UN renews aid to Syria opposition areas as Russia abstains

21.12.2017

The UN Security Council on Tuesday voted to renew cross-border aid deliveries to Syria's rebel-held areas for one year, but Russia abstained and warned the relief operation must gradually wind down.

Russia had demanded changes to the aid operation that has since 2014 allowed convoys to cross into war-shattered Syria from Turkey and Jordan without the approval of the government in Damascus.

Russian Deputy Ambassador Vladimir Safronkov argued that the situation in Syria had "changed radically" over the past three years and that cross-border aid was "a legacy of the past."

"We think it is important to gradually draw down this rudimentary scheme which has worked for Syria's division," Safronkov told the council.

The resolution put forward by Egypt, Japan and Sweden was adopted by a vote of 12 in favour, with Russia, China and Bolivia abstaining.

The United Nations maintains that the cross-border deliveries are a lifeline to Syrians living in rebel-held territory because the government in Damascus has heavily restricted aid shipments to those areas.

More than 13 million people need humanitarian aid in Syria, now in its seventh year of war.

Cross-border aid reaches one million Syrians per month, on average, according to UN aid officials.

Despite its complaints, Russia did not resort to its veto power to block the measure as it did last month to bury a UN-led probe of chemical weapons attacks in Syria.

Russia has used its veto 11 times at the council to thwart action directed at its Syrian ally. (AFP)

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