A displaced girl at a camp in northern Idlib Province, Syria, April 14, 2020 (Khalil Ashawi/Reuters)
The US has called on the UN Security Council to reopen border crossings into Syria, after they were closed by Russian vetoes.
Since 2019, Moscow’s objections have closed all but one crossing from Turkey and Iraq, into the opposition-held northwest Syria and the Kurdish-controlled northeast.
Trying to choke the economy in the northwest, Russia bombed the last crossing — Bab al-Hawa, on the Turkish border — last week.
The cut-off of aid affects more than 4 million people in Idlib and Aleppo Provinces in the northwest, and about 1.3 million residents in the Kurdish-held northeast.
On Monday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken chaired a virtual Security Council session. He spoke about the suffering of Syrians, more than 10 years after the start of the uprising, and said world powers should be ashamed by their inaction.
How is it possible that we can’t find in our hearts the common humanity to actually take meaningful action?
Look into your hearts. We have to find a way to do something – to take action to help people. That is our responsibility. And shame on us if we don’t.
In January 2020, Russia ensured that the Security Council cut the crossings from four to two. In July, Moscow pushed through the reduction to the single point at Bab al-Hawa.
Blinken called for the reopening of the second border crossing from Turkey and the crossing from Iraq into the northeast.
He pointed to the wider campaign of Russia and the Assad regime, which seized part of the northwest in an 11-month offensive up to March 2020, to besiege and break the opposition-held territory. Despite a ceasefire announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Moscow has continued to bomb the area, including attacks on hospitals and other infrastructure.
Blinken mentioned last week’s bombing of Bab al-Hawa as he noted, “Sovereignty was never intended to ensure the right of any government to starve people, deprive them of life-saving medicine, bomb hospitals or commit any other human rights abuse against citizens.”
UN Appeals for Aid, Russia Holds Out Against It
Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin condemned any reopening of the crossings. He accused aid groups — despite extensive UN aid sent through Damascus, and allegedly controlled by regime “charities” — of discriminating against regime-controlled regions.
“They’re doing this with one goal in mind, to undermine the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria for political motivations because they simply do not like the government of the country,” Vershinin asserted.
He also derided an international donors conference, co-hosted by the UN and the European Union, which opened on Monday. Vershinin said the Assad regime should have been invited.
The UN is seeking $10 billion from the annual conference, held in Brussels — $4.2 billion for aid inside Syria and $5.8 billion for refugees.
UN aid chief Mark Lowcock summarized, “It has been 10 years of despair and disaster for Syrians. Now plummeting living conditions, economic decline and COVID-19 result in more hunger, malnutrition and disease. There is less fighting, but no peace dividend.”