The UN Security Council has re-authorized the cross-border aid mechanism for Syria after a heated discussion. The 15-member council adopted a resolution on Friday night, prepared by Belgium and Germany, which re-authorized two of the existing four crossings on the Syria-Turkey border under the mechanism for six months, reports Xinhua news agency.
The meeting to hold the vote was postponed for about three hours, as "the text might be still being worked on" till the last minute, according to British Permanent Representative to the UN Karen Pierce.
Since 2014, the Security Council has authorized the delivery of aid through four border crossings, two in Turkey and the other two in Iraq and Jordan.
The exact number of Syrians relying on the mechanism remains unknown. Belgium, Germany and their supporters said over 4 million Syrians get aid from across the border, but Russia contended that there was only about 1 million, citing a Secretary-General's report.
Friday's vote came after the council failed to re-authorize the mechanism on December 20, 2019 as a result of division among members.
Germany, Belgium as well as Kuwait tabled a draft that would also preserve a third crossing in Iraq and would approve a year-long renewal. Russia tabled a rival text that in essence sought Friday's re-authorization.
But neither draft was adopted on December 20.
At the insistence of Germany and Belgium, the adopted resolution asked the UN Secretary-General to report by the end of February on the possibility of using alternatives to the Iraqi crossing to ensure that aid reaches the Syrians in need through the most direct routes.
Belgium's Permanent Representative to the UN Marc Pecsteen de Buytswerve said the Iraqi crossing handles humanitarian aid, in particular medical supplies, for some 1.4 million people in Syria's northeast.
But Russia refuted that those people's needs have for long been covered by deliveries from within Syria, which was reflected in the UN secretary-general's report.
Russian Permanent Representative to the UN Vassily Nebenzia said after the vote that the Jordanian crossing has not been used since July 2018, and the Iraqi crossing stopped operating last year.
He said the situation has changed "dramatically" on the ground, and the renewed mechanism should reflect the change.