UN unable to deliver aid to nearly 1m Syrians

World organisation says govt rejecting its appeals as Aleppo fighting intensifies

GENEVA • Syria's government is refusing appeals by the United Nations to deliver aid to 905,000 people including in Aleppo, the city at the centre of an eruption of violence in the past two weeks.

"We seem to be having new possible besieged areas on our watch, we are having hundreds of relief workers unable to move in Aleppo," UN humanitarian adviser Jan Egeland said yesterday.

"It is a disgrace to see that while the population of Aleppo is bleeding, their options to flee have never been more difficult than now."

At least 22 airstrikes pounded a key rebel bastion east of the Syrian capital yesterday, after a local freeze on fighting expired overnight, a monitoring group said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the suspected regime raids hit Eastern Ghouta as clashes with rebels erupted.

Last week, Russia and the US agreed on a temporary "freeze" in fighting in Eastern Ghouta and in the Mediterranean coastal province of Latakia.

Kuwaitis holding a candlelight vigil on Tuesday, in solidarity with victims of fighting in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo where there has been a surge in violence in the past two weeks.
Kuwaitis holding a candlelight vigil on Tuesday, in solidarity with victims of fighting in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo where there has been a surge in violence in the past two weeks. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

The so-called "regime of silence" is meant to reinforce a broader truce brokered by the two world powers in February.

The halt in fighting was initially set for 24 hours in Eastern Ghouta but was extended twice, according to Syria's armed forces, and finally expired on Tuesday night.

The fresh fighting does not bode well for efforts to agree to a "regime of silence" in the battleground second city of Aleppo, ravaged by nearly two weeks of surging violence.

US Secretary of State John Kerry warned Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad of "repercussions" if his regime flouts a new truce under negotiation, as talks to halt the violence shifted to Berlin yesterday.

Russia has said a new ceasefire to halt fighting in Aleppo could be imminent, with Syria's divided northern city hit by a wave of violence that has killed more than 270 people since April 22.

"If Assad does not adhere to (the new ceasefire), there will clearly be repercussions and one of them may be the total destruction of the ceasefire and they go back to war," Mr Kerry told reporters after returning from an earlier round of talks in Geneva.

"I don't think that Russia wants that. I don't think Assad is going to benefit from that," he added.

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted by RIA news agency as saying Mr Assad is not an ally for Russia to the extent Turkey is for the US.

"Assad is not an ally for us. Yes, we support him in the fight against terror and in preserving the Syrian state," Mr Lavrov told RIA in an interview. "But he is not an ally in the sense Turkey is an ally for the United States." He said his country sees Syria peace talks in Geneva resuming this month but the right conditions had not yet been met for direct negotiations, due to the "whims" of the opposition High Negotiations Committee and other countries, including Turkey.

He also said a meeting of the International Syria Support Group could be convened in the coming weeks.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 05, 2016, with the headline 'UN unable to deliver aid to nearly 1m Syrians'. Print Edition | Subscribe