Security Council Renews Cross-Border Aid Operations into Syria’s North-West for Six Months, Adopting Resolution 2642 (2022) as ‘Compromise’ amid Divisions
Following days of protracted negotiations, the Security Council today adopted a compromise resolution extending the use of the Bab al-Hawa border crossing for the delivery of humanitarian aid into Syria’s north-west for six months, leaving the door open for a subsequent six-month renewal, until 10 July 2023, pending the adoption of another resolution.
The Council’s adoption of resolution 2642 (2022) (to be issued as document S/RES/2642(2022)) — by a vote of 12 in favour to none against, with 3 abstentions (France, United Kingdom, United States) — follows the failure to pass either of two competing drafts on 8 July and expiration of the cross-border mandate on 10 July. This marks the only time in recent memory that disagreement among the organ’s 15 members has allowed for such uncertainty, triggering the convening of a formal General Assembly meeting on the situation in Syria within 10 working days. (See Press Releases SC/14963 and GA/12417.)
In adopting today’s resolution, the Council extended its previous authorization of the Bab al-Hawa crossing point on Syria’s border with Türkiye, first laid out in paragraphs 2 and 3 of resolution 2165 (2014). Those authorizations apply only to Bab al-Hawa, and not to several other crossing points whose use was previously curtailed by the Council. A second six-month extension will require a separate resolution. In that regard, the Secretary-General is requested to provide a special report on humanitarian needs no later than 10 December.
Also by the text, the Council demanded the full and immediate implementation of all previous relevant resolutions. It called on Member States to address the urgent needs of Syria’s people, given the profound socioeconomic and humanitarian impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, describing Syria as a country in a situation of “complex humanitarian emergency”. It requested the Secretary-General to brief members monthly, providing regular reports, at least every 60 days, on the implementation of its resolutions and compliance by the parties.
“It is no secret that this has been a difficult negotiation,” said Ireland’s representative, who introduced the resolution jointly with Norway. Following the veto of last week’s draft, the co-sponsors redoubled their efforts to find a path that would allow humanitarians to continue to reach those in dire need. Throughout, Ireland and Norway have been guided solely by the needs of Syrians, she insisted, stressing that today’s text represents a “delicate balance between the different positions of Council members at this time”.
Describing their abstentions, the representatives of France, United Kingdom and United States stressed that needs in Syria are greater than at any other time and denounced the Council’s rejection of vociferous and repeated calls by United Nations agencies and humanitarian partners, who said a 12-month extension was needed maintain the smooth continuity of aid operations. On 8 July, “Russia stopped this from happening”, said the United Kingdom’s representative, leaving them in a cycle of prepositioning and contingency planning.
By ignoring these calls, added France’s delegate, the Council has not lived up to its responsibility. France will not finance reconstruction or lift sanctions until a credible and inclusive political process is firmly under way. Today’s vote “is what happens when one member takes the entire Council hostage with lives hanging in the balance”, the United States delegate stressed, noting that his delegation did not obstruct today’s vote because aid workers had acknowledged that a temporary extension was “better than nothing”.
To that reasoning, the Russian Federation’s delegate said it is time for Washington, D.C., London and Paris “to get used to respecting the interests of other States”, notably those impacted by the Council’s decisions. He called for increasing cross-line deliveries, a point echoed by China’s representative, who said that “ramming through a vote while major differences still exist” only intensifies differences. India’s delegate, meanwhile, agreed that the cross‑border mechanism cannot exist in perpetuity.
Offering the national perspective, Syria’s representative said the Government has facilitated the entry of many United Nations and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) convoys throughout Syria. This refutes any claims justifying the extension of the so-called cross-border mechanism, despite its temporary, exceptional nature that was imposed by circumstances that no longer exist. “What was achieved today could have been achieved days ago” but for the “political selfishness” of the three Western Council members, he said.
Also speaking today were representatives of Kenya (on behalf of the “E10” elected Council members), Norway, Albania and the United Arab Emirates.
The meeting began at 9:04 a.m. and ended at 9:46 a.m.
Statements Before the Vote
GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland), speaking also for Norway, noted that today’s text would authorize the cross-border humanitarian aid operation into Syria. “It is no secret in this has been a difficult negotiation,” she acknowledged, stressing that, after last week’s draft was vetoed, the co-sponsors redoubled efforts to find a path forward that would allow humanitarians to reach those in dire need. The new draft does just that. Throughout this process, Ireland and Norway have been guided solely by the needs of Syrians themselves. Recalling that the authorization expired at midnight on 10 July, she said that, for Syrians, and all humanitarians working to assist them, this has been a “long and uncertain couple of days”. Today’s draft would renew operations through the Bab al-Hawa crossing for six months, anticipating the further six-month extension, which will require a separate resolution, she continued. A special report from the Secretary-General will inform that decision. Recognizing that a six-month extension is shorter than what the co-sponsors had wished — a view shared by the majority of Council members and humanitarian actors on ground, who said a 12-month mandate was needed — she said what is most important is that the Council keeps the crossing open and operating, and that aid reaches those in dire need. The draft will facilitate early recovery efforts and represents a “delicate balance between the different positions of Council member at this time”. She urged the Council to assume its responsibilities and to support the draft.
