Guterres supports UN cross-border aid in Syria


United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he supports the extension of a cross-border program to deliver humanitarian aid to Syria, according to a Security Council report obtained by AFP Wednesday.

The existing authorization for the program -- which began in 2014 -- is set to expire July 10.

Continuing to deliver humanitarian aid to northwestern Syria, including the Idlib region, will require the use of the Bab al-Salaam and Bab al-Hawa crossings along the Syrian-Turkish border for the next 12 months, Guterres said in the report.

"The cross-border operation is a lifeline for millions of civilians whom the United Nations cannot reach by other means," he wrote.

"Cross-line assistance is currently not a viable alternative and a sustained, large-scale cross-border response will continue to be necessary to meet the enormous humanitarian needs in the northwest," Guterres said in response to Moscow's suggestion that humanitarian aid can be routed through Damascus.

According to Guterres, most of the medical facilities in the northeastern part of the country that relied on deliveries from cross-border shipments from the Yarubiyah crossing have not been able to receive what they need since its Russia-imposed closure in January.

NGOs are running out of supplies just when they are needed most due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Guterres said, advocating for using both cross-border and Syrian regime-deployed aid.

He also pointed out the deteriorating economic situation in Syria, saying that the WFP estimates that 9.3 million people are currently experiencing food insecurity.