According to diplomats, Moscow is still insisting on an extension limited to six months, possibly renewable, while Westerners are demanding a one-year extension for this authorization in force since 2014 and which expires on Sunday.
A new text produced Thursday evening, obtained by AFP, was proposed by Norway and Ireland, managers of the file at the Security Council. It provides for a six-month extension until January 10, 2023, “with an extension of another six months, until July 10, 2023, unless the Council decides otherwise”.
The extension would also be conditional on a “substantial report” from the Secretary-General, including on the transparency of aid shipments, on progress in channeling assistance from Damascus across the front lines, and on progress in “rapid rehabilitation projects in line with humanitarian needs”.
Thursday evening, uncertainty remained as to whether this new proposal could be suitable for Russia and whether a vote was possible on Friday. “Russia insists on only 6 months,” an ambassador told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The cross-border authorization, in force since 2014, allows the delivery of humanitarian aid to north-west Syria via the Bab al-Hawa crossing point on the Syrian-Turkish border, used every month by hundreds of trucks. This international humanitarian aid is intended for more than 2.4 million people in the Idleb region largely held by jihadist groups and rebels.
For Moscow, which has a right of veto in the Security Council and which has considerably reduced these measures in recent years, which in its view violates the sovereignty of Syria, the delivery of aid to the north-west of the country should only be carried out from Damascus across the front lines.
– “Rapid rehabilitation” –
The UN has tried to develop it but still considers it insufficient to meet the needs of millions of Syrians in the Idleb region. Only five deliveries have been made so far across the front lines, notes the Organization, which calls for the long-term maintenance of the cross-border mechanism.
After hinting in recent months that it would oppose a further extension of the authorization, Russia recently agreed to an extension. In its latest project competing with that of Norway and Ireland, submitted Thursday to its 14 partners, it plans to extend the system for “six months six months”, with a clause providing for a new decision by the Council in January.
This condition is however deemed unacceptable by Westerners who do not see it as a guarantee of another extension of the system at the beginning of next year.
In the various texts proposed, the mentions aimed at promoting “rapid rehabilitation projects” in Syria constitute a striking novelty. Until now, the West – led by France – had always conditioned any beginning of reconstruction aid to political reform in Syria, which remains in limbo.
In June, the United States, joined by many members of the Security Council, had however changed its discourse and raised the possibility of financing “rapid rehabilitation” projects in the country.
The latest competing texts on the Security Council table, obtained by AFP, call for “new initiatives to expand humanitarian activities in Syria, including rapid rehabilitation projects” in water, sanitation, electricity, health, education and shelter.
In recent weeks, dozens of NGOs and several senior UN officials have lobbied Security Council members for the cross-border clearance to be extended again for another year.