US envoy says last Turkish aid route into Syria must stay open
The US envoy to the UN said on Thursday the sole border crossing to deliver aid into Syria must remain open, amid Russian threats to veto a resolution to protect it.
Syria-ally Russia could block the UN Security Council resolution, which expires on July 10, and observers say it is using it as a bargaining chip in the face of punishing sanctions over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Bab Al-Hawa crossing near Turkey’s Cilvegozu border post in the south has been the only point of entry for UN aid into Syria for the past two years.
US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said it was imperative the opening stay open.
“We have to extend this border crossing, we have to continue to provide this assistance,” said Thomas-Greenfield from a UN logistics center in Reyhanli, near the Turkey-Syria border.
Nearly 10,000 trucks loaded with humanitarian aid passed through the crossing last year bound for the Idlib region, the last rebel bastion in Syria and home to around 3 million people.
“We know that the situation is already dire there, that people are suffering now,” Thomas-Greenfield said.
“It’s going to increase the sufferings, it’s going to increase the number of people who will displace and possibly even the number of people who may try to cross the border into Turkey.”
She was in Reyhanli to meet with NGO and UN agencies’ representatives who are working to assist Syrians.
Dmitry Polyanskiy, Russia’s deputy ambassador to the UN, said on May 20 that Moscow saw no reason to keep the crossing open, saying it violates Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Meanwhile, the commander of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces said on Thursday a new offensive threatened by Turkey in northern Syria would create a humanitarian crisis and undermine a campaign against the Daesh group.
SDF general commander Mazloum Abdi called on all sides to “prevent any new tragedies and support de-escalation.”
“We are concerned about new Turkish threats which pose a high risk to northern Syria. Any offensive will divide Syrians, create a new humanitarian crisis, and displace original inhabitants,” he tweeted.
Turkey has pledged to launch a new military incursion against the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, the spearhead of the SDF, which controls swathes of the north at the Turkish border.
While Turkey views the Kurdish-led forces in Syria as terrorists and a national security threat, the US views the SDF as a major partner that helped drive Daesh out of vast areas of Syria.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday Turkey will rid northern Syria’s Tal Rifaat and Manbij areas of terrorists, confirming the targets of the new incursion for the first time and saying it will continue into other regions.
Ankara has carried out four operations in northern Syria since 2016, seizing hundreds of kilometers of land and pushing some 30 km deep into the country, mainly targeting the YPG.
Washington has expressed concern about any new offensive in northern Syria, saying it would put US troops at risk and undermine regional stability.
Source: Arab News
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of the Observatory.