IDLIB, Syria (AP) — The U.N. secretary general is hoping that the Security Council will vote later this month to keep a key border crossing from Turkey to Syria’s rebel-held northwest open for critical aid deliveries for a period of one year instead of six months, a U.N. official said Tuesday.
Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib is home to some 4 million people, many of whom were earlier displaced during the 12-year civil war, which has killed nearly half a million people. Hundreds of thousands live in tent settlements and rely on aid that comes through the Bab al-Hawa border crossing.
The Security Council is expected to vote in the coming days, as the current six-month opening period expires on July 10.
The situation got worse after the Feb. 6 earthquake that hit southern Turkey and northern Syria, killing tens of thousands of people and leaving many more homeless and in need of aid.
In the past, Russia, the main backer of Syrian President Bashar Assad, abstained on or vetoed resolutions on cross-border aid deliveries. It has sought to replace aid crossing the Turkish border to Idlib province with convoys from government-held areas in Syria. Since the early years of the war in Syria, Turkey has sided with and supported the rebels.
The Security Council initially authorized aid deliveries in 2014 from Turkey, Iraq and Jordan through four crossing points into opposition-held areas in Syria. But over the years, Russia, backed by its ally China, has reduced the authorized crossings to just one from Turkey — and the time frame from a year to six months.
“The U.N. Secretary-General has been very clear that he would like the Security Council to renew the cross-border resolution which expires on July 10 for 12 months,” said David Carden, the U.N.’s Deputy Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria crisis. He spoke to journalists during a visit to Idlib.
He said a 12-month renewal was needed in order for the U.N. to implement early recovery projects such as durable shelters. “What we want is to get people from tents into durable shelter,” he said adding that such shelters are cooler in summer and warmer in winter, in addition to the privacy they give to families.
The February earthquake left more than 4,500 dead in northwestern Syria and about 855,000 people had their homes damaged or destroyed, according to the U.N..
After the earthquake, two additional border crossings between Turkey and Syria were opened initially for three months. They were extended for a further three months in May to help the flow of aid.