UN Syria aid extension blocked by Russia and China

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Russia and China cast vetoes on Tuesday to block the United Nations Security Council from extending its approval of aid deliveries to Syria from Turkey for a year, despite warnings that the lives of Syrian civilians depend on the cross-border access.

The more than six-year long operation is currently authorised until Friday. The remaining 13 council members voted in favour of the resolution drafted by Germany and Belgium.

The Security Council will now vote on a rival Russian text that would only approve one Turkish crossing for aid access for six months. During the coronavirus pandemic the council has been operating virtually, which means members have 24 hours to cast a vote on a draft resolution.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric said earlier on Tuesday cross-border access was "vital to the wellbeing of the civilians in northwest Syria ... Lives depend on it".

The Security Council in January allowed the cross-border aid operation to continue from the two Turkish crossings for six months, but dropped crossing points from Iraq and Jordan due to opposition by Syrian ally Russia and China.

Last month Germany and Belgium proposed reopening the Iraq crossing for six months to help Syria combat the coronavirus, but it was cut from the draft resolution that was put to a vote on Tuesday, again due to opposition by Russia and China.

Syrian government authorities have confirmed more than 250 cases of the coronavirus, including nine deaths, the United Nations has said.

Western diplomats have said the closure of the Iraq crossing cuts off 40 per cent of medical aid to northeastern Syria.

In December, Russia and China vetoed a draft text that would have authorised the crossing points from Iraq and Turkey for one year. A resolution needs nine votes in favour and no vetoes by Russia, China, the United States, France or Britain to pass.

A crackdown by Syrian President Bashar Al Assad on pro-democracy protesters in 2011 led to civil war, with Moscow backing Mr Al Assad and Washington supporting the opposition. Millions of people have fled Syria and millions are internally displaced.

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An Iraqi woman wearing a protective mask displays an oil painting at her shop, after the government partially lifted the curfew imposed to fight the spread of the coronavirus disease, in the city of Najaf, Iraq. Reuters

Palestinian Waad Manasra displays her hand-embroidered protective masks, sold also online, at her home in the village of Bani Naim, east of the occupied West Bank city of Hebron. AFP

A sign near the bakery section at a supermarket in Al Barsha Mall urrges people to maintain social distancing. Reem Mohammed / The National

A paramedic of Israel's national emergency department collects a swab sample from a Palestinian man at a mobile testing station for the coronavirus, in the Arab neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah in the occupied east Jerusalem. AFP

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People enjoy the evening as they sit next to the shore of the Bosphorus as Fatih Sultan Mehmet bridge is seen in the background in Istanbul. AFP

A Palestinian woman wearing a protective mask amid the Covid-19 pandemic lifts a national flag during a rally for supporters of the Fateh movement against Israel's West Bank annexation plans, in Beit Hanun in the north of the occupied Gaza Strip. AFP

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Updated: July 8, 2020 08:16 AM

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