Security Council Rejects 2 Draft Resolutions Authorizing Cross-Border, Cross-Line Humanitarian Access in Syria
The Security Council today failed to adopt two draft resolutions on extending the authorization for the mechanism that allows cross‑border delivery of humanitarian aid in Syria today — one tabled by Belgium, Germany and Kuwait; the other by the Russian Federation.
The draft proposed by co‑sponsors Belgium, Germany and Kuwait was rejected by a vote of 13 in favour and 2 against (China, Russian Federation). By its terms, the Council would have decided to renew the mechanism created by resolution 2165 (2014), excluding the border crossing of Al‑Ramtha, for a further six‑month period, to be followed by an additional six months unless the Council decided otherwise.
That draft would have demanded that all parties allow safe, unimpeded and sustained access for humanitarian convoys, including medical and surgical supplies, to all requested areas and populations, according to the United Nations’ assessment of need in all parts of Syria. It would have called on United Nations humanitarian agencies to improve monitoring of the distribution of relief consignments and their delivery inside Syria. It also would have requested the Secretary‑General to conduct an independent written review of United Nations humanitarian cross-line and cross-border operations, including recommendations on the need to reauthorize use of the Al‑Ramtha border crossing.
The draft proposed the Russian Federation was likewise defeated by 5 votes in favour (China, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Russian Federation, South Africa), to 6 opposed (Dominican Republic, France, Peru, Poland, United Kingdom, United States), with 4 abstentions (Belgium, Germany, Indonesia, Kuwait).
By its terms, the Council would have decided to renew the decisions in paragraphs 2 and 3 of Security Council resolution 2165 (2014), excluding border crossings at Al Yarubiyah and Al-Ramtha until 10 July 2020. It would have also called on all United Nations humanitarian agencies and their implementing partners to ensure appropriate identification for vehicles delivering assistance through cross‑border operations authorized by the resolution.
Germany’s delegate, who introduced the first text, recalled the extent to which compromises had been made, maintaining that the Russian draft was tabled merely as a “take it or leave it proposition”.
In turn, the Russian Federation’s delegate said the draft proposed by the co‑sponsors does not correspond to the current situation. Much of the aid has been co‑opted by terrorist groups. Syria’s Government controls enough checkpoints to deliver humanitarian aid itself, he argued. By contrast, the Russian draft resolution focuses purely on humanitarian needs while drawing down on unused crossings. He called on all those who care about the situation to vote for it.
The meeting began at 12:34 p.m. and ended at 1:39 p.m.
CHRISTOPH HUESGEN (Germany) introduced the first draft, stressing that it is a response to the dire humanitarian situation in Syria, where 4 million people rely on the cross-border mechanism for life‑saving aid. Describing extensive compromises made in negotiations, he said three crossing points were called absolutely necessary by humanitarian agencies. Those were kept in the draft, while the Al‑Ramtha crossing was not insisted upon. In another act of compromise, six‑month periods were considered. He called on all members to vote for it so that Syrians can continue to have their needs covered.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said he would reject the draft because it does not correspond to the current situation. Syria’s Government controls enough checkpoints to deliver humanitarian aid itself, he argued. In addition, much of the aid has been co‑opted by terrorist groups. He recalled the temporary nature of the mechanism, as well as international legal requirements that aid be provided in coordination with the national Government. Syria’s sovereignty must be respected; its opposition cannot be disregarded.
He then introduced his own draft resolution, which he said focuses purely on humanitarian needs while drawing down on unused crossings. It extends the mechanism where it is truly needed for a six‑month period in which further needs can be considered. He called on all those who care about the humanitarian situation to vote for it.
The draft proposed by Belgium, Germany and Kuwait was then rejected by a vote of 13 in favour and two against (China, Russian Federation), owing to a negative vote by a permanent Council member.
KHALED SULAIMAN AL‑JARALLAH, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Kuwait, said his delegation regrets the Council’s inability to adopt a draft resolution that is strictly humanitarian in nature. There is no alternative to the mechanism and hopefully, negotiations to renew it can continue.
Ms. CEDANO (Dominican Republic) recalled that exactly three months ago, “the same thing happened” when the Council failed to adopt a draft resolution aimed at halting attacks on civilians in Idlib. However, the Council still has a chance to meet the needs of the Syrian people.
ANNE GUEGUEN (France) described the negative votes cast by the Russian Federation followed by China as “irresponsible and cynical”. She called on all Council members to demonstrate unity and responsibility by renewing the mandate of the cross-border mechanism. A six‑month renewal does not make sense, as humanitarian operations require predictability. “The Syrian people must not be taken hostage,” she said. “Let us get to work.”
JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland) said she voted in favour to express strong support for provision of aid for those in need.
