The United Nations Security Council voted on July 9, 2021, to keep one UN humanitarian border crossing, Bab al-Hawa. The other major UN humanitarian crossings, Bab al Salam and al-Yaroubiah, remain closed. Russia was the UNSC member who blocked the re-opening of Bab al Salam and al-Yaroubiah. The closure of the al-Yaroubiah border has left the people of North and East Syria without a way to get humanitarian aid, food, medicine, or necessary goods.
The al-Yaroubiah crossing “constitutes an essential lifeline in North and East Syria,” explained Sheikhmous Ahmed, head of the IDPs and Refugees’ Affairs Office of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria. “It is also the only crossing through which UN aid may enter the Autonomous Administration regions.”
The UNSC adopted a compromise resolution extending the use of the Bab al-Hawa border crossing for the delivery of humanitarian aid for six months. The council expects a second six-month extension to keep the Bab al-Hawa crossing open, and the UNSC will vote again on crossings on July 10, 2022.
Many in the international community viewed the vote as a victory for the United States, since one border crossing was kept open, following last-minute political maneuvering by US and other officials to secure Russia’s vote. However, humanitarian organizations and officials in North and East Syria condemned the vote as the al-Yaroubiah border will remain closed to humanitarian aid, leaving the people of North and East Syria without any way for necessary aid to reach the region.
“I certainly see it as an important moment in [the US-Russia] relationship,” said Linda Thomas-Greenfield, US Ambassador to the UN, about the security council vote. “And it shows what we can do with the Russians if we work with them diplomatically on common goals.”
“This will save lives in northwest Syria, but it falls far short of what is needed to meet record levels of need,” David Miliband, the president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, said in a statement after the vote.
“A compromise on a compromise on a compromise,” Sherine Tadros, the UN representative and deputy director of advocacy for Amnesty International, tweeted after the vote.
“Sadly prospects for reinstating #Yaroubiyya in Northeast #Syria were dim due to strong #Russian and #Turkish opposition,” tweeted Mona Yacoubian, a Middle East expert at the Institute for Peace Studies in Washington DC.