The UN Security Council has authorised humanitarian access without Syrian government consent at four border crossings into rebel-held areas from Turkey, Iraq and Jordan, although Syria has warned it deems such deliveries an attack.
Monday's unanimously adopted resolution establishes for 180 days a monitoring mechanism for the loading of aid convoys in neighbouring countries, which will notify Syrian authorities of the "humanitarian nature of these relief consignments".
The shipments will travel through four different border crossings - two in Turkey (Bab a-Salam and Bab al-Hawa), one in Iraq (Al-Yarubiyah) and another in Jordan (Al-Ramtha).
All of these border crossings fall outside the control of the Syrian government.
|All of these border crossings fall outside the control of the Syrian government
"Aid access has to be authorised by the country receiving it," Al Jazeera's Kristen Saloomey, reporting from New York, said.
"This is a special measure by the UN, amid the growing humanitarian crisis," she said.
Because of the restrictions and ongoing insecurity, 10.8 million Syrians need help, of which 4.7 million live in hard-to-reach areas trapped by the fighting or under siege by government troops or rebels.
The United Nations accuses the Syrian regime of imposing bureaucratic and arbitrary obstacles to the delivery of humanitarian aid.
The Syrian government views aid entering the country without its approval as an "attack" on its sovereignty.
The council's action on Monday is a follow-up to a resolution adopted by the council in February that demanded rapid, safe and unhindered aid access in Syria. The UN said that resolution failed to make a difference.
"The consent of the Syrian authorities will no longer be necessary," Luxembourg's UN Ambassador Sylvie Lucas told the council after the vote.
Syrian ally Russia, backed by China, agreed to support the resolution after more than a month of negotiations on the text drafted by Australia, Luxembourg and Jordan. A key to winning their votes was a weakening of a threat of further measures, such as economic sanctions, if warring parties did not comply.
The language was watered down to say the council "affirms" rather than "decides" that it will "take further measures in the event of non-compliance."
The 15-member Security Council would need to agree a second resolution to impose any punishments.
"Russia and China have always spoken about the need to keep Syria's sovereignty", Saloomey said. "But it seems that there is now an agreement that the humanitarian crisis has gotten out of control, and that the UN would know best how to address it."
Western diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, admitted the resolution was not as ambitious as the initial text, which demanded blanket cross-border access.
However, they said the four crossings could allow delivery of humanitarian aid to nearly 2 million people.