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U.N. aid delivery across Syria faces risks

Aid from foreign agencies is now being delivered to across the border without authorization from the Syrian government

Paul Crompton

Published: Updated:

The first convoy of humanitarian aid crossed into Syria from Turkey on Thursday, under a new U.N. resolution to send relief without authorization from the Syrian government, a resolution that experts say will be difficult to implement.

The resolution, 2165, gives green light to aid delivery with only notification to President Bashar al-Assad’s government. It was passed with the objection this time from Russia, which has previously vetoed all U.N. moves against the Syrian regime.

In the run-up to the resolution, the Syrian government warned in a letter to the U.N. Security Council that any unauthorized delivery through its border would amount to an attack, suggesting it would have the right to retaliate.

In addition to logistical and political challenges of aid distribution, “how too can the U.N. ensure that aid meant for civilians is not used to sustain rebel fighters?” notes David Pratt, the foreign editor of Scottish newspaper The Sunday Herald.

Besides, sending aid through Syria’s borders without authorization could create a risk for aid delivery teams, who may now run the risk of encountering both radical militant groups and border security forces, according to experts.

Groups like al-Qaeda inspired Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the al-Nusra Front could pose a serious danger to international aid convoys seeking to reach civilians inside affected areas.

Serious threat

In April, two aid delivery drivers for Arab charity Red Crescent were killed after their trucks were bombed, the New York Times reported.

“Would you drive a truck into Syria when the Syrian government, extremists of all ilks, criminals, smugglers and more have you in their sights[?]” Paul Sullivan, a Middle East Security expert at Georgetown University, told Al Arabiya News.

As such, many aid agencies, he said, “have their own security and risk experts who try to figure out how much danger is involved.”

In a statement shortly before Thursday’s delivery, a U.N. World Food Program spokeswoman told Al Arabyia News that “before the Security Council Resolution [could] be put into action, monitoring facilities must be established at the borders where all convoys entering Syria will be checked by independent U.N. inspectors to verify that all cargo travelling through these corridors is humanitarian supplies.”

Currently, World Food Program logistics teams have mobilized to support the establishment of these monitoring facilities in Turkey and in Jordan, according to the spokeswoman.

The new resolution had made the WFP “hopeful” that the newly-activated border points enabled food deliveries to 57 locations around the cities of Aleppo, Idlib and Daraa – helping an “estimated 650,000 critically vulnerable people,” she added.

On Tuesday, a spokeswoman for the International Committee for the Red Cross said that the organization “delivers aid in Syria with prior coordination with concerned authorities,” although did not mention whether or not it would begin delivering aid without permission from Damascus as a result of the resolution being passed.

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