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)
Short Url
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.”


Turkey picks up the pieces after devastating quake

Updated 31 October 2020

Turkey picks up the pieces after devastating quake

  • Although the local residents are used to living with frequent tremors, the 7.0 magnitude quake on Friday evening was the biggest they had experienced

ANKARA: Canan Gullu was having coffee with her friends on her balcony when the quake struck. The head of the Ankara-based Women Associations of Turkey, she had decided to spend the weekend in her summer house in the coastal town of Seferihisar after sleepless nights spent helping victims of domestic violence in the capital.

The teacups fell on the ground, and they hid under a table until they feel safer.

“I felt the building shaking, then the house began moving toward the house next door. It was as if the ground was moving back and forth under our feet. We could barely stand,” Gullu told Arab News.

It was followed by a mini-tsunami that hit the district where she was living.

“I am now focusing on providing essential goods for the women living on the streets or whose buildings collapsed. It is the other face of poverty in Turkey,” Gullu said.

The powerful quake that hit Turkey’s western province of Izmir on Oct. 30 revealed the weak infrastructure of the country’s building stock. Although the local residents are used to living with frequent tremors, the 7.0 magnitude quake on Friday evening was the biggest they had experienced; it was as powerful as the 1999 earthquake near Istanbul when more than 17,000 people died.

The search and rescue operations continued on Saturday, with touching footages showing a mother and her three children as well as a cat and a dog being rescued 18 hours after being trapped under the debris of their building.

Turkish survivors continue to stay outside in the tents provided by the municipality for fear of aftershocks. Some hotel and restaurant owners offered free rooms and free dinners to the traumatized people.

To prevent traffic blocking rescue efforts, the authorities have banned vehicles entering the city center.

Friday’s quake killed more than 30 people in Turkey and the neighbouring Greek islands, although that figure was expected to rise. Almost 900 people were injured, with 243 under treatment and eight in intensive care, officials said.

Despite their diplomatic row over energy drilling operations in the waters of the eastern Mediterranean, Turkish and Greek officials exchanged solidarity messages on Twitter.

“Whatever our differences, these are times when our people need to stand together,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis tweeted.

Many people were still waiting for news of relatives trapped under the debris.

Izmir is crossed by 17 different fault lines and has been prone to frequent tremors in the past. The quake resilience of the buildings in the city and unplanned urbanization have come under the spotlight, sparking criticism of the authorities.

The Turkish government issued a controversial zoning amnesty ahead of the general elections of 2018, resulting in 10 million illegally constructed buildings throughout the country.

These were eligible for legitimate deeds, with disastrous consequences during the quakes. Izmir tops the list for the number of illegal buildings that were “forgiven” by a government move to garner more votes.

Several buildings that benefited from that amnesty have collapsed over the years, killing dozens of people. Estimates say that one-fifth of the buildings in Istanbul could be completely destroyed in a quake with a magnitude of 7 or above.

In a past interview, Turkey’s famous contractor Ali Agaoglu, who was proud of selling massive residences to Arab clients, confessed that his company used sand from the Marmara Sea during their construction work. “If there is an earthquake in Istanbul, (the number of the dead and collapsed buildings will be so high that) the army won’t even be able to enter the city,” he said.

Turkey’s earthquake tax was also the subject of intense debate earlier this year with the quakes in eastern provinces of Elazig and Malatya, after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: “We spent it where it was meant to be spent. And after this, we do not have time to provide accountability for matters like this.”

Special taxes were levied in Turkey after the 1999 earthquake and were later made permanent. However, there is widespread skepticism about whether these taxes were spent on quake resilience or whether they only helped the state budget at that time.