UN aid chief Martin Griffiths pushed the Security Council on Thursday to extend for 12 months its approval of a long-running humanitarian aid operation that delivers help to millions of people in northwest Syria from Turkey, Reuters reported.
Authorization by the 15-member council is needed because Syrian authorities did not agree to the UN operation, which has been delivering aid, including food, medicine and shelter to opposition-controlled areas of Syria since 2014.
The current six-month authorization is due to expire on July 10. Syrian ally Russia has long questioned the need for the operation, arguing that more humanitarian assistance should be delivered to the area from within Syria.
Russia’s UN ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, again argued on Thursday that the UN aid operation violates the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria.
“They’re trying to convince us that the cross-border mechanism should be extended for 12 months in order to better plan operations,” Nebenzia said. “Let us ask the question, what means will the UN be using to plan these operations?”
Griffiths told the council that the $5.4 billion UN aid appeal for Syria for 2023 is the largest in the world, but it was less than 12 percent funded.
“It has never been quite so ill-funded in the history of this conflict,” he said, appealing for countries to pay up on pledges of $5 billion made this month to support people in Syria and neighboring states hosting Syrian refugees in 2023.
Britain’s UN ambassador, Barbara Woodward, said London had pledged $190 million and called on Moscow to announce its contribution “following the recent announcement that Russia spends $2 billion a year on the Wagner Group,” the mercenary force behind an abortive armed mutiny in Russia last weekend.
The Security Council initially authorized aid deliveries in 2014 into opposition-held areas of Syria from Iraq, Jordan and two points in Turkey. But Russia and China have whittled that down to just one Turkish border point.
A crackdown by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on pro-democracy protesters in 2011 led to civil war, with Moscow backing Assad and Washington supporting the opposition. Millions of people have fled Syria and millions are internally displaced.
The UN General Assembly on Thursday voted to create — under UN auspices — an Independent Institution on Missing Persons in Syria “to clarify the fate and whereabouts of all missing persons … and to provide adequate support to victims, survivors and the families of those missing.”
The measure was adopted with 83 votes in favor, 11 against and 62 abstentions.