Russia pressures Turkey to approve UN aid to Syria

By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Russia on Friday presented a rival proposal for a six-month extension of UN Security Council approval for aid deliveries to northwest Syria from Turkey, reigniting a long-standing fight with the United States and others who want a 12-month renewal.

Authorization from the 15-member council is needed because the Syrian authorities have not accepted the UN operation, which has provided aid including food, medicine and shelter to millions of people in the opposition-held areas in Syria since 2014.

The current six-month authorization is due to expire on Monday. Syria’s ally Russia has long questioned the necessity of the operation, saying it is a violation of Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and saying more aid humanitarian aid should be flown into the region from Syria.

The Security Council was already negotiating a text, drafted by Switzerland and Brazil, which would allow the UN operation to continue using the Bab al-Hawa crossing point for 12 months. Russia presented its rival text on Friday proposing six months.

The United States wants the UN operation extended for 12 months and given permission to use three crossings.

To pass, a resolution must receive at least nine votes in favor and no vetoes from Russia, China, the United States, France or Britain. The board is due to vote on Monday.

The Security Council initially authorized aid deliveries in 2014 to opposition-held areas in Syria from Iraq, Jordan and two points in Turkey. But Russia and China have reduced this to a single Turkish border point.

UN aid chief Martin Griffiths told the Security Council last week: “A 12-month clearance allows us and our partners to achieve better humanitarian results in the months coming. It’s as simple as that.

He also said the $5.4 billion UN aid appeal for Syria for 2023 is the largest in the world, but is less than 12% funded.

A crackdown by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on pro-democracy protesters in 2011 led to civil war, with Moscow backing Assad and Washington backing the opposition. Millions of people have fled Syria and millions are internally displaced.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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