The United Kingdom has urged the UN Security Council (UNSC) to extend the cross-border mandate in Syria, in an effort to enable humanitarian aid to cross into Syria through the Turkish border to help millions in the region.
Addressing the Security Council on Friday at its meeting on the situation in Syria, the British Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, James Kariuki, stated that the “cross-border mandate sits at the heart of this humanitarian support” which assists over four million people in north-west Syria.
Following the closure of three of the other official border crossings in 2020, the Bab al-Hawa crossing is the last one to remain open for humanitarian aid to enter north-west Syria. Russia and China – as permanent members of the UNSC – have repeatedly attempted and threatened to close down that last crossing, but deals were struck last year and early this year to keep it open, allowing successive six-month extensions of the mandate.
The next vote for the UNSC’s decision on the fate of the crossing is set to take place in July, with Moscow and Beijing predicted to make their usual threats to veto the cross-border aid into the opposition-held Idlib province while Western states seek to maintain it.
READ: The veto on aid for north-west Syria proves the failure of international institutions
“We have heard time and again, from the UN and NGOs on the ground, that there is no viable alternative to the mechanism”, Kariuki said. When the aid was first authorised in 2014, “over 10 million people needed assistance. Now, around 14.6 million Syrians require humanitarian assistance – more than 80 per cent of the population.”
He stressed the need for even more support from the international community for Idlib’s population – many of whom live in displacement camps – especially amid “the backdrop of a growing global food crisis, the ongoing impacts of the COVID19 pandemic and increasing violence.”
The representative highlighted the UK’s contribution to the aid provided to Syrians since the beginning of the ongoing conflict in 2011, with London having spent over $4 billion in aid so far. He also announced that, at the Brussels Conference for raising aid for Syrians last week, “the UK committed nearly $200 million over the course of 2022.”
Apart from the aid helping to “scale up early recovery and resilience interventions inside Syria and support vital humanitarian efforts to rebuild the lives of Syrians”, another major reason for not closing the last border crossing is that it “would make it easier for aid to get into the hands of terrorists,” referring to militant groups controlling Idlib province who have had ties to Al-Qaeda.
Kariuki concluded that, on behalf of the British government, “we urge Members to support the renewal and expansion of the UN’s cross-border mandate in July.”
UN: 14.6m need humanitarian assistance in Syria