In July, the United Nations Security Council voted on the reauthorization of its mandate to keep open the Bab al-Hawa border crossing between Turkey and Northern Syria. It is the only remaining gateway still open for delivery of life-saving humanitarian assistance to millions of Syrians.
Unfortunately, Russia abused its position and stood alone in vetoing a straightforward 12-month reauthorization. It then offered its own version, which proposed to shorten the mandate to 6 months with the possibility of renewal. That resolution failed.
On July 12, the Security Council ultimately passed a more limited 6-month authorization of the Bab al-Hawa crossing. The United States and our British and French allies allowed the resolution to pass to keep this crossing open but abstained because we, NGOs, the UN Secretary General, and humanitarian organizations all agreed that the resolution was insufficient to procure and deliver aid to the people in need.
“There was no justification, no conceivable reason for Russia’s decision … to veto a Security Council resolution designed to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance to over four million people suffering from 11 years of war,” said Deputy U.S. Representative to the United Nations Richard Mills.
“The humanitarian needs in Syria are greater than they have ever been. When the Security Council took up this issue, the Secretary-General asked for more aid. UN agencies asked for more. NGOs asked for more. Tragically, heartbreakingly, the Syrian people asked for more. But one country chose not to put humanitarian needs first.”
Ambassador Mills highlighted that “Since the start of the conflict in Syria in 2011, Russia has vetoed 17 Security Council resolutions on Syria.”
“Throughout this time, Russia has only sought to shield the Assad regime … from accountability for its brutal human rights abuses, its chemical weapons use.”
The international community must reject any “further politicization of what is a purely humanitarian issue. The United States will work with any and every country that prioritizes delivering aid to the most vulnerable,” said Ambassador Mills.
“Let us remember the Syrians who have suffered for over a decade and who are counting on leaders in New York to put Syrian needs ahead of politics,” he said.
“We have the power to make that difference. The Syrian people are counting on us to deliver.”
The U.S. commitment to the Syrian people remains strong. Now, the international community must come together and firewall any further politicization of this purely humanitarian issue.