China & Russia are at odds with the other veto powers at the United Nations Security Council on the humanitarian situation in Syria.
For several weeks, the members of the Security Council have been negotiating the UN resolution that would give the United Nations the ability to continue delivering humanitarian assistance to Syrians after January 10th.
Given Syria’s dire situation, Germany, Belgium, and Kuwait initially drafted a resolution that would not only renew the mandate for a year but would also add an additional point of entry into Syria from Tel Abyad in Turkey to effectively deliver aid to civilians.
Currently, the UN uses four different points of entry into Syria Al Ramtha in Jordan, Al Yarubiyah in Iraq, Bab al-Salam and Bab al-Hawa in Turkey to assist civilians mainly in ISIS-held territories.
Russia a longtime supporter of Bashar al-Assad and China seek to renew the mandate for six months and reduce the current points of entry into Syria by half. Nebenzia Vassily Alekseevich, Russia’s Permanent Representative to the UN, implied that the situation in Syria is improving.
However, António Guterres, the United Nations’ Secretary General, marked 2019 as a year of “…further deterioration of an already extremely difficult humanitarian situation for people throughout Syria, where over 11 million people remain in need of assistance.”
The latest standoff puts Syrians in particular children and women at risk as the humanitarian situation becomes increasingly politicized.
This deadlock comes as China has deepened its ties with the Syrian Government
China is seeking to become an influential actor in post war Syria. President Assad has already discussed with Beijing ways to bypass sanctions as Chinese construction firms have expressed an interest in rebuilding Syria. Further, Syria is keen on joining China’s Belt & Road Initiative.
As China is becoming heavily involved in Syria, it’s partnering with Russia at the United Nations to reduce the presence of international organisations in Syria.
Last year, as Russia and China abstained from voting on this resolution, Mr Alekseevich iterated at the UN that “…the ultimate goal here being to gradually but inevitably wrap it up.”
Both actors are seeking to decrease the UN’s presence in Syria without considering the humanitarian challenges on the ground to increase their own influence.
Such a realpolitik approach endangers the lives of four million Syrians who are dependent on the United Nation’s humanitarian aid through cross-border operations.
Ironically, this impasse follows Beijing’s human rights forum. On December 10 and 11, China hosted the South-South Human Rights Forum, where representatives from Syria and North Korea participated.
At the forum, human rights were equated with a state’s economy and the absence of the rights of the individual an idea attractive to authoritarian regimes
At the UN, China is practising just that. Prioritising its economic interests at the cost of human rights by obstructing the delivery of essential and adequate aid to civilians in Syria.
Members of the Security Council are likely to vote on the resolution before Christmas. As negotiations are ongoing, the veto powers should uphold the UN charter to prevent a humanitarian crisis in Syria.