By EDITH M. LEDERER
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Russia has agreed to continue humanitarian aid deliveries from Turkey to rebel-held northwest Syria for six months — not a year, as many U.N. Security Council members, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and more than 30 nongovernmental organizations are seeking.
Russia proposed amendments to a draft resolution by Ireland and Norway reducing the time frame for deliveries. It also calls for increased efforts to ensure “full, safe and unhindered” deliveries of humanitarian assistance across conflict lines within Syria, according to the Russian draft obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press.
In early July 2020, China and Russia vetoed a U.N. resolution that would have maintained two border crossing points from Turkey to deliver humanitarian aid to Idlib. Days later, the council authorized the delivery of aid through just one of those crossings, Bab al-Hawa. That one-year mandate was extended for a year on July 9, 2021 and expires this week.
The U.N. Security Council is scheduled to vote Thursday on a resolution to continue cross-border deliveries.
Northwest Idlib is the last rebel-held bastion in Syria and al Qaida-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham is the strongest insurgent group in the region. The U.N. said last week that the first 10 years of the Syrian conflict, which started in 2011, killed more than 300,000 civilians — the highest official estimate of civilian casualties.
In a letter to Security Council ambassadors obtained Wednesday by the AP, former International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo warned that by approving cross-border deliveries to northwest Syria, council members “could find themselves materially supporting a U.N.-designated terrorist organization.”
He said northwest Syria “is controlled by Al Nusra, a U.N. designated terrorist organization affiliated with al Qaida and currently called Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.”
Any support to a “terrorist organization, including humanitarian assistance,” is prohibited by previous U.N. Security Council resolutions, Ocampo said.
To avoid a “flagrant violation” of its resolutions, he said the Security Council should have the operation monitoring cross-border deliveries confirm that the al Qaida-linked groups “are not involved in implementing humanitarian aid” or remove Al Nusra-Hayat Tahrir al-Sham from the “terrorist” list.
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