NÉSTOR POPOLIZIO (Peru) expressed appreciation for the co‑penholders’ efforts to bring about a compromise to preserve a system on which the lives of millions of people depend. He deeply regretted the failure to adopt the draft, calling for restored unity in the Council.
ZHANG JUN (China), expressing support for United Nations humanitarian aid, while noting his country’s assistance to the Syrian people, said that all aid operations must respect the sovereignty of the country concerned. The cross‑border mechanism was developed for particular circumstances that have changed. It therefore must be adjusted in coordination with Syria’s Government. China had promoted consensus on the issue and he expressed regret that members had not reached agreement.
KELLY CRAFT (United States), Council President for December, spoke in her national capacity to express shock at the vote, calling the veto of the draft reckless, irresponsible and cruel, leaving millions of Syrians bereft of aid. Damascus has decided to starve its own citizens. The regime’s actions are the reason for the cross‑border mechanism’s creation, she observed. Previously, despite differences of opinion, there had been agreement to do the right thing to alleviate suffering.
The Council then rejected the draft proposed the Russian Federation by a vote of 5 in favour (China, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Russian Federation, South Africa), to 6 against (Dominican Republic, France, Peru, Poland, United Kingdom, United States), with 4 abstentions (Belgium, Germany, Indonesia, Kuwait).
MARC PECSTEEN DE BUYTSWERVE (Belgium) said no other resolution before the Council is more important than the cross‑border resolution. There had been discussion for more than a month that reflected the views of all Council members. “Today is a sad day for the Security Council”, he said, pledging that he will continue to pursue compromise, cautioning however, that there can be no compromise on what is essential.
KAREN PIERCE (United Kingdom) said she voted in favour of the first draft resolution because the cross‑border mechanism remains critical, calling the Russian draft “cynical”. As a consequence, Syrians will not be helped, nor will the cause of multilateralism. She expressed hope that the Council will get beyond “this sorry episode” and meet the needs of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. “Russia should not play dice with people’s lives,” she asserted.
Mr. HUESGEN (Germany) recalled the extent to which compromises had been made on his draft, maintaining that the Russian draft was tabled merely as a “take it or leave it proposition”. He called on China and the Russian Federation to not let the Syrian people down, noting that until 10 January, there will be an opportunity to improve the situation.
Ms. WRONECKA (Poland) said the Russian draft did not outline the necessary mechanisms to provide adequate assistance to the Syrian people.
DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia) said he voted for the first draft because it reflected compromise and a willingness to listen to all delegations. The second draft had not fully responded to the needs. Regretting that no decision was made, he called for genuine discussion based on humanitarian principles, and on all members to work under such principles to find a solution.
MARTHINUS VAN SHALKWYK (South Africa) said his country voted in favour of both drafts so that aid could continue. He urged that further that the mechanism is renewed before 10 January.
Mr. ZHANG (China) rejected accusations by the United States delegate and others against his country, stressing that China has always encouraged dialogue. Its voting positions are not subject to accusations by any other countries. He asked why, if they are seriously concerned by the situation in Syria, those countries did not vote for the text tabled by the Russian Federation.
Mr. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), expressing deep regret over the vote on his delegation’s draft, said it represented a great deal of compromise by his country. The Russian Federation was ready, in fact, to extend the mechanism. He argued that no one had won today; the Syrian people had lost. Those who say they care about Syrians had voted against extending the mechanism by voting against his draft.
Ms. CRAFT (United States) said that her country voted against the Russian draft because “it mocks our values and principles”. It also defies the recommendations of the Secretary-General, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and international non‑governmental groups. The goal of the Russian Federation today was to score political points, she argued, adding that the country would rather see Syrian civilians starve than disappoint Assad.
Mr. TALOUH (Syria) expressed regret over the obstinacy of certain Council members, notably the co‑pen holders, in pursuing an unbalanced approach that led to a proposal that, because of its content, is a departure from declared humanitarian purposes. In addition, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has been manipulating data; assistance falls into the hands of armed terrorists, rather than those who actually need it. Al‑Nusra Front, for one, depends on humanitarian assistance coming in from Turkey.
In addition, he asked how those who claim to be concerned at the people of Syria can turn a blind eye to the pillaging of gas and the occupation by American forces. He also underscored that the focus of humanitarian assistance for Syria is in Damascus, noting that his Government is the main partner in humanitarian endeavours. National sovereignty must be respected, he added.
Ms. PIERCE (United Kingdom) paid tribute to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ efforts to bring life‑saving aid to those in need in Syria and around the world.
Ms. CRAFT (United States), pledged that despite today’s disappointment, the Presidency will continue to work for a solution that all can support.