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Feeding a stalemate in Syria

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Steven Sahiounie, journalist and political commentator

The UN Security Council has agreed to extend a system for cross-border aid to Idlib, Syria, until January 2023.

The US and its allies had demanded a year-long extension, but Russia used its veto on Friday.

UN and other NGO aid delivery trucks will cross from Turkey into Syria at the Bab al Hawa crossing. The system has been in place since 2014, but expired on Sunday.

At stake are daily supplies for about 2 million people in the northwestern Idlib region of Syria. According to the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, more than 4,600 aid trucks, carrying mostly food, have crossed Bab al Hawa this year.

Dmitry Polyanski, Russia's deputy ambassador to the UN, said Moscow would adopt the resolution with "a minimal modification." At least nine of the 15 members must support a resolution to be adopted, and none of the permanent members can use their veto.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had emphasized the importance of extending the cross-border aid mechanism in Syria, in a conversation with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Monday.

Since 2019, Russia has argued that the UN should work with Damascus on aid deliveries out of respect for Syria's sovereignty. Moscow and Ankara signed a ceasefire agreement covering Idlib in 2019; however, Turkey has failed to uphold its end of the bargain.

The original UN mandate for cross-border aid to Syria in 2014 was devised thinking that rebel-controlled areas were temporary, but the situation in Idlib continues to exist in a stalemate, with no clear military or political resolution on the horizon.

Heated debates in late 2019 and mid-2020, during which Russia and China used their vetoes three times to block resolutions renewing the mandate, saw Moscow succeed in limiting the UN's cross-border operations to a single crossing, at Bab al-Hawa, and Russia made clear that the mandate could not be renewed indefinitely.

Russia also demanded that the UN work harder on delivering aid into Idlib from government-held Syrian territory, and called for greater international funding for recovery projects in government-controlled parts of Syria.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in particular has played a pivotal role in cross-border aid delivery.

In 2014, Serena Shim, an American journalist, was killed in Turkey just one day after she broadcast that the Turkish intelligence agency had threatened her and accused her of spying.

This accusation followed her original investigative reporting at the Turkish border of Syria in which she observed Islamic State terrorists crossing into Syria inside UN food trucks.

The terrorists and their weapons were flooding from Turkey into Syria through a US CIA program that President Trump cut off in 2017.

The US and its western allies have demonized Russia over the current Ukraine conflict. However, the work that Russia is doing in Syria should not be conflated with Ukraine, as they are not connected.

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Steven Sahiounie Social Media Pages: Facebook Page       Twitter Page       Linked In Page       Instagram Page

I am Steven Sahiounie Syrian American award winning journalist and political commentator Living in Lattakia Syria and I am the chief editor of MidEastDiscours I have been reporting about Syria and the Middle East for about 8 years

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