Syrians fear 'catastrophe' from Russia aid block

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Residents of embattled northwest Syria warned Saturday of a “catastrophe” following a Russian veto at the UN Security Council that threatens to end cross-border aid deliveries critical to their survival.

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Friday’s veto of a resolution that would have extended authorization for UN aid deliveries through the Bab al-Hawa crossing on the Syrian-Turkish border by one year amounted to a “siege and famine policy that Russia resorts to across Syria”, charged Mazen Allouch, a border crossing official.

Failure to extend the authorization would “serve as a prelude to an uncontrollable famine that would directly threaten food security of more than four million people” living in Syria’s northwest, he told AFP.

The cross-border mechanism at Bab al-Hawa, which has been in effect since 2014, is set to expire Sunday.

It is the only crossing through which aid can be brought into the rebel-held northwest without navigating areas controlled by Syrian government forces.

The Sunday deadline still leaves time for members of the Security Council to keep the crossing open.

But concern is high in the northwestern province of Idlib, where the majority of the population is displaced and grapples with food insecurity.

“Everyone knows most camp residents are completely dependent on this aid,” said Abdulsalam Youssef who lives in a makeshift settlement.

Russia's veto spells a “catastrophe for me.”

More than 4,600 aid trucks, carrying mostly food, have crossed Bab al-Hawa so far this year, helping some 2.4 million people, according to the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

On Saturday, Bab al Hawa was closed because of the Muslim Eid al-Adha holidays, said an AFP correspondent at the crossing.

A calm silence has prevailed over the border area since a final aid convoy crossed over on Friday at noon.

“I hope the Security Council will meet again soon and agree on a way forward,” said Mark Cutts, UN deputy regional humanitarian coordinator for the Syria crisis.

“Failure to renew the resolution for cross-border aid will be a catastrophe for over four million people in northwest Syria,” he told AFP.

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