Russia and China have vetoed a UN resolution to continue the delivery of humanitarian aid to Syria through two crossing points from Turkey.
The German-Belgian resolution, which was backed by 13 other UN Security Council members, would have extended the mandate for the two border crossings from Turkey to the north-west now being used for six months.
Without waiting for the announcement and signalling its intent to use its veto, Russia announced late on Thursday that it had circulated a new resolution which would authorise just one crossing from Turkey for a year.
Russia, Syria’s closest ally, has argued that aid should be delivered from within Syria across conflict lines.
However, the UN and humanitarian groups say aid for 2.8 million people in the north-west of Syria cannot get in that way.
The International Rescue Committee President said reducing aid deliveries to just one crossing point "would cut essential health supplies to one million people, and leave the UN unable to scale up in response both to COVID-19 and deteriorating food security".
"Today is yet another example of the Age of Impunity, where two countries can veto with full knowledge, but utter disregard, for the impact it will have on civilian lives – all against the backdrop of an unprecedented and devastating global pandemic," David Miliband said.
Diplomats said the 15 Security Council members have been discussing a possible compromise and would shortly hold a closed meeting to discuss a possible way ahead.
In a joint statement after the vote, Germany and Belgium said they remain committed to reaching a solution to ensure the "critical lifeline" to "millions of people in dire need of cross-border assistance in Syria".
Germany’s UN ambassador, Christoph Heusgen, said that while the Bab Al-Hawa crossing is used to deliver aid to Idlib province, the Bab al-Salam crossing reaches the region north of Aleppo, where an additional 300,000 Syrians displaced by the last offensive are now sheltering.
"Both areas are separated by conflict lines," he said.
US Ambassador Kelly Craft has accused Russia and China of "breathtaking callousness and dishonesty" and distorting the realities on the ground in Syria.
Their actions in both resolutions underscore "a harrowing truth — that Russia and China have decided that millions of Syrian lives are an insignificant cost of their partnership with the murderous Assad regime," she said in a statement.
Cover Image: A library picture of the Rashideen district, near the Aleppo-Damascus highway in Syria (Picture: PA).