World 26.8.2016 11:25 am

UN: Aid ready to reach besieged Syrian civilians

Photo: Supplied

Photo: Supplied

The UN says its aid envoys are waiting for fighters on the ground to follow suit by respecting the 48-hour humanitarian pause.

The United Nations (UN) is ready to move into the Syrian city of Aleppo with humanitarian aid, as the Russian Federation backs a 48-hour humanitarian pause in and around the city.

‘We are ready, trucks are ready, and they can leave any time we get that message.’

However, before the UN moves in with the critically needed aid convoys the UN envoys are waiting for others on the ground to follow suit in respecting the humanitarian pause.

“We are ready, trucks are ready, and they can leave anytime we get that message,” UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura on Thursday told reporters in Geneva, where negotiations on humanitarian aid delivery and a cessation of hostilities are under way.

The task forces for these two subjects, created by the International Syria Support Group (ISSG), have been meeting separately since early this year on a way forward on the crisis.

Russia and the United States are the co-chairs of ISSG, which comprises the UN, the Arab League, the European Union and 16 other countries.

De Mistura explained that Russia has already pledged support for the 48-hour pause, and humanitarian convoys are waiting for all the others to “do the same”.

The UN envoy, who has been mediating the intra-Syrian talks, did not comment on the political front, saying that US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov are expected to meet in Friday in Geneva – a meeting that he said will certainly have an impact on the course of ISSG discussions.

UN Senior Advisor Jan Egeland outlined the Aleppo emergency response plan’s three elements: first, sending two convoys of 20 trucks each that would carry enough food for 80 000 people in eastern Aleppo via the Castello Road, the safest and most direct route.

The second plank is to have simultaneous distributions to western Aleppo, cross-line mostly from Damascus.

The third is to use the 48-hour pause to repair the electricity plant in the southern part of Aleppo that serves 1.8 million people and even more importantly, power the pumping of water in the eastern and western parts of the city.

“We have also agreement now from the Russian Federation of the 48-hour pause; we are also waiting it from the other actors on the ground. That has taken more time frankly, than I thought was needed, I thought everybody would help us make it happen,” Egeland said

He added that he was hopeful that humanitarian convoys “can roll” shortly to help the long-suffering people in Aleppo.

Turning to other places in Syria, Egeland said it has been 116 days since aid last reached Madaya, Zabadani, Foah and Kafraya, the besieged areas under the ‘Four Towns Agreement’.

The UN estimates that five years on, the conflict has driven 4.8 million refugees to neighbouring countries, hundreds of thousands in Europe, and displaced 6.6 million people inside the Syria against a pre-war population of over 20 million. Well over 200 000 people are believed to have died.

– African News Agency (ANA)


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