The U.N. Tuesday urged global powers to renew a system for cross-border aid delivery to Syria that is due to expire this week, saying there was no alternative.
"There is no plan B. There is this operation, which helps hundreds of thousands of people and has done so for a very long time," said Jens Laerke, spokesman for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
"It is the only viable, sustainable method that we have for reaching these people in need so it is critical that we get renewal of the provisions," he told reporters in Geneva.
Currently, there are four border gates that lead to various points in Syria from the neighboring countries of Turkey, Iraq and Jordan. The names of the border gates are Bab al-Salam and Bab al-Hawa in Turkey, Al-Yarubiyah in Iraq and Al-Ramtha in Jordan. Thanks to these gates, millions of people in Syria receive humanitarian aid regularly.
Turkey has said there should be a fifth border gate to the northern Syrian province of Tal Abyad, to increase the capacity of humanitarian aid to Syria. Russia, however, has opposed the idea, suggesting to decrease the number of border gates to just two.
Laerke said around 30,000 U.N. aid trucks had gone into Syria through the crossings since the operation began.
The arrangement is set to expire Friday.
When the U.N. Security Council took up the matter on Dec. 20, Russia and China vetoed a resolution that would have allowed continued aid deliveries for a year.
Russia, a key supporter of the Syrian regime, has said it would support only a six-month extension, involving only two passage points on the Turkish-Syrian border.
Rounds of talks since then have failed to end the deadlock.
Laerke said some 4 million people in northern Syria were supported by U.N. cross-border aid, including 2.7 million in northwest Syria who relied solely on it.
The aid is particularly important for Idlib, an embattled opposition stronghold that has come under increasing bombardment from the Syrian regime and Russian forces in recent weeks.
"The millions of people in Idlib, they are trapped," Laerke said, explaining that U.N. cross-border assistance could save lives by helping people on the ground.
The U.N. said at least 300,000 people have been internally displaced by the fighting in the Idlib region since mid-December, bringing the total number of displacements in the region to 700,000 over the last eight months.