By Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – The United Nations raised concerns on Friday with a letter from Syria allowing it to resume using a closed border crossing to deliver aid to northwest Syria from Turkey after the UN Security Council’s approval for the route expired on Monday.
In a memo to the Security Council, seen by Reuters, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) disputed “two unacceptable conditions” in the letter sent by Syria on Thursday outlining its approval of the operation. ‘UN.
However, he said that “authorization from the Syrian government can be a basis for the United Nations to lawfully conduct cross-border humanitarian operations through the Bab al-Hawa border crossing for the specified duration.”
The UN has not used the Bab al-Hawa crossing since the Security Council authorization expired on Monday. The council’s authorization was needed because the Syrian government had not previously agreed to the UN operation, which has provided aid to millions of people in northwestern Syria since 2014.
Syria on Thursday gave its approval to the UN to use Bab al-Hawa for another six months, but with several conditions.
“First, the Syrian government stressed that the United Nations should not communicate with entities designated as ‘terrorists’,” OCHA wrote. “The UN and its implementing partners should continue to engage with relevant state and non-state parties as operationally required.”
He said such engagement is “indispensable to achieve safe and timely access to civilians in need and is consistent with international humanitarian law”.
OCHA also said that the Syrian government’s request that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) oversee and facilitate the distribution of humanitarian aid in northwestern Syria was “neither compatible with the independence of the United Nations nor practical, since the ICRC and the SARC are not present” in this area.
“COOPERATION AND COORDINATION”
Syria had also specified in its letter that the UN aid deliveries should be made “in full cooperation and coordination with the Syrian government”.
“The United Nations should commit to clarifying any additional modalities for the delivery of humanitarian aid to northwestern Syria,” OCHA wrote.
“Such modalities should not undermine the impartiality (based on needs alone), neutrality and independence of United Nations humanitarian operations,” he said.
Syrians who have fled President Bashar al-Assad’s regime fear he may soon be able to stifle much-needed aid as Damascus moves to establish the grip of UN aid in the rebel-held northwest, the last major Syrian opposition stronghold.
The 15-member Security Council failed to reach an agreement on Tuesday to renew the operation’s mandate after Russia vetoed a proposed nine-month extension. Russia then failed in its own bid for the council to adopt a six-month renewal.
“We had a lot of material pre-positioned in the area (northwestern Syria) before the deadline, so we have humanitarian assistance in place, but obviously we want things to move forward as quickly as possible,” said UN spokesman Stéphane Dujarric. earlier Friday.
A violent crackdown by Assad on peaceful pro-democracy protesters in 2011 led to a civil war, with Moscow backing Assad and Washington backing the opposition. Millions of people have fled Syria along with millions of other internally displaced people. The fighting has since subsided as Assad regained control of most of Syria.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Josie Kao and Diane Craft)