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Damascus Approves Aid Delivery to Besieged Areas, In Principle

  • Lisa Schlein

Twin girls walk near a Red Crescent aid convoy carrying urgent medical supplies in the rebel held besieged town of Douma, eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria, May 26, 2016.

Twin girls walk near a Red Crescent aid convoy carrying urgent medical supplies in the rebel held besieged town of Douma, eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria, May 26, 2016.

The United Nations says the Syrian government has given approval for the delivery of humanitarian assistance to 15 of 17 besieged areas in the country. But, it cautions approval does not mean delivery.

The government of Bashar al-Assad has given the go-ahead for the delivery of humanitarian aid to people trapped in areas under siege on many previous occasions. And, on a number of those occasions, the government has backtracked on its promises.

So with a certain sense of cynicism, U.N. special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura welcomed this latest approval by Damascus.

“There is a lot of actions that need to take place between an approval and delivery, including the possibility of not being stopped at the last moment at a roadblock; including the fact of not medicines being pulled out; including the fact that at a certain point there will not be an indication that the quantity, which was meant is not what will be allowed,” he said.

De Mistura says he hopes to see some of that approval swiftly turned into concrete action. He says it is particularly crucial humanitarian aid reach Darayya and Douma, as well as Kafraya and Foah. He says 270,000 of the nearly 600,000 people living in besieged areas have been reached. He adds that is not enough.

He says the United Nations has made contingency plans for airdrops and airlifts into besieged and hard to reach areas if land convoys are not possible. But, he adds, air deliveries also have to be approved by Damascus.

As for the stalled peace negotiations, he says the time is not yet ripe to hold an official third round of Intra-Syrian talks. He says he intends to resume the talks as soon as possible and is aiming for August 1.

“In order to be effective, we need to also give the perception that there is some concrete intention and critical mass for producing this time political transition steps,” he said.

De Mistura says the atmosphere surrounding the talks needs to be improved for them to be fruitful. He says there must be a cessation of hostilities and an improvement in humanitarian assistance.

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