The United Nations Security Council voted on July 12 to allow U.N. aid deliveries from Turkey to some 4 million people in northwest Syria to continue until Jan. 10, reaching a deal on its third attempt after the mandate for the operation expired.
The United States, Britain and France abstained from the vote because they wanted to extend the long-running humanitarian aid operation for one year. Russia vetoed that move in a vote on July 8 and then failed in its own push for a six-month renewal.
Deputy U.S. Ambassador Richard Mills accused Russia of holding the council hostage. The United States, Britain and France said six months was not long enough for aid groups to plan and operate effectively. The United Nations wanted one year.
"Russia does not care," Mills said. "Russia stood alone in complete isolation and used their veto to punish the Syrian people. It bullied council members and continued its merciless approach toward the most vulnerable."
Russia had said it would veto any text other than its own.
"Russia was trying to get the best deal possible," Russia's Deputy U.N. Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy told reporters after the meeting. "The world is bigger than Western countries ... they have to take into consideration interest of the countries first and foremost affected by Security Council decisions."
Council approval for the aid deliveries expired on July 10. That authorization is needed because Syrian authorities did not agree to the operation, which has been delivering aid including food, medicine and shelter to the opposition-controlled area of Syria since 2014.
Turkey's Foreign Ministry said in a statement that continuation of the aid deliveries "without interruption is essential for an effective international response" and regional stability.
Russia argues that the U.N. aid operation violates Syria's sovereignty and territorial integrity. It says more aid should be delivered from inside the country, raising opposition fears that food and other aid would fall under government control.
The resolution adopted on July 12 was put forward by Ireland and Norway. It essentially mirrors the failed Russian text, which only Russia and China supported on July 8.
The Security Council vote on the authorization of the aid operation has long been a contentious issue, but this year also comes amid heightened tensions between Russia and Western powers over Moscow's Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.
"We're dealing with a very difficult geo-political context and the dynamic around the table is very different," Ireland's U.N. Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason told reporters. "In that context ... you have to see this as a very significant result."
Norway's U.N. Ambassador Mona Juul noted: "The Russian position this year, as it has been in the previous year, is that they don't want to have this mechanism. That's their starting point. We have managed now to have it renewed."
In 2014, the Security Council authorized humanitarian aid deliveries into opposition-held areas of Syria from Iraq, Jordan and two points in Turkey. But Russia and China, which have veto powers, have whittled that down to just one Turkish border point.
The council on July 12 committed to further extend the aid operation until July 10, 2023, but another resolution would be required in January to do so. U.N. chief Antonio Guterres also has to submit a special report on the humanitarian needs in Syria to the Security Council in December.
"I strongly hope that after the six months it will be renewed," Guterres told reporters after the vote.