US, Russia cooperation extends access to key Syrian humanitarian crossing

US, Russia cooperation extends access to key Syrian humanitarian crossing
© Getty Images

The U.S. on Friday welcomed the unanimous decision by the members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to keep open a key humanitarian border crossing for Syria, in a vote that was viewed as a possible veto risk for Russia.

Linda Thomas-GreenfieldLinda Thomas-GreenfieldRepublicans press Biden administration to maintain sanctions against Taliban The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - Biden travels west as Washington troubles mount Mass incarcerations — the American prison industrial complex MORE, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., said the decision to extend the U.N. mandate for the Bab al-Hawa crossing between Turkey and Syria “will literally save lives.”

“Thanks to this resolution, millions of Syrians can breathe a sigh of relief tonight, knowing that vital humanitarian aid will continue to flow into Idlib through the Bab al-Hawa border crossing after tomorrow,” she said in remarks to the Security Council.

ADVERTISEMENT

“And parents can sleep tonight knowing that for the next 12 months their children will be fed. The humanitarian agreement we’ve reached here will literally save lives. So, today’s vote is an important moment.”

The move marks a rare area of cooperation between the U.S. and Russia amid a host of fraught tensions, the latest point of conflict between Washington and Moscow related to ongoing criminal ransomware attacks targeting the U.S. and originating from Russia.

President BidenJoe BidenTrump endorses challenger in Michigan AG race On The Money: Democrats get to the hard part Health Care — GOP attorneys general warn of legal battle over Biden's vaccine mandate MORE spoke with Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich Putin Putin says dozens of staffers infected with COVID-19 The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - Schumer: Dem unity will happen eventually; Newsom prevails Overnight Hillicon Valley — Ex-US intel operatives pay to settle hacking charges MORE earlier on Friday, raising the risk of a response against Moscow over the attacks, including recently against the software company Kaseya. 

But the two leaders “commended” their joint work to extend the border crossing’s mandate, according to a readout of the call released by the White House, building upon direct consultations between the two leaders during their summit in Geneva in June. 

Samantha PowerSamantha PowerHow Trump broke the system that offers protection to Afghan allies Aid airlift underway to earthquake-striken Haiti With Haiti in chaos, we must rewrite the script on disaster aid MORE, administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), thanked Biden for “prioritizing” diplomacy with Putin in the interest of humanitarian assistance.

“#UNSC unanimously renews cross-border humanitarian assistance in #Syria for another year. This means that each month, food & other assistance from @USAID and [the State Department] can keep reaching millions of Syrians,” Power tweeted.

ADVERTISEMENT

Sen. James Risch (R-Idaho), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, welcomed the extension of the border crossing's mandate but raised the risk of Russia and China trying to obstruct future humanitarian efforts.

"The UNSC must find a durable solution to protect cross-border aid on which millions of Syrians depend," Risch tweeted.

An estimated 1,000 trucks a month deliver necessary humanitarian aid to roughly 1.4 million Syrians through the Bab al-Hawa crossing, which runs between Turkey and Syria. The mandate to continue running the crossing was expected to end July 10, but will now extend for another 12 months. 

It is the last international border crossing and is administered by the United Nations, following the closure of two other crossings in Security Council votes, where Russia and China used their veto power last year to reject their reauthorization. 

The Assad regime controls the majority of Syria amid 11 years of devastating civil war, and an estimated 13.4 million people across Syria are in need of humanitarian and protection assistance, according to the UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency.

Russia had earlier spoken out against the necessity of Bab al-Hawa, instead arguing in favor of delivering humanitarian assistance through Damascus and under the control of embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad. 

Supporters of the Bab al-Hawa crossing worried that Assad would hold hostage humanitarian assistance for the country's northwest in an effort to root out rebels who maintain control over pockets of territory.

The U.S. and other permanent members of the Security Council, such as the United Kingdom, rejected concentrating humanitarian assistance in Damascus and emphasized keeping open Bab al-Hawa.

Thomas-Greenfield traveled to the border crossing in June, imploring for its mandate to be renewed.