MARTIN KIMANI (Kenya), speaking for the “E10”, the 10 elected members of the Council, and commending extensive efforts by the co-sponsors to achieve a compromise text, said the cross-border mechanism is key to addressing the dire needs of Syrians. Last week, his delegation supported a 12-month renewal, as this would have given humanitarian actors more certainty. The fundamental interest of the E10 is for aid to reach Syrians. Thus, his delegation stands by today’s text, as it allows for this possibility, he said, adding that he looked forward to the implementation of the cross-border mechanism. To this end, he will continue to play a constructive role in bridging divides and identifying useful compromises.
The Council then adopted the draft as resolution 2642 (2022) by a vote of 12 in favour to none against, with 3 abstentions (France, United Kingdom and the United States).
Statements After Vote
MONA JUUL (Norway), welcoming the adoption, said that her country and Ireland engaged constructively with all Council members with a clear objective; namely, that humanitarian aid must reach all those in need in Syria. Recalling the voices of those on the ground who said that effective implementation of a humanitarian response requires the cross-border mechanism to be renewed for a minimum of 12 months, she expressed regret that one member’s use of the veto prevented this. However, the resolution adopted today keeps the critical cross‑border mechanism open and allows for life-saving humanitarian operations to continue. Highlighting the Council’s responsibility to put the needs of all Syrians first and ensure that humanitarian relief can reach those who rely on it, she emphasized that all members must come together and support humanitarian deliveries to the people of Syria through all modalities.
RAVINDRA RAGUTTAHALLI (India), while welcoming the adoption, urged those present to remember the 14.5 million people across Syria that require humanitarian assistance in one form or another. Food insecurity has reached historic highs, and to alleviate the suffering of Syrians, all parties — particularly external players — must demonstrate their commitment, in tangible terms, to a Syrian-led and -owned, United Nations-facilitated process pursuant to resolution 2254 (2015). Calling for enhanced, effective humanitarian assistance for all Syrians without politicization or preconditions, he said that the cross-border mechanism cannot continue to exist in perpetuity and that steps must be taken to address obstacles to crossline assistance. He added that linking humanitarian and development assistance with progress on the political track will only create suffering, and therefore, must be avoided.
NICOLAS DE REVIÈRE (France), describing today’s adoption as “a relief”, noted that the cross-border mechanism is vital for alleviating suffering among millions of Syrians and commended the co-sponsors for achieving a compromise. However, he said that his delegation will not be satisfied with a “precarious” renewal that expires during the winter, when needs are most dire. The call to renew the cross-border operation for 12 months — by Council members, humanitarian actors and others — was clear, and yet, ignored. The Council has not lived up to its responsibility, which is why France abstained in the vote. Nonetheless, his country will continue to fully assume its humanitarian responsibilities, within the parameters laid out by the Secretary-General on assistance in Syria, he said, emphasizing that his delegation will be “extremely vigilant” in six months’ time to ensure the Council allows humanitarians the possibility of meeting the immense needs on the ground. More so, France will not finance reconstruction or lift sanctions until a credible and inclusive political process is firmly under way, per resolution 2254 (2015), which was adopted unanimously, he added.
BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom) said her delegation approached the renewal as it has every year since 2014 — on the basis of humanitarian need alone. The need in Syria is “the highest it has ever been”, she pointed out, noting that, of the 4.1 million Syrians requiring aid across the north-west, 2.4 million are reliant solely on the United Nations cross-border mechanism. The Council had heard repeatedly from the United Nations and humanitarians that renewal was needed for 12 months, to provide for operational certainty, especially during winter. On 8 July, “Russia stopped this from happening”, she said. With today’s vote, innocent Syrians can breathe no sigh of relief. Without the confidence of at least 12 months, United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations risk being in a cycle of prepositioning and contingency planning. The intent of the Council is to renew for a further six months, subject to another resolution; the Secretary-General’s report requested by the resolution will set out the implications, should the mandate end in January. As the humanitarian case for a further renewal will be self-evident, she said that to oppose it would be to ignore the suffering of Syrians across the north-west. Further, the United Kingdom will not consider providing reconstruction assistance without a credible, substantive political process firmly under way, which is the only sustainable means for ending suffering in Syria, she said.
