The U.N. Security Council approved the delivery of humanitarian aid across borders and conflict lines in Syria for another year on Tuesday, with Russian Federation urging a gradual end to the program that has helped millions of people in rebel-held areas.
Russian envoy Vladimir Safronkov said his country abstained from the vote because cross-border deliveries were intended as a temporary solution when mandated in 2014.
More than 13 million people need humanitarian aid in Syria, now in its seventh year of war. "There is no alternative humanitarian route to access parts of northern and southern Syria". United Nations aid convoys are waiting for Syria's government to give them a green light. The besieged area falls within a network of de-escalation zones - set up in Syria by Turkey, Russia, and Iran - in which acts of aggression are expressly forbidden.
At the outset, the measure covered more territory in opposition-held hands, reaching almost 3 million Syrians in need but government forces, backed by Russia's intervention in 2015, have retaken large swaths. By necessity, he said, it "impinged on Syria's sovereignty".
A Russian source close to the Astana 8 meeting said that the guarantor states decided not to expand the list of the participants in Astana process.
Russia's intervention in the almost seven-year civil war in 2015 to help its ally Syria has tipped the balance in favor of President Bashar Assad's government.
"We think it is important to gradually roll down this rudimentary scheme which has worked for Syria's division", he said.
Russian Federation has used its veto 11 times at the council to thwart action directed at its Syrian ally. But he said Russian Federation couldn't support the resolution because it didn't include amendments Moscow proposed.
Welcoming the adoption, US Deputy Ambassador Michele Sison stressed the aid was of "utmost importance to reduce the suffering in Syria".
"In November, only five cross-line convoys were able to deploy, reaching 200,250 people in hard-to-reach locations and 28,700 people in besieged locations out of a total besieged population of more than 400,000 people", Lowcock said.
In Eastern Ghouta - on the outskirts of the Syrian capital Damascus - hundreds of thousands of people remain trapped under government bombardment.
United Nations humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock said the measure allowed for 650 trucks to deliver food assistance for 900,000 people and health assistance for almost 1 million treatments this month.