A United Nations’ commission has urged for the continuation of humanitarian aid through the last official border crossing into north-west Syria, as Russia once again threatens its existence.
In a statement issued on Thursday, the UN Syria Commission of Inquiry’s chair Paulo Pinheiro said that “It is a moral abomination that a [UN] Security Council resolution was in itself deemed necessary to facilitate cross-border aid in the face of consistent violations – by the Government of Syria and other parties – of their obligations under international law to allow and facilitate humanitarian relief for civilians in need.”
Following the closure of three of the other official border crossings into north-west Syria in 2020, the Bab al-Hawa crossing is the last one to remain open for humanitarian aid to pass through. 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.
READ: The veto on aid for north-west Syria proves the failure of international institutions
The next vote for the UNSC’s decision on the fate of the crossing is set to take place on 10 July, with the UN commission stating that it would be a “failure of the highest order” if the crossing is to be closed down. Moscow and Beijing are expected to make their usual threats to veto the cross-border aid into the opposition-held Idlib province while Western states seek to maintain it.
Last week, Russia’s deputy UN envoy Dmitry Polyansky indicated such a move when he stated that he did not believe there was a reason to continue sending aid into Idlib. Critics of the Russian and Chinese position accuse them of politicising the issue of humanitarian aid when it should be provided to populations in need regardless of who controls the territory.
While the dispute grows, the humanitarian situation in Idlib – where millions of inhabitants are displaced from the ongoing Syrian civil war and currently living in camps under inadequate conditions – is only getting worse. According to the commission, 4.1 million people in the province depend on aid for their basic needs, with 80 per cent of them being women and children.
Furthermore, 2.4 million people in the region directly receive aid through the cross-border efforts permitted by the UN Security Council on a monthly basis, leading to the commission calling the last border crossing a “lifeline”.
READ: Russia threatens to stop aid entry to northern Syria