Russia’s UN envoy said on Friday he is willing to meet his US counterpart to discuss aid deliveries into Syria from Turkey, but that it was “a bit funny” that she warned him about leveraging Russia’s war in Ukraine during talks on Syria.
US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said on Thursday she intended to meet Vassily Nebenzia soon to kick off the talks - expected to be contentious - and she will not let Moscow use Syria aid deliveries as a “bargaining chip” on Ukraine.
“That’s a bit funny that she warns us in advance that we should not use any leverage of that,” Nebenzia told reporters on Friday. “We can say it in reverse as well.”
Nebenzia and Thomas-Greenfield have had few interactions outside UN Security council meetings since Moscow invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.
“She can meet me any time, I am not in a hideout,” Nebenzia said.
The Security Council mandate allowing aid deliveries into northwest Syria from Turkey expires on July 10. But Syria’s ally Russia has signaled opposition to renewing the operation, arguing it violates Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and that more aid should be delivered from inside Syria.
“It’s not working as we want it to,” said Nebenzia, adding that Russia believed not enough effort had been made to deliver more aid to the region from inside Syria. “Who’s to blame? That’s a good question.”
The United Nations has said four aid convoys had deployed to northwest Syria from within the country - known as cross-line operations - but that this cannot currently substitute for the size and scope of the cross-border operation.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the Security Council in his latest report on Syria aid operations in April that “challenges still need to be overcome to achieve regular and sustained cross-line operations in the north-west.”
Those challenges included timely security guarantees from the parties and commitments not to interfere with humanitarian deliveries from within Syria, he said.