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UN Security Council to vote on extending Syria cross-border aid

The UN resolution allowing aid deliveries across the Syrian-Turkish border at Bab al-Hawa has been in effect since 2014, but is set to expire on Sunday
— United Nations (United States) (AFP)

The United Nations Security Council votes Thursday on extending its authorization of aid transfers across Syria's border without approval from Damascus, with Russia seeking a six-month prolongation while Western nations want a full year.

The UN resolution permitting aid deliveries across the Syrian-Turkish border at Bab al-Hawa has been in effect since 2014, but is set to expire on Sunday.

Norway and Ireland, two non-permanent members of the 15-country Security Council, have drafted a resolution that would extend the authorization until July 10, 2023.

Nearly 10,000 trucks loaded with humanitarian aid passed through Bab al-Hawa last year, bound for the rebel-held Idlib region in northwestern Syria. It is the only crossing through which aid can be brought into Idlib without navigating areas controlled by Syrian government forces.

The resolution, which was obtained by AFP, calls on "all parties to ensure full, safe and unhindered access by all modalities, including cross-line, for deliveries of humanitarian assistance to all parts of Syria."

Russia, a veto-holding Security Council member and ally of Damascus, has hinted in recent months that it would oppose an extension, having already forced a reduction in the number of allowed border crossings on the grounds that it violates Syria's sovereignty.

According to diplomats, Russia ultimately put its own draft resolution on the table, which includes an extension of six months.

In an attempt to persuade Moscow, Norway and Ireland have inserted several amendments touching on the transparency of humanitarian shipments, possible contributions to Syria's reconstruction, and on the need to develop aid deliveries via government-controlled territory.

Russia has long called for the West to participate in Syria's reconstruction, but some council members, most vocally France, have refused until political reforms have been enacted.

However, during a Security Council meeting in June, a majority of countries -- including the United States -- offered support for financing so-called "early recovery projects" in Syria.

In this vein, the resolution by Norway and Ireland calls for "further international initiatives to broaden the humanitarian activities in Syria, including water, sanitation, health, education, and shelter early recovery projects."

By Wednesday evening, few diplomats dared to predict whether the additions would be enough to convince Russia to agree to a full-year extension.

But some told AFP that a last-minute compromise was possible, by making the six-month extension renewable for an additional six months practically by default.