Ahead of a critical vote at the UN Security Council on cross-border aid to Syria, the Turkish Red Crescent head said the last humanitarian aid crossing into Syria “must stay open.”

In an open letter to media outlets on Thursday, Kerem Kinik said: “It is the strong hope of all humanitarians that UN Security Council Members will put humanity first and respect for human life and dignity will prevail.”

“The last humanitarian aid crossing into Syria must stay open at all costs to protect more than 4 million people in dire need,” he stressed in the letter.

The Cross-Border Mechanism, which allows the Bab al-Hawa crossing to operate, is set to come up for a vote on July 10 with eyes on Russia and China, two permanent members who might block its renewal.

“In a collective voice, all humanitarians have been calling for the renewal of the decision, but the fate of millions in need stand as a divided agenda on the table of the Security Council,” Kinik said.

“In the wake of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, where millions of people around the world are in need of urgent assistance, shutting the cross-border humanitarian operations would have devastating consequences with a heavy human toll,” he added.

Stressing that the Turkish Red Crescent was the first to respond in 2011 after the first group of Syrians sought asylum at the Idlib-Hatay border, he said that the charity group has been providing large-scale assistance in the region since then.

“The history of the humanitarian aid crossing into Syria from Turkey precedes the UN Security Council resolution, and depicts a story of sharing, kindness, and solidarity,” he also said, reminding the memories of Turkish citizens sending aid across the border to “help those appealing for support in Syria.”

“In the coming days, the decision of the Security Council will be either to exacerbate the suffering and pain of millions or it will act to ensure humanitarian aid is able to get to the millions of people in Syria,” he said.

Call for ‘de-politicization of aid’

Kinik said that the UN Security Council resolution 2165 in 2014 and involvement of the UN agencies brought a “positive environment”, praising a “principled and coordinated humanitarian response is in place” thanks to “the efforts of various humanitarian organizations.”

“Tens of thousands of trucks over the years have not only brought aid to the vulnerable communities, but it brought hope that they are not forgotten, and a better future is possible,” he said.

However, Kinik said, it was “deeply saddening and tragic” to see humanitarians are challenged by “threats to their delivery of aid to people in dire need.”

“This reminds the humanitarian community of how vulnerable our work is, which is decided by the show of hands where one vote can imminently have consequences on millions,” he added.

Pointing to “the politicized nature of the cross-border issues”, Kinik stressed: “Humanitarians working to provide for the most vulnerable should not be pressed with such issues other than how to best deliver aid.”

“The international community urgently needs to come to a consensus which includes enabling humanitarian aid to people in need in Syria from most direct routes,” he said.

Underlining the need for “de-politicization of aid,” he said: “As always, TRC (Turkish Red Crescent) stands by the people in need in Syria and will continue to deliver services and aid in hopes that the international community and the Security Council will put human life before political interests.”

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