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UN vote sought to authorize cross-border aid in Syria, Russia veto expected: diplomats

Volunteers deliver aid at a camp for displaced Syrians near the town of Deir al-Ballut, by the border with Turkey, in Syria's Afrin region in the northwest of the rebel-held side of the Aleppo province on April 14, 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic.
Volunteers deliver aid at a camp for displaced Syrians near the town of Deir al-Ballut, by the border with Turkey, in Syria's Afrin region in the northwest of the rebel-held side of the Aleppo province on April 14, 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic. Rami al SAYED AFP
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United Nations (United States) (AFP)

Germany and Belgium have asked the UN Security Council to vote to extend authorization for cross-border humanitarian aid in Syria despite a likely Russian veto, diplomatic sources said Tuesday.

The German-Belgian draft resolution would extend for a year an authorization for aid to move into Syria, free from the control of the Damascus government, across two points on the Turkish border, while Russia wants one of the border crossings eliminated and only a six-month extension.

The vote was expected at the end of the day.

"There is going to be a Russian veto," predicted a diplomat speaking on condition of anonymity, an expectation shared by other diplomatic sources.

The current UN authorization, which has been in effect since 2014 with periodic extensions, expires July 10.

If Russia uses its veto -- with China probably following suit -- it would be the 15th time it has done so since the start of the Syrian war in 2011.

Besides the western nations, which would like to see the authorization strengthened amid a spreading coronavirus epidemic in Syria, the UN secretariat also has demanded that the aid operation continue with at least two crossing points on the Turkish border. Those crossing enable aid to reach Syria's hard-hit northwestern Idlib region.

In January, Moscow, Syria's closest ally, succeeded in having the crossing points reduced from four to two and in limiting the authorization to six months instead of a year, as had been done previously.

Russia, like China, argues that the UN authorization violates Syria's sovereignty and that the aid could be distributed by the Syrian authorities.

The western nations and the UN secretariat reject that argument, insisting that the cross-border aid is the only credible option, and that the flow of relief supplies would face multiple obstacles if it had to pass through Damascus' control.

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