By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – U.N. Security Council approval for aid deliveries to several million people in rebel-held Syria from Turkey is set to expire on Monday as council members struggled to convince Russia to extend the massive U.N. operation for more than six months.

In 2022 and 2020 the mandate for the operation ran out, but was renewed a day later. Authorization is needed because Syrian authorities did not agree to the operation, which has been delivering aid including food, medicine and shelter since 2014.

The 15-member Security Council had been negotiating a text, drafted by Switzerland and Brazil, to allow the U.N. operation to continue using the Bab al-Hawa crossing for 12 months. But Russia put forward a rival text proposing six months on Friday.

Some diplomats said they hope the council can reach an agreement on a text and vote on Tuesday. To be adopted, a resolution needs at least nine votes in favor and no vetoes by Russia, China, the United States, France or Britain.

U.N. aid chief Martin Griffiths told the Security Council last month: “A 12-month authorization enables us and our partners to deliver better humanitarian outcomes in the months ahead. It is as simple as that.”

Griffiths said the $5.4 billion U.N. aid appeal for Syria for 2023 is the largest in the world, but less than 12% funded.

Russia argues that the U.N. aid operation violates Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. It says more aid should be delivered from inside the country, raising opposition fears that food and other aid would fall under government control.

The Security Council initially authorized aid deliveries in 2014 into opposition-held areas of Syria from Iraq, Jordan and two points in Turkey. But Russia and China have whittled that down to just one Turkish border point.

A crackdown by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on pro-democracy protesters in 2011 led to civil war, with Moscow backing Assad and Washington supporting the opposition. Millions of people have fled Syria and millions are internally displaced.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Stephen Coates)

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