed announcing the discovery until he could visit the site himself, where he thanked teams for working in difficult conditions.

Ahmed Abdel Aziz, a professor of pharaonic archeology at a private university, said: “This new discovery is not the first in the Saqqara archaeological area. Archaeological discoveries have increased over the past years which draw attention to this region.

“This prompted many archaeological missions from many countries to work in this region, trying to probe the depths of this region and the treasures hidden inside it.”

Al-Anani said the increase in archaeological discoveries and the number of projects recently implemented by the Ministry of Antiquities were down to political will and exceptional support from the Egyptian government.

He pointed out the importance of resuming the work of 300 archaeological missions from 25 countries after a hiatus of a number of years, including some working in Egypt for the first time such as the joint Egyptian Chinese archaeological mission.

There were about 50 Egyptian missions working at sites in governorates throughout the country and Al-Anani praised their efforts in helping to unearth more evidence of ancient Egyptian civilization.

Mustafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Egyptian Antiquities, said that Saqqara was one of the most promising historical areas when it came to archaeological discoveries, adding that he planned to continue working in the area with his mission members to uncover more secrets and treasures of the past.

He noted that new finds during the current excavation season would have a positive impact on tourism in Egypt at locations such as Giza, Saqqara, Luxor, and Aswan.

Mohamed Abdel Hamid, vice president of the Egyptian Association for Tourism and Archaeological Development, said that the discovery was a testament to the architectural development of the area that could be seen in King Djoser’s collection. The pharaoh was found in a step pyramid which was the first tomb in Egypt to be built using stones.