Discord as UN renews cross-border Syria aid for further six months

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The UN Security Council on Monday renewed the cross-border aid mechanism to Syria for another six months, a length of time that several member nations consider too short.

The 15-member Council voted unanimously to extend life-saving assistance to millions of people living in northern Syria, until 10 July.

The aid delivery mechanism across Turkey's border into rebel-held Syria at the Bab al-Hawa crossing is the only way UN assistance can reach civilians without traversing areas controlled by Syrian government forces.

The mechanism is in place since 2014 and was due to expire on Tuesday. It was last renewed in July, also for only six months at the insistence of Syria's ally Russia.

The Bab al-Hawa crossing supplies more than 80 percent of the needs of people living in rebel-controlled areas.

Moscow has, for years, pressured international organizations to pass exclusively through regions under the control of Damascus to distribute aid throughout the country, going as far as vetoing cross-border extensions that exceeded six months.

The United States, France and others said they had wanted the mechanism extended for one year.

"The debate we need to have is how to strengthen the mechanism to reach more people with more assistance," said US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, describing the resolution as "the bare minimum."

Moscow's UN envoy, Vassily Nebenzia, said Russia's support of the six-month extension "should not be viewed as a change in our principled position" on the mechanism, calling for "respect for Syria's territorial integrity."

"During the sweep and raid operations, our forces arrested 154 wanted terrorists and criminals," the SDF said in a statement.

(With agencies)

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