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UN chief urges new transit point for aid to Syria

  • Published at 04:10 pm February 23rd, 2020
Syrian army troops advance towards the rebel-held areas of the northern Aleppo province on February 12, 2020 AFP

Western members of the Security Council had asked Guterres in early January to provide new options after the Council, under pressure from Russia

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged the Security Council to authorize a new passage point on the Turkish border to allow humanitarian aid to reach the embattled population of northeast Syria, where medical supplies are running short.

The recommendation came in a report issued on Friday to Council members and seen Saturday by AFP.

Western members of the Security Council had asked Guterres in early January to provide new options after the Council, under pressure from Russia, drastically reduced the number of border crossings authorized for delivering humanitarian aid to the hard-pressed population of northeast Syria.

The Western powers had specifically asked for alternatives to compensate for the closing of the Al Yarubiyah transit point on Syria's border with Iraq.

"Several options can be made available," Guterres said in his report, "but from a security and logistical perspective, in the current context, the Tal Abiyad border crossing would constitute the most feasible alternative to the Al Yarubiyah border crossing."

Tal Abiyad, which can handle the logistics of a major aid operation, is controlled on the Syrian side by non-governmental armed groups.

The secretary-general said two other passage points on the Iraqi border - Al Walid and Fishkabur, both under Kurdish control - were studied but found to lack logistical capacity.

The Syrian government had suggested another Iraqi border passage, at Abu Kamal, but it was found to have logistical and security problems.

Since the closing of Al Yarubiyah, only two passage points remain on the Turkish border, with both focusing on food and other aid.

Considerable medical assistance had passed through Al Yarubiyah.

International aid - mainly food - has also been funneled through Damascus.  

But last year not a single medical convoy for the northeast passed through the Syrian capital, the Guterres report said.

"An estimated 1.9 million people are assessed to be in need of humanitarian assistance in northeast Syria, the vast majority of whom - 1.34 million people - are in areas not under government control," Guterres said.

"Medical stocks are expected to run out in the coming months."

The Security Council is slated to take up the report during a monthly meeting Thursday devoted to the Syrian humanitarian crisis.

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