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US opposes reduction of UN cross-border aid in Syria: ambassador

United States ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft (pictured January 2020) said that maintaining cross-border humanitarian aid into Syria is "the right thing to do". ©AFP

United Nations (United States) (AFP) - The United States opposes a reduction in UN cross-border humanitarian aid to Syria, the ambassador to the body said Wednesday, predicting the failure of a Russian resolution on the topic submitted to the Security Council.

Russia and China on Tuesday vetoed an earlier Security Council resolution that would have extended authorization for cross-border humanitarian aid at two border crossings into Syria for a year.

Moscow swiftly proposed a more limited extension -- but it called for the closure of one of the crossings.

"We know the right thing to do is to have both border crossings in the northwest remain open to reach the maximum amount of Syrians that are in need of humanitarian aid," Kelly Craft, the US ambassador to the United Nations, told AFP in an interview.

When asked if the issue was a "red line," she replied, "Yes, absolutely."

The result of the vote on the Russian resolution is expected Wednesday evening.

"This vote is going to reflect the unity" against the position of Russia and China, Craft said. 

The earlier text had been agreed on by 13 members of the Council, she said, adding: "we were able to isolate China and Russia."

Russia's move "is just another attempt for them to politicize humanitarian assistance."

According to Craft, keeping only one border crossing open would cut off 1.3 million people living north of Aleppo from humanitarian aid.

The choice to be made between the Western position and that of Russia and China is "between good and evil, right and wrong," said Craft, noting that Germany and Belgium were preparing a new resolution to renew the authorization for cross-border aid before it expires Friday.

"They already have a new draft in mind and we are very supportive," she said. 

Craft in 2019 visited one of the crossing points from the Turkish side near Bab al-Hawa, an experience that made a lasting impression and made working with displaced Syrians "a personal issue," she explained.

Authorization for cross-border humanitarian aid has existed since 2014, with periodic extensions.

Germany and Belgium, two of the council's non-permanent members, had drafted the original resolution, which would have allowed aid to continue to pass through Bab al-Salam and Bab al-Hawa on the Turkish border without interference from Damascus.

Tuesday's vote was the 15th time that Russia has used its veto since the start of the Syrian war in 2011, and the ninth for China.

They argue that the UN authorization violates Syria's sovereignty, and that aid can increasingly be channeled through Syrian authorities.

In January, Moscow, Syria's closest ally, succeeded in having the crossing points reduced from four to two and in limiting the authorization to six months instead of a year, as had been done previously.

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