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Wednesday, 18 September 2019

UN pleads with Assad over food aid stuck at Syria border

AFP , Thursday 22 Sep 2016
This Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2016, image provided by the Syrian anti-government group Aleppo 24 news, shows a vest of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent hanging on a damaged vehicle, in Aleppo, Syria (Photo: AP)
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Food aid for rebel-held east Aleppo, which has been stalled at the Syrian border since last week, will go bad in days, the UN said Thursday, urging the country's leader to clear the delivery.

"Forty trucks are sitting at the Turkish-Syrian border. The food will be expiring on Monday," the head of the United Nations humanitarian taskforce for Syria, Jan Egeland, told reporters in Geneva.

"The drivers are sleeping at the border and they have done so now for now a week, so please, President Assad, do your bit to enable us to get to eastern Aleppo and also the other besieged areas," Egeland added, in a direct appeal to Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.

The trucks entered a customs zone between the two countries on September 12 and 13.

The UN had hoped to send them along the Castello Road into east Aleppo, militarily encircled since early July and where up to 250,000 people are in desperate need of life-saving supplies.

As part of the now broken ceasefire pact agreed between the US and Russia, the UN had expected assurances from Damascus that the Castello Road would be clear and safe.

Those assurances have not come and violence has surged again following a brief lull early last week.

The stalled east Aleppo aid is the latest in a long running series of setbacks for UN and Red Cross efforts to deliver relief to Syrian civilians.

The UN's Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura charged the Assad government with breaking its word by not providing authorisation permits to visit at least five besieged areas.

But, Egeland said, "we seem to now be getting the permits,"

The UN's humanitarian office (OCHA) said earlier that a convoy was headed on Thursday to a besieged part of Rural Damascus.

Egeland added that in "the next days" the UN also hoped to reach Madaya, "where people have been starving."

Convoys also plan to go the Waer neighbourhood of Homs, according to Egeland.

Rebel fighters were leaving Waer on Thursday, under an agreement reached between opposition and government forces in December.

The agreement was reached in December and envisions Waer coming under government control in exchange for the lifting of a devastating three-year siege.

The UN oversaw the original deal, but de Mistura has since criticised a "strategy" of evacuations from besieged rebel-held communities under deals with the government.


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