Britain presses U.N. for Syria aid details ahead of likely showdown with Russia

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Britain has asked the United Nations to provide more detailed information to the Security Council on which communities in Syria they cannot reach with humanitarian help ahead of what some diplomats say will likely be another showdown between Western powers and Russia over cross-border aid deliveries.

FILE PHOTO: Karen Pierce, Britain's Ambassador to the United Nations, addresses the U.N. Security Council June 26, 2019. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton/File Photo

In a letter to U.N. aid chief Mark Lowcock, seen by Reuters on Friday, British U.N. Ambassador Karen Pierce also asked for information on “the types of aid deliveries for which the U.N. is required to solicit approvals from authorities in Damascus.”

“The Security Council, as well as donors and the wider international community, need to understand who is receiving aid and if safe, unimpeded and sustained access, on the basis of need and need alone to the most vulnerable, is being obstructed,” Pierce wrote in the March 3 letter.

Her request for more detailed U.N. reports to the 15-member body on the aid situation in Syria comes after the council in January allowed a six-year-long cross-border aid operation to continue from two places in Turkey, but dropped crossing points from Iraq and Jordan due to opposition by Russia and China.

Western diplomats have said the closure of the Iraq crossing cuts off 40 percent of medical aid to northeastern Syria.

As requested by the council, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres suggested last month that the Tal Abiyad border crossing between Syria and Turkey could be added to deliver aid to civilians in northeast Syria.

The council needs to adopt another resolution by July 10 to renew the mandate for the cross-border aid operation. Some diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, believe there will be further opposition from veto power Russia.

A resolution needs nine votes in favor and no vetoes by Russia, China, the United States, France or Britain.

Russian U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia has dismissed concerns about reducing the cross-border operation because he said the situation on the ground had changed and aid was being delivered to the areas in need from within Syria.

Pierce wrote that after the council’s January decision to cut the cross-border operation, it “requires, we believe, forensic data and analysis to inform more effective decision-making that enables action to save lives and alleviate suffering.”

Turkey sent thousands of troops and equipment to northwest Syria to head off a push by Russia-backed Syrian government forces to retake the rebel-held territory after nine years of war. Russia and Turkey agreed on a ceasefire deal on Thursday aimed at ending months of intense conflict.

Nearly a million Syrians have fled during the escalation over the last three months, the biggest exodus of the conflict. A crackdown by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on pro-democracy protesters in 2011 led to civil war.

Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Jonathan Oatis