Renewal of Syria cross-border aid mandate is ‘moral imperative,’ UN chief tells Security Council

Renewal of Syria cross-border aid mandate is ‘moral imperative,’ UN chief tells Security Council
Guterres said infrastructure is falling apart after years of war. (AFP/File)
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Updated 21 June 2022

Renewal of Syria cross-border aid mandate is ‘moral imperative,’ UN chief tells Security Council

Renewal of Syria cross-border aid mandate is ‘moral imperative,’ UN chief tells Security Council
  • At council’s last meeting before vote on the issue, Antonio Guterres said there is no alternative to the Bab Al-Hawa crossing for millions of people in need in Syria
  • The US envoy asked members not to politicize a humanitarian issue; her Russian counterpart accused Washington of inhumane treatment of Syrian civilians

NEW YORK: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday urged members of the Security Council to stand united and extend for another year a cross-border mechanism for delivering aid to Northwestern Syria.

He described the need for the renewal of the mandate as a “moral imperative” to help the 4.1 million Syrians in the area who need aid and protection to survive, 80 percent of whom are women and children.

“Needs are at their highest since the start of the war 11 years ago,” Guterres told council members.
“The world’s largest refugee crisis continues to impact the region and the world.”

The secretary-general’s most recent report revealed that 14.6 million people in Syria are in need of humanitarian assistance, with 12 million of them classed as food insecure, “unsure where their next meal is coming from,” and 90 percent of the population living below the poverty line.

Guterres said infrastructure is falling apart after years of war, and economic activity is dwindling as a result of the continuing conflict, regional financial crises, Western sanctions and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“People are living on the brink, no longer able to cope,” he added.

The UN requires $4.4 billion in funding to provide assistance to people inside Syria and an additional $5.6 billion to support Syrian refugees elsewhere in the region.

“The generous pledges made at the Brussels VI donor conference need to be paid,” said Guterres. “I appeal to donors to follow through and increase their support.”

Monday’s meeting of the Security Council was its last about the situation in Syria before a vote is held on whether to extend the cross-border mechanism, which is due to expire on July 10.

The diverging views of council members about cross-border aid remains a constant feature of its discussions on Syria. Several members, in particular the US and the Europeans, maintain that cross-border assistance is of vital importance to millions of people living in the northwest of the country.

However, Russia and China argue that the mechanism violates Syria’s sovereignty and that terrorist groups manipulate the system and confiscate aid deliveries. Instead, they advocate for all aid to be channeled through the regime in Damascus, a process known as cross-line assistance, rather than cross-border aid that goes directly to the areas that need it.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the UN, asked her fellow council members to “put politics aside” and come together to address “a clear humanitarian need.”

She recently returned from her second visit to the Bab Al-Hawa crossing, the only remaining cross-border gateway for international aid into Northwest Syria. She painted a bleak picture of the situation there, including children on the brink of famine, and warned that “babies will die” if the checkpoint closes.

“Some votes are difficult and complex but this vote could not be more straightforward,” Thomas-Greenfield told the 15-member council.

“This is our chance to live up to the ideals of the UN charter and provide life-and-death assistance to the Syrian people.”
She concluded her remarks by thanking Turkish authorities for hosting “so many Syrian refugees.”

Dmitry Polyanskiy, Russia’s deputy permanent representative to the UN, lamented the fact that the secretary-general’s report did not assign responsibility for the food and fuel crisis in Syria to the “ongoing American occupation” in the northwest of the country.

He said humanitarian organizations deplore the Western sanctions, and accused the US of the “inhumane treatment of civilians in Syria.”

Polyanskiy repeated the allegation that cross-border aid is enriching terrorist groups, including Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham. He also said he was astonished by the “lack of reaction” from some council members to an Israeli airstrike on Damascus International Airport on June 10, as a result of which runways continue to be out of commission, and the repercussions of this on humanitarian operations across the country. He described their silence as “double standards.”

Meanwhile, Norway and Ireland, the chief advocates within the Security Council of the humanitarian effort in Syria, have begun negotiations for a new resolution that would renew the mandate for the Bab Al-Hawa crossing for another year, a source at the Irish mission told Arab News.

As international diplomacy, especially between the US and Russia, has all but ground to a halt following the start of war in Ukraine, many fear that Moscow will use its power of veto to block the renewal and close the last remaining crossing.

However, sources in Washington told Arab News that the administration is confident Russia will not use its veto in this way.


Gunmen kill 2 policemen escorting polio workers in Pakistan

Gunmen kill 2 policemen escorting polio workers in Pakistan
Updated 10 sec ago

Gunmen kill 2 policemen escorting polio workers in Pakistan

Gunmen kill 2 policemen escorting polio workers in Pakistan
PESHAWAR, Pakistan: Gunmen riding on motorcycles opened fire on Tuesday on police escorting a team of polio workers in northwestern Pakistan, killing two policemen, authorities said.
None of the polio workers were harmed, said Mohammad Imran, a local police official. The four polio workers and their police escort were all traveling on motorcycles.
The assailants fled the scene and no one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack in the town of Gomal, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province bordering Afghanistan.
The attack came on the second day of Pakistan’s latest anti-polio campaign in the province. Pakistan has registered 14 new polio cases since April, all from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
The outbreak has been a blow to the Islamic nation’s efforts to eradicate the disease, which can cause severe paralysis in children.
Pakistan’s anti-polio campaigns are regularly marked by violence as Islamic militants often target polio teams and police protecting them, falsely claiming that the vaccination campaigns are a Western conspiracy to sterilize children.
Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only countries in the world where polio remains endemic. In 2021, Pakistan reported only one case, raising hopes it was close to eradicating polio.

