GENEVA - A senior U.N. official says he has received indications Syrian authorities may grant permission for U.N. humanitarian convoys to enter the besieged enclave of eastern Ghouta to deliver desperately needed aid to civilians.
Except for a small delivery of aid for 7,000 people in mid-February, the nearly 400,000 residents of eastern Ghouta, a suburb of the Syrian capital, Damascus, have been without humanitarian assistance for many months.
Special Advisor to the U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Jan Egeland blames that on the government of Bashar al-Assad, which has not given the United Nations the facilitation letter it needs to carry out its mission. He says convoys are ready to move into eastern Ghouta as soon as the U.N. gets the go-ahead.
But he says he is hopeful that this impasse may change. He says an international task force on Syria was informed Tuesday the United Nations may receive a permit to enter the besieged town of Douma in eastern Ghouta in the next two days.
“We have 43 trucks standing by to go there and full warehouses to load into the trucks as soon as we get the permit," said Egeland. "It was also reported that our colleagues in the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) is able to reach another place in eastern Ghouta today. So, maybe this was the bleakest hour. Maybe it is now changing.”
Egeland says he will ask Russia, the United States and other countries of influence to push for several U.N. aid deliveries into eastern Ghouta every week. He says it also is urgent to get Syrian permission for the medical evacuation of about 1,000 wounded and seriously ill people.
He says he is not in favor of Russia’s unilateral five-hour daily pause in the fighting, as it is not possible to deliver humanitarian aid within that time frame.
Egeland says it is crucial to negotiate a pause in the fighting that is respected by all warring parties and to establish a two-way corridor that meets humanitarian standards, so supplies can go into eastern Ghouta and people can go out if they wish.