By Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – The United Nations has not yet resumed using a shuttered border crossing to deliver aid to northwest Syria from Turkey that Syria said it could use for another six months after U.N. Security Council approval of the route expired on Monday
The U.N. aid deliveries would have to be “in full cooperation and coordination with the Syrian Government”, Syria’s U.N. Ambassador Bassam Sabbagh wrote in a letter on Thursday to the Security Council.
U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said on Friday the U.N. was still looking at the letter and consulting with a number of partners.
“That being said, we are committed to delivering life-saving assistance to millions of people in need in northwest Syria, guided by humanitarian principles and using all available means and delivery modalities,” he told reporters.
The Syrian government approved the Bab al-Hawa crossing use after the U.N. Security Council this week failed to renew its authorization for the Turkish-based operation, which has been delivering humanitarian help to millions of people in rebel-held northwest Syria since 2014.
The 15-member failed to reach an agreement on Tuesday after Russia vetoed a proposed nine-month extension. Council authorization was needed because the Syrian government did not previously agree to the U.N. operation.
“We had prepositioned a lot of material in the area before the deadline. So we do have humanitarian aid in place, but obviously we want to get things going as quickly as we can,” Dujarric said.
Syrians who fled President Bashar al-Assad’s rule fear he may soon be able to choke off badly needed aid as Damascus acts to establish sway over U.N. assistance into the rebel-held northwest, the last major bastion of the Syrian opposition.
“Our guiding principle in Syria and everywhere else is our commitment to delivering humanitarian assistance guided by humanitarian principles of non-interference, of impartiality,” Dujarric said.
A violent crackdown by Assad on peaceful pro-democracy protesters in 2011 led to a civil war, with Moscow backing Assad and Washington supporting the opposition. Millions of people fled Syria with millions more internally displaced. Fighting has since abated with Assad back in control of most of Syria.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Josie Kao)
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