Russia on Tuesday signaled the demise of a long-running United Nations humanitarian operation in Turkey delivering aid to 4 million people in rebel-held northwest Syria after it vetoed a nine-month authorization renewal at the U.N. Security Council.
Russia then failed in its own bid for a six-month extension of the operation, which has been delivering aid including food, medicine and shelter since 2014. The Security Council approval for the aid deliveries expired on Monday.
Russia U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia suggested that the council mandate for the aid operation could not be salvaged.
After casting the veto and before the council vote on Russia’s six-month proposal, Nebenzia said: “If our draft is not supported, then we can just go ahead and close down the cross-border mechanism.
“The technical rollover, for any period of time, we’re not going to accept,” he added.
U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the United States would continue to work with all council members to renew the aid operation and urged Russia to reconsider its position.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had pushed for a 12-month renewal.
Guterres was disappointed that the council had not reached an agreement and urged members “to redouble their efforts to support the continued delivery of cross-border assistance to millions of people in dire need in northwest Syria for the longest possible period,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
Authorization is needed because the Syrian government in Damascus, which has close ties with Moscow, did not agree to the U.N. operation on sovereignty grounds. Security Council votes on the issue have long been contentious – in both 2022 and 2020 the mandate expired, only to be renewed a day later.
The Security Council initially authorized aid deliveries in 2014 into opposition-held areas of Syria from Iraq, Jordan and two points in Turkey. But Russia and China have whittled that down to just one Turkish border point.
Aid groups decried the Security Council stalemate.