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US to demand 'unhindered' aid deliveries to Syria at UN Security Council

Moscow, Damascus and Beijing have worked to restrict aid access to all but one border crossing, hindering aid efforts to the war-torn country 
International humanitarian aid trucks cross into Syria's northwestern Idlib province through the Bab al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey on 7 September (AFP/File photo)

The US plans to address border issues that have hindered the transfer of food, medicine and other aid into Syria at the next Security Council meeting, the State Department has announced.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price, in a statement on Friday, said Secretary of State Antony Blinken would push Russia and other UN Security Council members to allow more aid to enter Syria from Turkey. 

Aid had been entering the war-torn country via Turkey through four border crossings that were approved by the 15-member council in 2014. Last July, however, the authorisations keeping the crossings open expired. Following several Russian and Chinese vetoes, all but the Bab al-Hawa crossing were closed indefinitely

Bab al-Hawa, located along the border of northwest Syria, has the approval to continue operations until 10 July 2021. But aid groups have complained that the single crossing is not sufficient, as millions of Syrians are dependent on aid for survival. 

At Monday's meeting, which Blinken will chair virtually, the Secretary plans to push for a nationwide ceasefire as well as "unhindered access that will allow humanitarian assistance to reach vulnerable communities throughout the country", Price said. 

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The Security Council has been divided over the decade-long war in Syria, as Russia and China - two of the five permanent members with veto powers - side with the Assad government, while western members had for years sought regime change, backing rebel forces.  

Damascus, Moscow and Beijing have worked to block certain border crossings to impede aid access to rebel-held territories.  

Since the start of the Syrian war, Russia has vetoed 16 council resolutions, often with support from China.

The Security Council is set to tackle the issue of cross-border aid again in July when the authorisation for the Bab al-Hawa crossing expires.

Secretary Blinken will also meet with UN Secretary General António Guterres to discuss pressing UN Security Council issues, the continued need for reform of the UN system and future opportunities for US engagement throughout the UN. 

As Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has seemingly ignored US attempts at diplomacy, the Biden administration has said it plans to double-down on UN efforts to mediate a political settlement to end the ten-year war.

Last week, the acting US deputy ambassador to the UN, Jeffrey DeLaurentis, complained that the ongoing UN peace process had been "limited by the Assad regime's continuous refusal to engage in good faith".