DAI BING (China) said that it is normal for Council members to differ on certain issues and that it is only natural for those divergences to be sharp. Nonetheless, accommodating each other’s concerns allows the Council to still find effective solutions. “Ramming through a vote while major differences still exist,” however, intensifies differences and does disservice to maintaining Council unity, he stressed. China’s position on the humanitarian issue “is as consistent as it is clear”, he said; namely, that aid to Syria must respect its sovereignty, that cross-line delivery should become the main channel for such aid, and that cross-border delivery is a temporary arrangement. Therefore, it is necessary to speed up the transition to cross-line relief. Noting that the resolution sets out clear demands for early recovery programmes and greater transparency in relief efforts, he called on all parties to strictly abide by the basic principles governing humanitarian assistance and ensure neutrality and transparency. He added that unilateral sanctions severely restrict the operation of humanitarian agencies in Syria, urging the relevant countries to lift the same.
FERIT HOXHA (Albania) said Albania voted in favour of the resolution “with a sense of deep responsibility and a heavy heart”, as his delegation wanted to allow humanitarian actors to be able to mobilize resources effectively. That effort, however, failed last week, “stopped by a power we do not possess and a privilege that was misused”, he noted, recalling the Russian Federation’s use of the veto. Albania agreed on today’s imperfect, difficult compromise because saving human lives is above diplomatic pride or geopolitical scores and those who need help must get help. Stressing that his delegation did its part “with an open heart, not cynicism”, he emphasized that the continuing operation of the cross-border mechanism is crucial. Until a new Syria emerges from the long-ongoing war, such assistance is vital to meeting the immense humanitarian needs in north-west Syria.
LANA ZAKI NUSSEIBEH (United Arab Emirates), associating herself with the E10 delegation, welcomed that a compromise has been reached, as it represents a critical step in meeting the critical needs of Syrians. She thanked Norway and Ireland for their “tireless” efforts in facilitating negotiations and expressed appreciation to all Council members for their cooperation in this regard. The international community must continue to work to alleviate the Syrian people’s suffering and to ensure access by stepping up early recovery projects, most especially amid the food and fuel crises. She welcomed the inclusion of language related to electricity projects, stressing that hospitals and schools cannot function, and millions of Syrians would be unable to receive water without that vital service. In addition, she expressed hope of building on this momentum to achieve stability, prosperity and peace in Syria.
DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation) said his delegation supported the draft, as it allows the cross-border mechanism to continue working until January 2023. Acknowledging some dissatisfaction among some Council members, as their vision of the mechanism did not pass, he said it is time for Washington, D.C., London and Paris “to get used to respecting the interests of other States”, notably those impacted by Council decisions. By finding the optimal way to extend operations, the Council gave a second chance for the good-faith implementation of the mechanism for six months. Through informal interactive dialogue, the Russian Federation will continue to monitor progress in implementing today’s resolution so as to decide on the ultimate fate of the mechanism. Only through candid dialogue on humanitarian issues, involving all interested parties, would the Council be able to make a well-considered decision, he said, adding that the Secretary-General’s reports are not sufficient for that purpose. He called for increasing cross-line deliveries in all regions in Syria, urging the Secretary-General to focus on the need to lift unilateral sanctions in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Eliminating this threat will increase possibilities for donors to fund early recovery projects. He also said that, by January 2023, he expected the Secretary-General to provide the Council with a report on the “exhaustive” work undertaken.
RICHARD M. MILLS, JR. (United States) said that today’s vote “is what happens when one member takes the entire Council hostage with lives hanging in the balance”. Humanitarian needs in Syria are greater than ever, and the voices of the Secretary-General, United Nations, non-governmental organizations and Syrians stressed that a straightforward 12-month mandate was the bare minimum. One member, however, chose not to put humanitarian needs first, an, rather than scaling-up assistance, forced it to be cut down. This “heartless play”, he stressed, will only hurt the Syrian people and make the work of humanitarian organizations more costly and challenging in terms of procurement, staffing and planning. Noting that the Assad regime has a well-documented history of corruption, stealing aid and denying the same to communities in need, he said that the Russian Federation continues to defend this brutal regime and treat the Syrian people as disposable. Further, humanitarian needs in Syria are growing in part due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and related shocks to food and fuel prices. However, “Russia does not care”, he said, adding that the United States did not stand in the way of today’s vote because aid workers on the ground said that a temporary extension was “better than nothing”.
BASSAM SABBAGH (Syria) said that the Government has consistently expressed its willingness to ensure that humanitarian assistance reaches all Syrians throughout the country without discrimination, and that the Government has facilitated many United Nations and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) convoys to different parts of Syria. This refutes any allegations propagated by some to justify the extension of the so-called cross-border mechanism, despite its temporary, exceptional nature that was imposed by circumstances that no longer exist. “What was achieved today could have been achieved days ago,” he pointed out, but the “political selfishness” of the three Western permanent members “drove them to abuse the Council yet again” and conduct a disinformation campaign against Syria and the Russian Federation. He went on to urge the Secretariat to include in the Secretary-General’s report requested by the resolution a meticulous assessment of the humanitarian needs in Syria, the geographic distribution of those needs and an assessment of the impact of the unilateral coercive measures imposed by the United States and the European Union on responding to such needs.