Aid group slams UN failure to renew Syria aid route

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A medical charity on Tuesday deplored the UN’s failure to renew a cross-border mechanism that allowed international aid to reach opposition-held northwestern Syria from Turkey and demanded an urgent solution.

“The resolution expired a month ago and there is no solution currently in sight. This is simply deplorable,” said Sebastien Gay, head of mission for Doctors Without Border (MSF) in Syria.

The UN Security Council’s inability to renew “a resolution safeguarding access to vital humanitarian aid for northwestern Syria is inexcusable,” the aid group said.

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More than four million people live in opposition-held areas of northern and northwestern Syria, many of them in overcrowded camps, where they are in desperate need of aid.Through an arrangement that began in 2014, the UN delivered relief to the areas directly through the Bab al-Hawa crossing from Turkey.

But last month, the UN Security Council failed to reach consensus on extending the key aid route.

Russia vetoed a nine-month extension then failed to muster enough votes to adopt a six-month extension.

“Humanitarian aid has been used as a tool in a political dispute and struggling people in northwestern Syria will pay the price for this failure,” Gay said.

The Syrian government has said it will allow humanitarian aid to pass through the crossing for another six months but set conditions the UN called “unacceptable.”

Following a February 6 earthquake that struck both Turkey and Syria, Damascus agreed to temporarily open two other crossings on the border until August 13.

But several international organizations have expressed concern that allowing Damascus control over the flow of aid to opposition-held areas could limit access to those most in need.

“The bottom line is that the needs of over four million people have been overlooked, as political negotiations were priorities,” Gay added.

“MSF urges the member countries of the UN Security Council to find a solution with the utmost urgency that guarantees impartial, non-politicized and sustainable humanitarian access.”

Civil war broke out in Syria after President Bashar al-Assad’s government crushed peaceful protests in 2011.

The conflict has killed nearly half a million people and driven half of the country’s pre-war population from their homes.

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