U.S. Pushes for UN Safe Passages to Quake Victims in Syria

February 10, 2023

The U.S. on Thursday called for more safe passages across the Turkish border into Syria to allow UN humanitarian aid to reach victims of this month’s devastating earthquakes.

The 7.8-magnitude quake that struck Turkey and Syria early Monday, followed by a 7.6-magnitude quake hours later, has killed more than 20,000 so far.

Roads along the only United Nations authorized border crossing known as Bab al-Hawa were badly damaged in the quake’s aftermath, causing the first UN aid convoy to not reach Syria until Thursday afternoon.

According to sources, U.S. officials are now calling for a Security Council Resolution immediately mandating the use of any and all access points for UN delivery of urgent supplies to quake survivors. That call comes after UN Secretary General António Guterres called for more member nations to explore all possibilities toward getting aid and personnel through rebel-held areas still reeling from Syria’s more than a decade-long civil war.

However, UN Security Council approval of safe passages to quake victims, or “humanitarian corridors,” like those NATO has called for in Ukraine—is likely to meet resistance from China and perhaps especially Russia, which is an ally of Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad. Both nations say the passages violate Syria’s sovereignty.

“We’re going to continue to make the case, countries around the world are going to continue to make the case,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters Thursday. “And we certainly hope that Russia and all those who would stand in the way are hearing and seeing these just heartbreaking images from Syria today.”

“I would be of course very happy if the Security Council could reach a consensus to allow for more crossings to be used,” said the UN’s Guterres, who called the quake a moment for unity. “We must put people first.”

More than 17,130 people have died in Turkey following the quake, according to the country’s disaster management agency. Officials in Syria say the quake has killed more than 3,800 people there.

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