Russia on Friday vetoed a bid to extend UN Security Council approval for 12 months of UN aid deliveries to some 4 million people in opposition-controlled northwest Syria from Turkey.
The resolution, drafted by Ireland and Norway, received 13 votes in favor, while China abstained. A resolution needs nine votes in favor and no vetoes by Russia, China, the United States, Britain or France to be adopted.
“This is a life and death issue. And tragically, people will die because of this vote and the country who shamelessly deployed the veto,” US Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, told the council.
The 15-member council then voted on a proposal by Russia, a Syrian ally, to approve the UN operation for six months and also push for broad international reconstruction efforts in Syria. It failed with only Russia and China voting in favor, while the United States, Britain and France voted against it and the remaining 10 council members abstained.
“This page of history has finally been turned and cannot be turned back,” Russia’s Deputy UN Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy told the council after the second vote, adding that Moscow would continue to provide aid to Syria “with respect for its sovereignty and territorial integrity”.
The United States, Britain and France said six months is not long enough for aid groups to plan and operate effectively.
Western powers are also against funding broad reconstruction efforts until progress is made toward a political solution in Syria, where a crackdown by President Bashar al-Assad on pro-democracy protesters in 2011 led to civil war.
The current mandate for the UN aid operation into Syria from Turkey expires on Sunday. The 15-member council is now expected to continue negotiations to see if an agreement can still be reached.
“We’re not daunted by this veto. This is not the end of the road,” said Ireland’s UN Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason, speaking on behalf of Ireland and Norway.
China’s UN Ambassador Zhang Jun also called on all council members “not to give up” and to continue negotiations. United Arab Emirates UN Ambassador Lana Nusseibeh suggested a possible nine-month extension “to ensure that the needs of millions of Syrians will be served through the winter.”
The Security Council vote on the authorisation of the aid operation has been a contentious issue for years.
In 2014, the Security Council authorized humanitarian aid deliveries into opposition-held areas of Syria from Iraq, Jordan and two points in Turkey. But veto powers Russia and China have whittled that down to just one Turkish border point.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed to the council last month to extend its approval of the aid deliveries from Turkey into northwest Syria, telling the body: “We cannot give up on the people of Syria.”