US ambassador to UN postpones visit to Syria-Turkey border

Thomas-Greenfield’s visit comes amid concerns that Russia may stand in the way of keeping open the single route that allows aid to get into the war-torn country. The Biden administration is preparing to make the case for the need to maintain cross-border humanitarian assistance to Syria, a senior State Department official told reporters.

The world is also facing another massive humanitarian crisis, in Ukraine, where the Russian invasion continues to displace millions.

The official told reporters on Friday before the visit to the border was postponed: “Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield’s message is going to precisely be that refugees from the conflict in Syria are not forgotten. … Our focus is on addressing humanitarian crises around the world wherever we find them and on seeing them through even over very long periods of time.”

Thomas-Greenfield had planned to meet with Syrian refugees and the humanitarian organizations supporting them. She also planned to visit the Bab al-Hawa border crossing, which is the only crossing from Turkey into Syria that allows humanitarian assistance to be delivered.

The one-year agreement to keep the Bab al-Hawa border crossing open is set to expire in July. The agreement was the result of a UN Security Council resolution last year. The US will have to engage with Russia, and other members of the Security Council, in an effort to keep Bab al-Hawa open.

“It’s very timely because there is a critical moment coming in the Security Council to renew, extend, expand the access to critical humanitarian assistance for the Syrian people. The United States is going to continue to champion that assistance and the role — the critical role that the UN has to play in providing that assistance, and to rallying members of the Security Council to support extension of the resolution but also to rally the world around the needs that the Syrian people have and the urgency of this humanitarian crisis even as we address the conflict in Ukraine and Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine,” the senior State Department official said on Friday.

The topic of the border crossing will be front and center at the UN Security Council in the months ahead.

“I think we’re going to be focused on the same kind of intense diplomatic engagement, making our case in the Council about how dire the situation is and how it will grow even worse if this cross-border assistance is not reauthorized,” the official said. “Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield wants to travel to Turkey to see firsthand and update her knowledge of what the situation is, how urgent the needs are, and be able to take that to the Council, and that’ll be a conversation that Russia is a part of as well.”

This story and headline have been updated.

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