Russia has proposed extending the opening of the last humanitarian border crossing into north-west Syria by six months, in a potential compromise move. The United States, however, is demanding a one year extension.
The Bab Al-Hawa crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border remains operational until tomorrow. UN and diplomatic sources have informed AFP that Russia submitted a draft resolution to the other 14 member states of the UN Security Council yesterday.
Offering to allow the crossing to be kept open for another six months, Moscow requested that a vote be held on its draft resolution today, and also suggested that a “possible prolongation” could be in place following the end of those six months. The draft is apparently in response to a suggestion by Ireland and Norway suggestion that the crossing should remain open for another year.
After months of demanding that the border crossing should close indefinitely when the deadline passes, many expected Russia to veto any resolution to keep it open. Its draft resolution is seen as a compromise, therefore, contradicting its initial stance in opposition to the UN-mandated crossings which operate outside the control of the Syrian regime of Bashar Al-Assad and allegedly violate its sovereignty.
Speaking to reporters in Washington, State Department spokesman Ned Price reiterated the US position that the extension should be for a whole year. “We’ve been very clear that continuing cross-border access is a humanitarian imperative, and it’s a humanitarian imperative because millions of lives are on the line.”
Price stressed that the Biden administration has “heard very clearly from UN agencies and NGOs around the world that 12 months is critical to their work to deliver aid reliably while managing the lengthy procurement process.”
He called on the UN Security Council and the broader international community to take the opportunity “to stand up and show that it is on the side of the beleaguered and food-insecure Syrian people.”
The Security Council is today set to vote on the resolution put forward by Western member states, followed by the voting on the Russian resolution. When a similar framework was in place at the end of 2019, both Russia and China used their vetoes against the Western draft resolution.