A child among Syrians moving towards the Bab al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey, Idlib Province, August 30, 2019

Amid Russia’s threat to cut off the last point for cross-border aid, UN Secretary General António Guterres has called for an extension of the assistance into opposition-held northwest Syria.

Russia’s tactics in the Security Council have already shut aid cross-border aid through two points from Iran into Kurdish-controlled northeast Syria, and one of the two points from Turkey into the northwest. The mandate for the remaining Bab al-Hawa crossing expires on July 10.

Guterres told the Security Council on Monday to ensure assistance could still reach millions of civilians in need:

We cannot give up on the people of Syria….

I strongly appeal to the members of the Council to maintain consensus on allowing cross-border operations. It is a moral imperative to address the suffering and vulnerability of 4.1 million people in the area who need aid and protection.

Russia is trying to limit any movement of assistance to points inside Syria, ensuring that the aid is controlled by the Assad regime.

He said the UN has carried out five deliveries within Syria into the northwest, but it was not “at the scale needed to replace the massive cross-border response”.

About 800 trucks deliver aid from Turkey each month under the UN operation, Guterres noted. He added that 80% of those in need are women and children.

The US Ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, visited the Bab al-Hawa crossing earlier this month. She told the council that it must make a “life or death decision” to ensure more aid is delivered:

Cross-line aid alone cannot come close to meeting the dire needs on the ground. It can reach thousands, but not millions. Much more help is needed.

Ireland, the current President of the Security Council, and Norway issued a joint statement:

Last Thursday, the heads of seven UN agencies posted their appeal for renewal of the cross-border aid: “We are counting on members of the Security Council to enable our vital work to continue. The people of Syria will be counting on them to make the right choice.”