Syria gives green light to UN to keep two crossings from Turkey to rebel-held northwest open for aid.
Trucks loaded with United Nations humanitarian aid for Syria following a devastating earthquake are parked at Bab al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey, in Syria's Idlib province, on Feb. 10, 2023. On Tuesday, July 11, 2023, the UN Security Council failed to renew the Bab al-Hawa border crossing into opposition-held northwestern Syria from Turkey. © AP Photo / Ghaith Alsayed, File.
BY EDITH M. LEDERER
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Syria has agreed to keep two crossings open from Turkey to its rebel-held northwest for the delivery of aid for another three months, the United Nations announced Tuesday.
The U.N. “greatly welcomes” the Syrian government’s decision to keep the Bab al-Salameh and al-Rai border crossings open until Nov. 13, U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said.
But the most convenient crossing to the area, Bab al-Hawa, remains closed, though Haq said the United Nations is in talks with the Syrian government and remains ready to reopen it if “obstacles” can be overcome. “We’re hopeful that we can do so,” he told reporters.
The U.N. Security Council failed to adopt either of two rival resolutions on July 11 to authorize further deliveries through the Bab al-Hawa border crossing, which had been used to deliver 85% of aid to Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib.
It is home to about 4.1 million people, many of whom have been forced from their homes during the 12-year civil war, which has killed nearly a half million people and displaced half the country’s pre-war population of 23 million. Hundreds of thousands of people in Idlib live in tent settlements and had relied on aid that came through the Bab al-Hawa border crossing.
Syrian President Bashar Assad opened the two additional crossing points from Turkey at Bab al-Salameh and al-Rai to increase the flow of assistance to victims of the devastating magnitude 7.8 earthquake that ravaged northwestern Syria and southern Turkey on Feb. 8. He extended their operation for three months in May until Aug. 13.
Haq said the Syrian government informed U.N. humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths in a letter on Sunday that it would allow the U.N. to continue using the two crossings until Nov. 13.
Syria has set conditions for the renewal of deliveries through Bab al-Hawa, which the U.N. humanitarian office has largely rejected.
Syria insisted aid deliveries must be done “in full cooperation and coordination with the government,” that the U.N. would not communicate with “terrorist organizations” and their affiliates, and that the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent would run aid operations.
The U.N. responded that the prohibition on communicating with groups considered “terrorist” by the Syrian government would prevent the U.N. and partner organizations from engaging “with relevant state and non-state parties as operationally necessary to carry out safe and unimpeded humanitarian operations.”
Stipulating that aid deliveries must be overseen by the Red Cross or Red Crescent is “neither consistent with the independence of the United Nations nor practical,” since those organizations “are not present in north-west Syria,” it said in a letter.
The letter also noted that the Syrian government’s request that aid deliveries should be carried out in “full cooperation and coordination” with Damascus requires “review.”
Those appear to be the issues that Haq said are now being discussed with the Syrian government.
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