UN defeats rival resolutions to keep Syria cross-border aid

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UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council on Friday failed to approve rival resolutions that would continue the delivery of humanitarian aid across borders to more than 1 million Syrians every month in mainly rebel-held areas, leaving future deliveries in question as winter arrives.

The contentious meeting reflected the deep divisions in the U.N.’s most powerful body over the eight-year Syrian war, which have blocked action to end it. But until now, the council had been able to act on humanitarian aid to the Syrian people.

A resolution co-sponsored by Germany, Belgium and Kuwait and supported by the U.N. humanitarian office would have extended the mandate for cross-border aid deliveries for six months and cut one of four crossing points It received 13 “yes” votes in the 15-member council. But it was vetoed by Russia, the Syrian government’s closest ally, and China which often supports Moscow.

The proposed resolution initially sought to add a new crossing point to the four existing points and extend the mandate for aid deliveries for a year, but it was watered down in an attempted compromise to authorizing three crossing points for six months.

A late rival resolution sponsored by Russia and China, introduced on Monday, would have extended deliveries for six months and kept only two crossing points in Turkey. It received five “yes” votes, six “no” votes and four abstentions — and was automatically defeated because it failed to get the required nine “yes” votes.

Accusations and recriminations flew during and after the votes, with many council members calling it a sad day and vowing to try to find an acceptable compromise.

The current year-long mandate for aid deliveries through four border crossings — Bab al-Salam and Bab al-Hawa in Turkey, Al Yarubiyah in Iraq, and Al-Ramtha in Jordan — expires on Jan. 10.

U.S. Ambassador Kelly Craft, the current council president, said she was “in a state of shock” and “deeply and profoundly disappointed” at the Russian and Chinese vetoes.

“What I can promise you is the council will continue to work every day throughout the holidays until Jan. 10 to come to a resolution to help the people in need in Syria,” she said. “Furthermore, there is not an administration stronger than the Trump administration that will always help the people in Syria until help is no longer needed.”

Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Karen Pierce echoed that she would also be working “tirelessly” to try to reach a compromise agreement “if everybody is willing to do so,” but this will likely be done informally among members.

“We’re going to have to sit down with a blank sheet of paper and see where we can find points of agreement to get the resolution through,” she said.

Russia voted for cross-border aid deliveries from 2014-2016 and abstained for the last two years “so there’s something about getting back to that,” Pierce said.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a report to the council circulated Monday that “the United Nations does not have an alternative means of reaching people in need in the areas in which cross-border assistance is being provided.”

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