The UN Security Council has approved an extension of a cross-border aid operation for millions of desperate people in Syria after Russia agreed to a compromise in last-minute talks with the United States in a move commended by U.S. President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in a phone call.
The Security Council vote on July 9 ensures that the Syrians have access to UN aid for 12 months and comes just ahead of the expiration of the council mandate for the aid on July 10.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield and Russian UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia reached an agreement on a compromise resolution early on July 9. The two countries then presented it to the 15-member Security Council, which unanimously adopted it.
The resolution authorizes aid deliveries to northwest Idlib through the crossing at Bab al-Hawa on Syria's border with Turkey.
The compromise resolution says UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres must produce a report in six months on the "transparency" of the aid operation and on aid deliveries across conflict lines. But it does not require another vote in six months to extend the cross-border operation, diplomats said.
Russia had opposed keeping the Bab al-Hawa crossing open for one year and had disagreed with the view of the UN and many Western nations that there is no alternative to delivering aid to rebel-held areas except from Turkey. Moscow had argued that humanitarian aid deliveries to the rebel-held northwest are possible across conflict lines within the country.
The United Nations has said 3.4 million people in Syria, including 2 million in rebel-held areas, are in desperate need of food and other international assistance.
In a statement issued after Biden held a one-hour long phone call with Putin on July 9, the White House said, "The leaders commended the joint work of their respective teams following the U.S.-Russia Summit [in Geneva] that led to the unanimous renewal of cross-border humanitarian assistance to Syria today in the UN Security Council."
Thomas-Greenfield said the council’s approval of the resolution will save lives.
"It shows what we can do with the Russians if we work with them diplomatically on common goals," Thomas-Greenfield told reporters. "I look forward to looking for other opportunities to work with the Russians on issues of common interest."
“Parents can sleep tonight knowing that for the next 12 months their children will be fed,” she said.
Nebenzia described the vote on the resolution as a "historical moment" that he hoped could become a turning point that will be a win not only for Syria but the Middle Eastern region as a whole.
"We hope that it might be a turning point that is indeed in line with what Putin and Biden discussed in Geneva," Nebenzia told reporters after the vote. "It demonstrates that we can cooperate when there is a need and when there is a will as well."
UN Approves Resolution Agreed By Russia, U.S. On Humanitarian Aid For Syria