Russia takes aim at UN aid to Syrian rebel areas

United Nations: Russia on Thursday called for changes to a UN measure allowing cross-border deliveries of humanitarian aid to millions of Syrians living in rebel-held areas.

The Security Council will in the coming weeks decide whether to renew a resolution that since 2014 has authorized aid convoys to cross into war-scarred Syria from Turkey and Jordan, without the approval of the government in Damascus.

Russian Deputy Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy said relief supplies sent to those areas were being seized by armed groups, subject to extortion at checkpoints and had generated $2 million in monthly revenue to the rebels.

“The situation on the ground in Syria has significantly changed and it is important to lead to a commensurate adjustment of the cross-border mechanism,” Polyanskiy told the council.

He did not elaborate on the adjustment that Russia is advocating.

Russia last year abstained in the vote to renew the aid scheme but did not use its veto power at the council to block the relief operation.

The United Nations maintains that the cross-border deliveries are a lifeline to Syrians living in rebel-held territory because the government in Damascus has heavily restricted aid shipments to those areas.

More than 13 million people need humanitarian aid in Syria, now in its eighth year of war.

Nearly three million Syrians receive aid delivered from across the border, according to UN officials.

Since 2014, the Syrian government has taken back control of most of the territory once held by armed groups, with opposition forces now largely confined to the northern province of Idlib.

The United States, China and European countries have said cross-border operations must be allowed to continue to provide vital aid to civilians living in those areas.

The council is expected to vote in December on the draft resolution renewing the aid deliveries, which expires on January 10.

Syria’s war has killed more than 360,000 people and displaced millions.

Aid operations in Syria, the UN’s largest relief effort, have continued despite little progress by UN diplomats to end the war.

[source_without_link] Agence France-Presse[/source_without_link]