US Secretary Blinken assails Russia for Syria role, calls for more border openings
“Sovereignty was never intended to ensure the right of any government to starve people, deprive them of lifesaving medicine, bomb hospitals, or commit any other human rights abuse against citizens,” Blinken said
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken Monday assailed Russia for supporting the Assad regime’s starvation of the Syrian people and called on the United Nations Security Council to authorize more cross-border openings.
Syria has been engulfed in a bloody and catastrophic civil war for ten years with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, backed by Russia and Iran, fighting against opposition groups as well as terrorist organizations.
And despite humanitarian aid often politicized, diplomats from across the world took part in a virtual meeting at the UN on Monday to discuss Syria's humanitarian situation.
“How is it possible that we can't find in our hearts the common humanity to actually take meaningful action to do something. How is that possible?” Blinken asked during his remarks.
The UN Security Council called for border openings to allow for aid to enter Syria for the first time in 2014.
But the Bab al-Hawa border crossing between Syria and Turkey remains the only one of four border points to be open.
Russia and China, continuously backing the Assad regime, argue that aid should be distributed from Damascus.
Moscow and Beijing claim that border openings to be used for distributing aid violate Syria’s “sovereignty.”
“But sovereignty was never intended to ensure the right of any government to starve people, deprive them of lifesaving medicine, bomb hospitals, or commit any other human rights abuse against citizens,” Blinken said.
The top US diplomat appealed for UNSC member states to reauthorize all three border crossings. “Stop taking part in or making excuses for attacks that close these pathways and stop targeting humanitarian aid workers and the Syrian civilians they’re trying to help,” he said.
The UN chief for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief, Mark Lowcock, said there was “so much malnutrition” because of the lack of money and cross-border openings.
Russia and China hit back
For their part, Russia and China criticized the US and claimed that Washington’s “unilateral sanctions” were worsening the humanitarian situation in Syria.
Without providing evidence, Russia alleged that US forces were filling trucks with oil and grain from Syria and sending them to Iraq.
China said regime change was “not an option, and it will not work,” adding that sanctions were exacerbating the humanitarian situation on the ground in Syria.
Beijing’s ambassador also called on the UN to “help” reopen the “humanitarian route” from Damascus to the northwest of Syria so that all humanitarian aid could be distributed from there, rather than cross-border openings.
“Unilateral sanctions and economic blockade should be lifted to help Syrian restore normal order,” the Chinese diplomat said.
He also applauded what he said were “some” Arab states working to return Syria to the Arab League. Syria was suspended from the Arab body in 2011 after the outbreak of the civil war.
On Monday, the UN and European Union held the fifth Brussels Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region.