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By Michelle Nichols

Frustration at UN ahead of likely row with Russia on Syria aid

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield speaks during the U.N. Security Council meeting on maintenance of peace and security of Ukraine at the United Nations headquarters in New York, U.S., February 6, 2023. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz/File Photo

The United Nations Security Council will next week discuss if it will allow the UN to deliver aid to rebel-held northwest Syria through more than one Turkish border crossing following Monday's devastating earthquake - a move Russia does not think is needed.

With the death toll in Turkey and Syria passing 23,000, some diplomats expressed frustration on Friday that the 15-member council has been slow to act after Secretary-General Antonio Guterres pressed for more access to northwest Syria via Turkey.

"There is frustration with foot-dragging on this. The Secretary-General said we need more crossings. The UN Security Council needs to step up and get it done," said a UN diplomat familiar with discussions, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Since 2014 the United Nations has been able to deliver aid to millions of people in need in the northwest of war-torn Syria through Turkey under a Security Council mandate. But it is currently restricted to using just one border crossing.

Brazil's UN Ambassador Ronaldo Costa Filho said UN aid chief Martin Griffiths - who is in Turkey and will also visit Syria - will brief the council next week and that any action by the body will "depend on an evaluation of the concrete situation on the ground, it cannot be a gut reaction to what is in the press."

Following Guterres' remarks on Thursday and calls by aid groups, the United States is pushing for the Security Council to adopt another resolution "that would allow for additional border crossings so that the UN can access areas in need," said a U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity.


The Syrian government views aid deliveries across its border as a violation of its sovereignty and says aid should be delivered across frontlines of the 12-year-old civil war. On Friday it approved aid deliveries across frontlines.

Russia's Deputy UN Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy said on Friday that the existing council mandate limiting shipments to a single border crossing was sufficient and that deliveries across frontlines could be expanded to reach people in need.

He added: "We'll listen to Griffiths when he is back."

Some diplomats hope the briefing by Griffiths could help convince Syrian ally and veto-power Russia to allow council approval of more border access points.

"We will ask for the opening of one or more cross-border points which may be critical in order to save lives," said a senior U.N. diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity. "Some of the member states will need to be encouraged by specific recommendations from Martin Griffiths. This will make it easier."

The United Nations has long said that challenges to increasing aid deliveries across frontlines include receiving timely security guarantees and approvals and a lack of funding.

UN aid via Turkey reached 2.7 million people a month in northwest Syria last year, compared with 43,500 people a month who received aid from routes within Syria since August 2021.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Don Durfee and Rosalba O'Brien)

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