In a victory for Assad, UNSC approves aid to Syria’s rebel area through only one crossing

IIn this file photo taken on January 25, 2020, orphans from various nationalities gather at the Kurdish-run al-Hol camp, home to thousands of relatives of Islamic State group fighters, in the al-Hasakeh governorate in northeastern Syria, before being transported to the settlement of Roj. (AFP)
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Updated 12 July 2020

In a victory for Assad, UNSC approves aid to Syria’s rebel area through only one crossing

  • Russia and China earlier vetoed two Security Council resolutions seeking to maintain the two crossings from Turkey
  • Russia had previously forced the Security Council to reduce the crossing points for aid deliveries from four to two

UNITED NATIONS: Russia scored a victory for its ally Syria on Saturday by forcing the Security Council to limit humanitarian aid deliveries to the country’s mainly rebel-held northwest to just one crossing point from Turkey, a move that Western nations say will cut a lifeline for 1.3 million people.
Russia argues that aid should be delivered from within the country across conflict lines, and says only one crossing point is needed.
UN officials and humanitarian groups argued unsuccessfully — along with the vast majority of the UN Security Council — that the two crossing points in operation until their mandate expired Friday were essential for getting help to millions of needy people in Syria’s northwest, especially with the first case of COVID-19 recently reported in the region.
The Security Council vote approving a single crossing from Turkey was 12-0, with Russia, China and the Dominican Republic abstaining.
The vote capped a week of high-stakes rivalry pitting Russia and China against the 13 other council members. An overwhelming majority voted twice to maintain the two crossings from Turkey, but Russia and China vetoed both resolutions — the 15th and 16th veto by Russia of a Syria resolution since the conflict began in 2011 and the ninth and 10th by China.
Germany and Belgium, which had sponsored the widely supported resolutions for two crossing points, finally had to back down to the threat of another Russian veto. The resolution they put forward Saturday authorized only a single crossing point from Turkey for a year.
In January, Russia also scored a victory for Syria, using its veto threat to force the Security Council to adopt a resolution reducing the number of crossing points for aid deliveries from four to two, from Turkey to the northwest. It also cut in half the yearlong mandate that had been in place since cross-border deliveries began in 2014 to six months.
Before adopting the resolution Saturday, the council rejected two amendments proposed by Russia, including one suggesting that US and European Union sanctions on Syria were impeding humanitarian aid. That contention was vehemently rejected by the Trump administration and the EU, which noted their sanctions include exemptions for humanitarian deliveries. It also rejected an amendment from China.
Russia’s deputy UN ambassador, Dmitry Polyansky, said after the vote that from the beginning Moscow had proposed one crossing — from Bab Al-Hawa to Idlib — and that Saturday’s resolution could have been adopted weeks ago. He said Russia abstained in the vote because negotiations over the resolution were marred by “clumsiness, disrespect.”
Polyansky accused Western nations on the council of “unprecedented heights” of hypocrisy, saying they were ready to jeopardize cross-border aid over the references to unilateral sanctions.
He said cross-border aid to Syria’s northwest doesn’t comply with international law because the UN has no presence in the region, which he described as being controlled “by international terrorists and fighters” that make it impossible to control and monitor who gets aid.
German Ambassador Christoph Heusgen retorted that while Russia talks about delivery of aid across conflict lines, “in practice it doesn’t” happen.
He said his side fought to maintain multiple crossing points for aid, including the Al-Yaroubiya crossing point from Iraq in the northeast that was closed in January, because that is what is needed for efficient delivery of aid to millions in need — and he asked Polyansky “this is clumsy?”
“This is what we tried to do over these past weeks, to get the optimum to the population,” Heusgen said.
US Ambassador Kelly Craft told the council: “Today’s outcome leaves us sickened and outraged at the loss of the Bab Al-Salaam and Al Yarubiyah border crossings.”
“Behind those locked gates are millions of women, children, and men who believed that the world had heard their pleas. Their health and welfare are now at great risk,” she said.
Still, Craft called the authorization of access through Bab Al-Hawa for 12 months “a victory” in light of Russia and China’s “willingness to use their veto to compel a dramatic reduction in humanitarian assistance.”
“This solemn victory must not end our struggle to address the mounting human needs in Syria — that fight is far from over,” Craft said.
Belgium and Germany said in a joint statement that 1.3 million people, including 800 000 displaced Syrians, live in the Aleppo area, including 500,000 children who received humanitarian aid through the Bab Al-Salam crossing — and now have that aid cut off.
“Today is yet another sad day. It is a sad day for this council, but mostly, it is a sad day for the Syrian people of that region.,” they said. “Both Yarubiyah and Bab Al-Salam were vital crossings to deliver, in the most efficient way possible, the humanitarian help, those people deserve.”


Lebanon finds four bodies after deadly sea crossing

Updated 23 min 17 sec ago

Lebanon finds four bodies after deadly sea crossing

  • UN peacekeepers retrieved one body and rescued 36 people from a boat in trouble in international waters off the Lebanese coast
  • Families of the survivors said the boat had been adrift without food or water for around a week
BEIRUT: Lebanon has retrieved the bodies of four people including a child after they tried to flee the crisis-hit country by sea on an overloaded dinghy, the civil defense said Monday.
A week ago, UN peacekeepers retrieved one body and rescued 36 people from a boat in trouble in international waters off the Lebanese coast.
Families of the survivors said the boat had been adrift without food or water for around a week, during which time several passengers had died or jumped overboard to find help.
The bodies are presumed to be from the same ill-fated crossing.
Since Friday, “we have retrieved four bodies — belonging to two Lebanese, one of whom was a child, a young Indian man and a Syrian man,” Samir Yazbek, the head of the civil defense’s sea rescue unit, told AFP.
The bodies were found in four separate locations off the north and south coasts of the country, and the search was ongoing, he added.
The UN refugee agency said last week that 25 Syrians, eight Lebanese and three people of other nationalities had been rescued from the boat.
It is unclear how many men, women and children originally clambered aboard the dinghy, and therefore how many are still missing.
On Saturday, the navy said it would step up its searches within and outside Lebanon’s territorial waters to find any other victims.
Relatives of those who went missing from the impoverished north Lebanese city of Tripoli say the people smuggler involved in the crossing has dropped off the radar since the tragedy.
They have filed three legal complaints against the man, who they say is a well-known figure in the community.
A military source on Saturday said a person acting as an intermediary between passengers and the boat owner had been arrested.
In recent weeks, dozens of Lebanese and Syrians have tried to make the perilous sea journey from Lebanon to the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, authorities on both sides say.
The Republic of Cyprus, a European Union member, lies just 160 kilometers (100 miles) away.
Lebanon is in the throes of its worst economic crisis in decades, compounded since February by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
It is also reeling from a monster blast at Beirut’s port last month that killed more than 190 people, ravaged large parts of the capital and reignited public anger against the political class.