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Russia makes rival push on approval of UN aid to Syria from Turkey

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Russia put forward a rival proposal on Friday for a six-month extension of UN Security Council approval for aid deliveries to northwestern Syria from Turkey, reviving a long-running fight with the United States and others who want a 12-month renewal, 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 millions of people in opposition-held areas of Syria since 2014.

The current six-month authorization is due to expire on Monday. Syrian ally Russia has long questioned the need for the operation, saying it is a violation of Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and arguing that more humanitarian assistance should be delivered to the area from within Syria.

The Security Council was already negotiating a text, drafted by Switzerland and Brazil, that would allow the UN operation to continue using the Bab al-Hawa crossing for 12 months. Russia put forward its rival text proposing six months on Friday.

The United States wants the UN operation extended for 12 months and approval given to use three crossings.

The council is due to vote on both the Swiss/Brazilian draft and the Russian draft on Monday, diplomats said. To be adopted, a resolution needs at least nine votes in favor and no vetoes by Russia, China, the United States, France or Britain.

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.

UN aid chief Martin Griffiths told the Security Council last week, “A 12-month authorization enables us and our partners to deliver better humanitarian outcomes in the months ahead. It is as simple as that.”

He also said the $5.4 billion UN aid appeal for Syria for 2023 is the largest in the world, but less than 12 percent funded.

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.

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