the essence of the problem
In July, the UN Security Council will vote on keeping the humanitarian corridor in Syria open, which passes through the Bab al-Hawa checkpoint on the Syria-Turkey border. The corridor leads to Idlib province in northwest Syria. Syria is not controlled by Bashar Assad’s official government.
In addition to the civilian population, there is one of the last centers of Syrian rebels and extremists affiliated with al-Qaeda (recognized as terrorists and banned in the Russian Federation) in Idlib. International organizations, with the help of Bab al-Hawa, are directly delivering aid to civilians in the region, bypassing the Assad government.
This is the last corridor of its kind. Since 2014, four cross-border routes have been opened for international organizations. But in the end, Russia, with the support of China, closed everything except the passage at Bab al-Hawa. The UN mandate to use this corridor expires in early July.
crossing the Syrian border
How can Russia start bargaining on the Syrian border?
Russia, as one of the founding countries of the UN, has veto power in the Security Council. However, Moscow will shut down the last cross-border mechanism for humanitarian aid or use such a threat “as leverage” in the conflict in Ukraine. such an opinion You said Anonymous sources of the American newspaper The New York Times (NYT). Three foreign diplomats told the broadcast that Russia was sending “vague signals” that it could use the UN vote to force concessions on Ukraine.
A senior US diplomat warned that the US and other countries in the Security Council would send a “clear message” to Moscow not to block the route. But the newspaper writes that there is no guarantee that he will be listened to.
One of the newspaper’s interlocutors claimed that Russia used the corridor to ward off Western accusations. The West has repeatedly emphasized that the military operation of Russia violates the sovereignty of Ukraine. According to the diplomat, in response, Moscow will turn its attention to international humanitarian aid convoys in Syria, declaring that they also violate Syria’s territorial integrity.
In addition, diplomats pointed out that after the corridor is closed, the situation in Syria will worsen and more refugees will flow from there to Western countries. According to them, Russia wants to put pressure on the countries that have problems if the number of refugees increases so much.
Russia’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, Dmitry Polyansky, said on May 27 that officially Moscow has not yet decided how to vote on the last cross-border humanitarian corridor.
Why are Russia and the West arguing over humanitarian aid to Syria?
monthly from Bab al-Hawa border crossing to go past about a thousand trucks with humanitarian aid. In addition to food and water, they carry medicine, including those against the coronavirus.
“We fully trust [эти] supply. We do not have enough medicine and surgical equipment, it is delivered through Bab al-Hawa. We are now facing a second wave of COVID and cases are increasing exponentially. <...> “If the border is closed, we are in a humanitarian catastrophe,” he said.
US Deputy Ambassador to the UN Jeffrey Prescott also said that the issue of closing the corridor via Bab al-Hawa is “literally a matter of life and death”. “WFP alone is currently providing life-saving assistance with monthly food rations to approximately 1.35 million Syrians in the northwest,” said WFP spokesman Thomson Firi.
However, Russia supports Assad in the civil war that has been going on for more than 10 years in Syria. Al Jazeera noted that the Assad government is trying to close the last humanitarian corridor beyond its control, so that all supplies go through Damascus, not the UN.
Moscow has repeatedly accused the United States and Europe of politicizing humanitarian aid to Syrians. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin said in March that the West is providing aid to the periphery of the Assad government “to undermine Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity for political reasons”.
Also, according to Russia, international humanitarian aid in Syria is being taken over by radical groups.
“I don’t deny that [международная помощь] It goes to refugees, but terrorist groups also take advantage of it,” Deputy Permanent Representative to Russia Polyansky said in May.
He believes the UN can deliver its aid unofficially. According to him, “of course it will be difficult” but it is possible.
“We cannot close our eyes to terrorists” <...> “They are usurping power and manipulating humanitarian aid, whose supply can be easily arranged from Damascus if desired,” he said.
“The Russians have never acknowledged that Bab al-Hawa is truly vital and we need to keep that open,” Sherin Tadros, head of Amnesty International’s office at the UN, counters. According to him, Russia has always used the humanitarian corridors in Syria as an excuse for bargaining.
The UN pointed out that it was impossible to organize the necessary supplies through the Syrian government alone. WHO Representative Christian Lindmeier emphasized that in 2021, not a single humanitarian aid convoy went from Damascus to northwest Syria for 11 months.
From the Syrian American Medical Association (SAMS) Foundation, Dr. Fadi Hakim said that in 2021 his organization must obtain at least seven government permits in Damascus to try to bring aid from the area under Assad’s control. Authorities denied 90% of SAMS’s convoy requests. “And even if you get approval, many items can be confiscated from convoys at checkpoints. It’s a nightmare,” the doctor concluded.
With the support of China, Moscow closed three other cross-border humanitarian corridors in Syria in 2020: Bab es-Salam (near Turkey), Al-Yarubiya (on the Syria-Iraq border) and Al-Ramata (on the Jordanian border). When it was necessary to extend the mandate for further work through the UN by a general vote, Russia and China used their veto power.