Syria Gov’t Green Light for Aid Convoys

Syria Gov’t Green Light for Aid ConvoysSyria Gov’t Green Light for Aid Convoys

The Syrian government has approved access to seven besieged areas and UN convoys are expected to set off in days, the United Nations said on Tuesday after crisis talks in Damascus.

UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura, who won the green light at talks with Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem, said the world body would test the government commitment to allow access on Wednesday but gave no details, Reuters reported.

Their meeting in Damascus came at a time when government forces have been advancing rapidly with the aid of Russian airstrikes and just days before an internationally agreed pause in fighting is due to take effect.

De Mistura said they had discussed the issue of humanitarian access to areas besieged by all sides in the five-year war.

“It is clear it is the duty of the government of Syria to want to reach every Syrian person wherever they are and allow the UN to bring humanitarian aid,” de Mistura said in a statement. “Tomorrow we test this.”

The Syrian government hit back at de Mistura’s comment, saying his own credibility needed testing, Syrian state media said. It quoted a Syrian Foreign Ministry source as saying that Damascus would not allow de Mistura to talk about testing its seriousness.

“The truth is Syria needs to test the credibility of de Mistura who has been contradicting what happened during the meeting with the Syrian government,” the foreign ministry source was quoted as saying.

“Delivering aid to areas besieged by terrorists has been the government’s commitment towards its people for years.”

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said Syria had approved access to Deir al-Zor; Foua and Kafraya in Idlib; and Madaya, Zabadani, Kafr Batna and Mouadamiya al-Sham in rural Damascus.

“Humanitarian agencies and partners are preparing convoys for these areas, to depart as soon as possible in the coming days,” the OCHA said.

It was not immediately clear whether the convoys would begin on Wednesday, as de Mistura had indicated. Nor was there any indication of a breakthrough on access to areas besieged by armed opposition groups.

UN-backed peace talks are scheduled to resume in Geneva on Feb. 25, after de Mistura suspended a first round earlier this month.

Last Friday global powers meeting in Munich agreed to the pause in fighting in the hope that this could allow the talks to resume, but the deal does not take effect until the end of this week and was not signed by the Syrian warring parties.