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article imageRussia seeks changes to UN aid to opposition-held areas of Syria

By AFP     Nov 29, 2017 in World

Russia on Wednesday said it would seek changes to a UN resolution allowing cross-border deliveries of aid to opposition-held areas of Syria from Turkey and Jordan, without the approval of Damascus.

The Security Council is expected to vote on renewing the aid deliveries which were put in place in 2014, with the backing of Russia, Syria's ally.

Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia raised concerns at the council that the aid was being diverted and said Moscow would be seeking changes to the humanitarian aid arrangements.

"This mechanism cannot remain as it presently stands," Nebenzia said, adding that it "undermines the sovereignty of Syria."

"There needs to be order in the distribution of humanitarian assistance for it not to fall in the hands of terrorists and for it not to then be re-sold to the Syrian people at higher prices."

UN aid chief Mark Lowcock told the council that the cross-border deliveries were "essential to save lives."

Aid convoys departing from government-controlled areas "continue to be heavily restricted" as they try to enter rebel-held territory, he said.

In November, the Syrian government approved only four cross-line convoys, reaching fewer than 250,000 people while medical items were regularly removed from the aid trucks at checkpoints manned by Damascus forces.

In contrast, aid deliveries reached 800,000 people this month in opposition-held areas of northwestern and southern Syria through the border crossings of Bab al-Hawa, Bab as-Salam in Turkey, and Al-Ramtha in Jordan.

"Every truck is checked to ensure it only contains humanitarian supplies" and the deliveries are confirmed by monitors once they arrive at warehouses inside Syria, said Lowcock of the cross-border convoys.

Sweden and Japan are leading negotiations at the council on the renewal of the resolution authorizing the aid deliveries, which expires on January 10.

"The needs are still there," said Swedish Deputy Ambassador Carl Skau told reporters. "Given the needs, we expect that this will be extended without much issue."

More than 13 million people need humanitarian aid in Syria, now in its seventh year of war.

Close to 420,000 live in besieged areas, most of them in opposition-held eastern Ghouta.

Lowcock, the UN under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs, said he planned to visit Syria in early January.

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