Russian leader Vladimir Putin lashes out at US over Ukraine, Taiwan

Russian leader Vladimir Putin lashes out at US over Ukraine, Taiwan
Updated 28 min 19 sec ago

Russian leader Vladimir Putin lashes out at US over Ukraine, Taiwan

Russian leader Vladimir Putin lashes out at US over Ukraine, Taiwan
  • ‘The situation in Ukraine shows that the US is trying to prolong this conflict’
  • ‘We see this as a carefully planned provocation’

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday accused Washington of seeking to prolong the conflict in Ukraine and of fueling conflicts elsewhere in the world, including with the visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan.
“The situation in Ukraine shows that the US is trying to prolong this conflict. And they act in exactly the same way, fueling the potential for conflict in Asia, Africa and Latin America,” Putin said in televised remarks, addressing the opening ceremony of a security conference in Moscow via videolink.
“The American adventure in relation to Taiwan is not just a trip of an individual irresponsible politician, but part of a purposeful, conscious US strategy to destabilize and make chaotic the situation in the region and the world,” he added.
He said the visit was a “brazen demonstration of disrespect for the sovereignty of other countries and for its (Washington’s) international obligations.”
“We see this as a carefully planned provocation,” Putin said.
Relations between Moscow and Washington have been in tatters since Russia in late February launched a military intervention in pro-Western Ukraine.
Pummeled by a barrage of unprecedented Western sanctions, Putin has sought to bolster ties with countries in Africa and Asia, especially with China.
Moscow was in full solidarity with key ally Beijing during Pelosi’s August visit to self-ruled, democratic Taiwan, which China considers its territory.


Iran says Swedish citizen detained for espionage might face other charges

Iran says Swedish citizen detained for espionage might face other charges
Updated 16 August 2022

Iran says Swedish citizen detained for espionage might face other charges

Iran says Swedish citizen detained for espionage might face other charges

DUBAI: A Swedish citizen detained in Iran on suspicion of espionage might face other charges, Iranian judiciary spokesperson Masoud Setayeshi said on Tuesday in a televised news conference.
The suspect, who remains unnamed, had been under surveillance by the intelligence ministry during several previous trips to Iran because of “suspicious behavior,” the official IRNA news agency reported in July.


Bus rams into fuel truck in eastern Pakistan, killing 20

Bus rams into fuel truck in eastern Pakistan, killing 20
Updated 16 August 2022

Bus rams into fuel truck in eastern Pakistan, killing 20

Bus rams into fuel truck in eastern Pakistan, killing 20
  • The bus was traveling from the eastern city of Lahore to the southern port city of Karachi
  • Deadly traffic accidents are common in Pakistan due to poor road infrastructure and disregard for traffic laws

MULTAN, Pakistan: A passenger bus rammed into a fuel truck on a highway in eastern Pakistan before dawn on Tuesday, igniting a fire that killed at least 20 people, police and rescue officials said.
According to the officials, the accident happened near the town of Jalalpur Peerwala in Punjab province. The bus was traveling from the eastern city of Lahore to the southern port city of Karachi.
Tahir Wattoo, a local government official in Multan, the nearest district, said early indications were that the bus driver’s negligence had caused the collision. The driver, who was also killed, slammed into the back of the fuel truck, according to photographs from the scene.
The injured were taken to hospital and at least six passengers were reported in critical condition, he added.
Some of the bodies were burned beyond recognition and DNA tests will be conducted to identify the remains before the bodies are handed over to the families, Wattoo also said.
Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif offered his condolences in a statement and asked health authorities to provide the best possible treatment to the injured.
Deadly traffic accidents are common in Pakistan due to poor road infrastructure and disregard for traffic laws.


Armenian blast death toll rises to 16

Armenian blast death toll rises to 16
Updated 16 August 2022

Armenian blast death toll rises to 16

Armenian blast death toll rises to 16
  • Sunday’s blast at the Surmalu wholesale market also injured 60 people
  • Local authorities have excluded the possibility that it was a terror attack

YEREVAN: The death toll from an explosion at a bustling market in the Armenian capital Yerevan rose to 16, Armenia’s emergency situations ministry said on Tuesday.
Sunday’s blast at the Surmalu wholesale market also injured 60 people after it caused a fire and the collapse of a building.
“Sixteen bodies were found during search and rescue efforts,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that 18 people were still missing.
Officials said more than 350 rescuers are at work on the ground.
The cause has not yet been established, but local news reports, citing witnesses, said the explosion went off at a place that stored fireworks.
Local authorities have excluded the possibility that it was a terror attack and prosecutors have already launched a probe into violations “on stocking inflammable goods,” breaches in fire safety standards and the death of people “due to negligence.”
The disaster comes as the country of three million people is still recovering from a 2020 war with Azerbaijan, which ended in a heavy defeat and sparked a political crisis.
Shortly after Sunday’s blast, officials evacuated people from Yerevan metro stations after a bomb threat, but authorities found no explosive device.