Moscow push to reduce UN cross-border aid to Syria fails

People crossing from Turkey into northern Syria walk through the Bab al-Salama border crossing. (File/AFP)
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Updated 09 July 2020

Moscow push to reduce UN cross-border aid to Syria fails

  • Moscow wanted to abolish the first crossing point and put a time limit of six months on the second
  • The resolution received only four votes

United Nations, United States: A Russian bid to get the United Nations to reduce cross-border humanitarian aid to war-torn Syria was voted down by the Security Council Wednesday, an official said.
Authorization for the aid, which comes through two crossing points on the Turkish border — at Bab Al-Salam, which leads to the Aleppo region, and Bab Al-Hawa, which serves the Idlib region — expires Friday.
Under its resolution, Moscow had wanted to abolish the first crossing point and put a time limit of six months on the second.
Russia needed nine votes and no veto from a permanent member of the Council to get its resolution passed — but received only four votes, announced the President of the Security Council, German Ambassador Christoph Heusgen.
Seven countries voted against it and four abstained. “The draft resolution has not been adopted, having failed to obtain the required number of votes,” Heusgen said.
Diplomats said that Russia, along with China, Vietnam and South Africa, had voted for the resolution.
Against were the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Belgium, Estonia and the Dominican Republic.
Tunisia, Niger, Indonesia and Saint Vincent abstained, the diplomats said.
The vote came after Russia and China on Tuesday vetoed a draft resolution by Germany and Belgium providing for a one-year extension of the cross-border authorization and the maintenance of both crossing points.
In an interview with AFP on Wednesday, Washington’s ambassador to the UN, Kelly Craft, said the US opposed any reduction.
“We know the right thing to do is to have both border crossings in the northwest remain open to reach the maximum amount of Syrians that are in need of humanitarian aid,” Craft told AFP.
When asked if the issue was a “red line,” she replied, “Yes, absolutely.”
Russia’s move “is just another attempt for them to politicize humanitarian assistance,” she said.
According to Craft, keeping only one border crossing open would cut off 1.3 million people living north of Aleppo from humanitarian aid.
The choice to be made between the Western position and that of Russia and China is “between good and evil, right and wrong,” said Craft, noting that Germany and Belgium “already have a new draft in mind and we are very supportive.”
The two European countries submitted their new draft Wednesday evening. In their latest draft text, obtained by AFP, Germany and Belgium asked for just a six-month extension of cross-border aid authorization, instead of one year.
But they have kept both border crossings open, and there is no indication that Moscow — in a position of strength on the subject, as it was six months ago — will be satisfied with the changes.
The result of a forthcoming vote on the new draft, which Russia could again block, is not expected until Friday, when the UN cross-border authorization expires.
Craft in 2019 visited one of the crossing points from the Turkish side near Bab Al-Hawa, an experience that made a lasting impression and made working with displaced Syrians “a personal issue,” she said.
Authorization for cross-border humanitarian aid has existed since 2014, with periodic extensions.
Tuesday’s vote was the 15th time that Russia has used its veto since the start of the Syrian war in 2011, and the ninth for China.
They argue that the UN authorization violates Syria’s sovereignty, and that aid can increasingly be channeled through Syrian authorities.

Rafiq Hariri’s son blames Hezbollah, ‘corrupt’ elite for Beirut explosion

Updated 3 min 52 sec ago

Rafiq Hariri’s son blames Hezbollah, ‘corrupt’ elite for Beirut explosion

  • Government cannot be trusted with blast probe, says Bahaa Hariri

LONDON: Leading Lebanese opposition figure Bahaa Hariri, son of former prime minister Rafiq, has blamed Hezbollah and Lebanon’s political elite for the devastating explosion in Beirut that killed more than 150 people and injured thousands on Tuesday.

Hariri said earlier this week that ordinary Lebanese people knew that the Iran-aligned group controlled Beirut’s port, the site of the explosion, and the city’s airport.

He added it was “inconceivable” that authorities did not know that deadly ammonium nitrate, which is believed to have caused the huge blast, was stored in a warehouse at the port.

Hariri said: “The question we have to ask is how come for six years this combustible material was allowed to remain in the middle of this city of 2 million people? It is crystal clear Hezbollah are in charge of the port and the warehouse where the ammonium nitrate was stored. Nothing goes in and out of the port or the airport without them knowing. Nothing. Their decision to put it there in the middle of a city of two million people was an utter disaster. And now we have a destroyed city center.”

The explosion left at least 158 people dead, a further 5,000 wounded, with dozens more missing and 300,000 left homeless, as well as causing an estimated $15 billion worth of damage.

A judge in the investigation into the explosion confirmed that 16 port employees had been arrested. He said 18 people had been questioned, including port and customs officials, according to the state news agency.

Lebanese people, who took to the streets on Saturday in protest, blame a political elite they say is rife with corruption and incompetence and has pushed the country into economic despair.

French President Emmanuel Macron visited Beirut this week and offered his country's support for the Lebanese people and he warned the country would “continue to sink” unless there was deep political reform in Lebanon.

Hariri is also one of a growing number of politicians in Lebanon calling for an international investigation into the tragedy at the port.

“I cannot speculate as to the exact events at the port that day, but Hezbollah is a known terrorist organisation and I think the more destruction they inflict the better off they are,” he said. “Their symbiotic relationship with the government gives them full confidence to do what they want.

“We need an urgent international investigation into this tragedy. You can't trust the government or Hezbollah to carry out a proper investigation. We must have an external one and fast.

“There is a bankrupt relationship between these two warlords and they have to go. History shows warlords don't grow a country, they abuse them. We need to take Lebanon from a country to a nation,” he said.

Hariri’s comments on Hezbollah come after Israel’s UN ambassador, Danny Danon, warned in 2019 that Iranian forces were exploiting the port to help arm Hezbollah.

Speaking to the UN Security Council last year, Danon said: “Israel found that Iran and the Quds Force have begun to advance the exploitation of civilian maritime channels, and specifically the Port of Beirut. The Port of Beirut is now the Port of Hezbollah.”

An investigation into the assassination of Rafiq Hariri at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon was supposed to announce its judgment on Friday, but the verdict has been postponed until Aug. 18.

Hezbollah has been designated as a terrorist organisation by many countries, including the US and UK, and in January the latter also acknowledged Hezbollah's political wing as part of the terrorist group as well as its military wing.