The Security Council today failed to reauthorize use of the Bab al-Hawa border crossing for the delivery of humanitarian aid into Syria, unable to pass either of two competing resolutions that would have kept open a critical lifeline to more than 4.1 million people in the country’s north-west, many of whom were forcibly displaced by violence during the 11-year war.
The first draft resolution — submitted by Norway and Ireland — was defeated owing to the veto cast by the Russian Federation in a vote that had otherwise garnered 13 votes in favour and 1 abstention (China). Use of the veto triggers the convening of a formal General Assembly meeting on the situation within 10 working days. (Please see Press Release GA/12417).
Norway’s representative, introducing the draft, said it would offer a 6+6-month extension of the mechanism for cross-border humanitarian assistance in an effort to reach a fair compromise. She recalled that an initial draft had contemplated a 12-month extension and was supported by the vast majority of Security Council members.
In an effort to “not let the perfect be the enemy of the good”, the United States representative said her delegation would support the text, despite that it and many others had wanted a more expansive resolution that would have opened more border crossings. “A vote against this resolution is a death sentence,” she said, as Bab al-Hawa is the single most efficient way to get life-or-death assistance into north-west Syria.
The Russian Federation’s competing draft, which provided for a six-month extension, was rejected by a vote of 3 against (France, United Kingdom, United States) to 2 in favour (China, Russian Federation) and 10 abstentions.
Delegates expressed their dissatisfaction over the double rejection, with the Russian Federation’s delegate explaining that its warnings about the text drafted by Ireland and Norway were known to all. It ignores the interests of Damascus, he added, a point echoed by China’s representative who said there must be full respect for the sovereignty of Syria and leadership of its Government. Crossline relief should become the main channel for assistance, he stressed.
The representatives of France, the United Kingdom and the United States agreed that the 6-month renewal contemplated by the alternative Russian text would not allow for sufficient planning of humanitarian operations that require predictability and stability. The 6-month renewal would plunge Syrians into uncertainty in the dead of winter, right when in aid is most needed, France’s delegate said.
Representatives of the United Arab Emirates, Kenya, Ghana and Brazil urged their colleagues to work towards a compromise, with Brazil’s delegate in particular suggesting his delegation’s readiness to explore a nine-month extension. At that proposal, Ireland’s representative requested a suspension of the meeting so that negotiations could continue.
At the meeting’s outset, Council members observed a moment of silence in memory of Shinzo Abe, former Prime Minister of Japan, and Jose Eduardo Dos Santos, former President of Angola.
The meeting began at 12:55 p.m. and was suspended at 2:06 p.m.