January 9, 2020 / 8:59 PM / 3 months ago

Syria cross-border aid to end Friday if U.N. Security Council fails to break deadlock

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - A six-year-long United Nations operation delivering aid across the Syrian border to millions of civilians will expire at midnight on Friday if a deadlocked U.N. Security Council cannot reach a last-minute deal to extend its authorisation.

Since 2014 the United Nations and aid groups have crossed into Syria from Turkey, Iraq and Jordan at four places annually authorized by the council. Its approval is needed because the Syrian government did not consent to cross-border deliveries.

“To put it very simply, there is no alternative to reaching the people we need to reach in the northwest and northeast (of Syria) without the cross-border” operation, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters on Thursday.

More than 3 million Syrian civilians are completely dependant on cross-border aid, the United Nations said.

Russia wants to halve the number of border crossing points to two - both from Turkey - and cut the length of the authorization for the operation to six months from one year.

In a compromise bid, Western powers said they could agree to three crossing points approved for six months, and the 15-member Security Council is set to vote on that proposal on Friday, diplomats said.

But it was unclear whether Russia will accept the third crossing - from Iraq - and Moscow rejected a request to renew the current cross-border aid operation for another two weeks to allow for further negotiations among Security Council members, diplomats said.

To pass, a resolution needs a minimum of nine votes in favour and no vetoes by permanent council members Russia, China, the United States, Britain or France.

Russia and China vetoed a resolution last month that would have allowed deliveries for a further 12 months from two points in Turkey and one in Iraq. It was Russia’s 14th veto on action related to Syria since the country’s conflict started in 2011.

The remaining 13 council members voted in favour.

The council also voted last month on a rival Russian draft resolution that would have approved the two Turkish crossing points for six months, but it failed with only five votes in favour, six against and four abstentions.

It was not immediately clear whether Russia would put its proposal to a vote again on Friday. Five council members were replaced on Jan. 1, and some diplomats said Russia could now have more support.

In a Dec. 16 report to the council, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged it to extend authorization of the cross-border deliveries.

Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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