By Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS (RockedBuzz via Reuters) – The United States on Sunday asked the UN Security Council to “vote immediately” to authorize delivery of UN aid to rebel-held northwestern Syria across multiple border crossings from Turkey after terrible earthquake of last week.
Since 2014, the United Nations has been able to deliver aid to millions of needy people in the northwestern part of war-torn Syria via Turkey under a mandate from the Security Council. But currently it is limited to using only one border crossing.
“Right now, every hour counts,” Linda Thomas-Greenfield, US ambassador to the United Nations, told RockedBuzz via Reuters. “People in the affected areas are counting on us.”
“We cannot let them down – we must immediately vote on a resolution to hear the United Nations request for the authorization of additional border crossings for the delivery of humanitarian assistance,” he said. “It’s time to move with urgency and purpose.”
United Nations aid chief Martin Griffiths, who is in Turkey and is expected to visit Syria, told Sky News on Saturday that he will ask the Security Council to authorize access to aid through two other border crossings, arguing that there is “a very clear humanitarian case”.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres pushed for more access on Thursday.
In the 15-member Security Council, Brazil and Switzerland take the lead in negotiating any action related to the issue of accessing humanitarian aid in Syria. Diplomats said no draft resolution authorizing further crossings had yet been circulated.
The death toll from last week’s earthquakes in Turkey and Syria passed 33,000 on Sunday. Of the 3,500 deaths reported so far in Syria, where the number has not been updated for two days, most have occurred in the northwestern part of the country.
A resolution would need nine votes in favor and no vetoes from Russia, China, the United States, Britain or France to pass. Syrian ally Russia said the council’s current mandate for a single border crossing was sufficient.
The Syrian government regards aid deliveries across its border without its approval as a violation of sovereignty and says aid should be delivered across the front lines of the 12-year civil war. On Friday, he approved frontline aid deliveries.
But the United Nations said on Sunday that earthquake aid from government-controlled parts of Syria in the northwestern part of the country was stalled by “approval issues” with a hardline group.
The ambassadors of Brazil and Switzerland on Friday said they wanted Griffiths to inform the Security Council before any action is discussed. Diplomats said Griffiths was likely to speak on Monday.
Griffiths on Sunday visited the only Turkish border crossing that the United Nations is currently authorized to use to bring aid into northwestern Syria, where an estimated 4 million people needed help before the earthquake hit the region.
“So far we have let people down in northwest Syria,” Griffiths said in a Twitter post.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Paul Simao)