The UN Security Council agreed Tuesday to extend its mandate for badly-needed cross-border aid deliveries into Syria for six months.
The 12-0 vote came after Russia vetoed a UN resolution on Friday that would have extended cross-border deliveries from Türkiye for one year. The Council's mandate expired Sunday.
The resolution nixed by Moscow last week included a one-year extension for aid deliveries from Türkiye’s Cilvegozu border crossing to Bab al-Hawa in northwest Syria. Russia had sought a six-month extension with the option of another six months, a plan opposed by other Council members and aid groups who warn it is insufficient.
The US, UK and France abstained from Tuesday's vote because of the shortened timeframe permitted under the approved resolution. The authorities can be extended for an additional six months but doing so will require another Council vote in January. It is unclear if Russia will support another extension.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US's UN envoy, accused Russia of taking "the entire Security Council hostage," saying the lives of innocent Syrians were left to hang in the balance.
"The Secretary-General asked for more. UN agencies asked for more. NGOs asked for more. Syrians asked for more," she told the Council. "But one country, one member has chosen not to put humanitarian needs first. Rather than scaling up, we have been sadly pushed to cut down. This is such a heartless play. It will only serve to hurt the Syrian people."
Addressing reporters after the vote, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he "strongly" hopes for another six-month extension, describing cross-border aid deliveries as a "matter of life and death for many" Syrians.
More than 2.4 million Syrians benefit from humanitarian aid delivered through Bab al-Hawa every month, according to UN data.
Last year, more than 9,500 trucks carrying food aid, medicine and goods entered Syria through the crossing.
The UN has been aiding millions of Syrians through multiple border crossings since 2014. But from 2020 on, the Council reduced the entry points to just one, leaving Bab al-Hawa as the sole option.