Germany and Belgium have asked the UN Security Council to vote to extend authorization for cross-border humanitarian aid in Syria despite a likely Russian veto, diplomatic sources said Tuesday.
The German-Belgian draft resolution would extend for a year an authorization for aid to move into Syria, free from the control of the Damascus government, across two points on the Turkish border.
A vote is expected at the end of the day.
"There is going to be a Russian veto," predicted a diplomat speaking on condition of anonymity, an expectation shared by other diplomatic sources.
The current UN authorization, which has been in effect since 2014 with periodic extensions, expires on Friday.
Besides the western nations, which would like to see the authorization strengthened amid a spreading coronavirus epidemic in Syria, the UN secretariat has sought to have the aid operation continue with at least two crossing points on the Turkish border.
- Crossing points -
The draft resolution would maintain the two crossing points -- Bab al-Salaam and Bab al-Hawa -- and extend their use until July 10, 2021.
Russia wants the Bab al-Salaam border crossing point eliminated and only a six-month extension, according to diplomats.
The Bab al-Hawa crossing point allows for shipments of humanitarian aid to the three to four million people living in the opposition-held Idlib region.
In January, Moscow, Syria's closest ally, succeeded in having the crossing points reduced from four to two and in limiting the authorization to six months instead of a year, as had been done previously.
If Russia uses its veto -- with China probably following suit -- it would be the 15th time it has done so since the start of the Syrian war in 2011.
Russia, like China, argues that the UN authorization violates Syria's sovereignty and that the aid could be distributed by the Syrian authorities.
The western nations and the UN secretariat reject that argument, insisting that the cross-border aid is the only credible option, and that the flow of relief supplies would face multiple obstacles if it had to pass through Damascus' control.
In a report in late June, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for a one-year extension of the use of the two crossing points.
Guterres said that since 2014, 4,774 trucks have used the Bab al-Salaam crossing and 28,574 have used Bab al-Hawa.
"We hope for consensus," said Germany's ambassador to the UN, Christoph Heusgen.
According to a report published by the UN in Geneva on Tuesday, the humanitarian situation in Idlib province is disastrous.
"Syria's economy is devastated," said Hanny Megally, one of the authors of the report. "The country has been in a nine-year conflict. People are suffering."