UN chief urges more Syria border aid points after quake

AFP , Thursday 9 Feb 2023

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday urged the Security Council to authorize the opening of new cross-border humanitarian aid points between Turkey and Syria to deliver UN aid to earthquake victims.

Antonio Guterres
File photo: United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres delivers a speech at an event launch for the climate TRACE initiativ. AFP


Some 4 million people living in the rebel-held areas of northwest Syria have been relying on humanitarian aid transported via the only Bab al-Hawa crossing as part of a cross-border aid operation authorized by the UN Security Council nearly a decade ago.

But the flow of aid stopped following Monday's 7.8-magnitude earthquake that has killed nearly 20,000 people in the two countries, prompting Guterres to call for more crossings to be authorized.

"This is the moment of unity, it's not a moment to politicize or to divide but it is obvious that we need massive support," Guterres told reporters.

"I will be of course very happy if the Security Council could reach a consensus to allow for more crossings to be used, as we need also to increase our capacity to deliver on cross line operations into Idlib from Damascus."

In 2014, the UN Security Council authorized four cross-border aid points on the Turkey-Syria border, but by 2020 their number has dwindled to just one due to opposition from Damascus and Moscow, who view it as a breach of Syria's sovereignty.

After disruptions in the wake of the quake, delivery through Bab al-Hawa was finally restored on Thursday, with a convoy of six UN trucks crossing the border into Syria.

Syria has been under Western sanctions since the government's brutal crackdown on protesters in 2011 which spiraled into a civil war.

Guterres stressed that no sanctions should hamper relief efforts.

"This is a moment in which everybody must make very clear that no sanctions of any kind interfere with relief to the population of Syria in the present moment," Guterres said.

Turkey said on Thursday it was working to open two more border crossings with Syria to deliver aid.

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