Dec. 19 (UPI) -- The U.N. Security Council voted Tuesday to renew cross-border aid deliveries to Syria for another year.
The resolution allowing U.N. relief agencies and their partners to use routes across conflict lines and border crossings to deliver aid to Syria through Turkey and Jordan passed with 12 votes in favor and three abstentions -- Russia, China and Bolivia.
The 15-member council urged Syrian authorities "to expeditiously respond to all requests for cross-line deliveries submitted by the U.N. and its implementing partners and to give such requests positive consideration."
It also noted the need for a political end to the conflict in Syria and called for stakeholders to facilitate a Syrian-led and Syrian-owned political transition.
"The Syrian people will decide the future of Syria," the council said.
Russian envoy Vladimir Safronkov said his country abstained from the vote because cross-border deliveries were intended as a temporary solution when mandated in 2014.
"Today the situation in the country has changed radically and the mechanism for cross-border deliveries remains a legacy of the past," he said. "We think it is important to gradually roll down this rudimentary scheme which has worked for Syria's division."
Swedish Ambassador Oloof Skoog, who co-sponsored the resolution with Egypt and Japan, argued the mandate will help save lives.
"It is not every day that this council takes decisions that have a direct impact on the people affected by conflict," he said. "Today is such a day."
U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock said the measure allowed for 650 trucks to deliver food assistance for 900,000 people and health assistance for nearly 1 million treatments this month.
He added that 500 people in Eastern Ghouta require urgent medical evacuation, including 137 children, and that 16 civilians have died waiting for the government to authorize their transfer to a Damascus hospital 30 minutes away.
"In November, only five cross-line convoys were able to deploy, reaching 200,250 people in hard-to-reach locations and 28,700 people in besieged locations out of a total besieged population of more than 400,000 people," Lowcock said. "So far in December, none -- none -- of our convoys have made it to any of the besieged locations."