Russia Balks at Cross-Border Humanitarian Aid in Syria

All the representatives insisted that it was essential to continue cross-border operations because the only other way to reach those in need is to cross front lines, from government to rebel-held territory, and Damascus has consistently put up obstacles to cross-line convoys. In report after report, the United Nations has documented bureaucratic delays and the removal of goods from humanitarian convoys, including medicines and medical supplies.

The bulk of United Nations aid to Syria is delivered to government-controlled areas, with various agencies providing food, medical care and school supplies — even garbage removal in some newly reclaimed areas — for 2.8 million Syrians. An additional 800,000 Syrians received United Nations aid through cross-border convoys in November. “This sustained assistance is essential for those in need,” Mr. Lowcock said.


Aid vehicles waiting on the outskirts of Madaya in 2016.

Louai Beshara/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Aid trucks are inspected and sealed at the border and their contents distributed by local aid groups as part of an arrangement authorized by the 2014 Security Council resolution, designed to ensure that aid could be distributed where it was needed. The resolution was renewed twice, with Russian support. This time, though, Russia says it wants tighter inspections, according to diplomats, but has yet to propose anything specific.

Last month it vetoed the renewal of a United Nations panel to investigate the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

“This mechanism cannot remain as it presently stands,” said the Russian ambassador, Mr. Nebenzia, in his only public comments about the cross-border aid resolution.

Negotiations are expected in the coming days, with Egypt, Japan and Sweden, all temporary members of the Council, leading the talks.

“We cannot accept any changes that would hamper this lifesaving assistance to continue,” Carl Skau, Sweden’s deputy ambassador, said, adding that his country was open to discussing “ways to further enhance transparency.”

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