The Syrian government on Thursday said the United Nations could use a border crossing from Turkey to continue delivering aid to northwest Syria for another six months after the Security Council failed to renew its authorization for the operation.
The UN aid deliveries would have to be "in full cooperation and coordination with the Syrian Government," Syria's UN Ambassador Bassam Sabbagh wrote in a letter on Thursday to the Security Council, seen by Reuters.
UN Security Council approval for the Turkish-based aid operation delivering help to several million people in rebel-held northwest Syria expired on Monday as members struggled to convince Russia to extend it for more than six months.
Russia vetoed a nine-month authorization renewal at the UN Security Council on Tuesday and then failed in its own bid for a six-month extension of the operation, which has been delivering aid including food, medicine and shelter since 2014.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had pushed for a 12-month renewal. UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the Syrian letter had been received and the United Nations was studying it.
"Under the UN mandate, Bab al-Hawa had gold standard aid monitoring, to ensure aid was not misused," British UN Ambassador Barbara Woodward said in a statement.
"Without UN monitoring, control of this critical lifeline has been handed to the man responsible for the Syrian people's suffering," she said, in a reference to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
She said the priority was to quickly get aid flowing again to those who need it and then, certainty over the operation's future, adding: "We will not hesitate to bring this back to the Security Council."
Security Council authorization was needed because the Syrian government did not agree to the U.N. operation. It initially authorized aid deliveries in 2014 into opposition-held areas of Syria from Iraq, Jordan and two points in Turkey. But Russia and China whittled that down to just one from Turkey: Bab al-Hawa.
Council avenue 'dead'
Russia's Deputy UN Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy said there was now no need for the council to vote on any authorization for cross-border aid deliveries and that avenue was "officially dead" now that the Syrian government had given its own approval.
"Every effort to put another draft to vote will constitute nothing but political games," he posted on Twitter.
Russia and Syria have argued that the operation violates Syria's sovereignty and territorial integrity. They say more aid should be delivered from inside the country, raising opposition fears food and other aid would fall under government control.
"The Government of the Syrian Arab Republic has taken the sovereign decision to grant the United Nations and its specialized agencies permission to use Bab al-Hawa crossing," Sabbagh wrote.
They would be allowed "to deliver humanitarian aid to civilians in need in northwest Syria, in full cooperation and coordination with the Syrian Government, for a period of six months, starting from July 13, 2023," he said.
After an earthquake killed more than 50,000 people in Turkey and Syria in February, Assad allowed the United Nations to use an additional two border crossings from Turkey to dispatch aid. That approval expires on Aug. 13.