It appears that the United Nations Security Council will witness a confrontation on Friday over whether to allow the delivery of United Nations aid from Turkey to some four million people in the rebel-held northwest of Syria for six months or one year.
On Sunday, the UN mandate for the eight-year aid operation expires. After negotiations on Thursday evening, which saw a rift between Russia on the one hand and the United States and Britain on the other, the 15-member council agreed to reconvene on Friday for further talks.
Russia’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Dmitry Polyansky, said that Moscow wants to renew the aid process for only six months and asks the council to adopt a new resolution to extend it for another six months.
“Six months end in January, which is the mid-month of winter, which is the worst possible time,” US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas Greenfield told reporters.
“A six-month decision does not provide the certainty and confidence that Syrian refugees and NGOs (aid groups) need to continue to plan and provide support,” said Thomas Greenfield, who stayed at the Turkish border crossing in June to assess the aid operation.
A text drafted by Ireland and Norway in an effort to find a compromise, circulated late Thursday night, would renew the aid process for a year and ask the council to adopt a new resolution if the mandate is to expire after six months.
Ireland’s ambassador to the United Nations, Geraldine Byrne Nason, told reporters she would continue to work through the night and “I hope to be back in the morning with a solution.”
The Security Council’s vote on the cross-border relief operation has been a contentious issue for several years.
In 2014, the council authorized the delivery of humanitarian aid to opposition-held areas of Syria from Iraq, Jordan and two points in Turkey. But Russia and China, which have veto power, have reduced this to just one Turkish border post.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed last month to the council to extend its agreement to deliver aid from Turkey to northwest Syria, saying, “We cannot abandon the people of Syria.”