Aid Reaches Besieged Syrian Towns as Agreed in Munich Accordby and
About 100 trucks are delivering UN-provided supplies
`This is great' but only a first step, U.S. spokesman says
About 100 trucks loaded with urgently needed humanitarian aid started delivering supplies to besieged areas in Syria, part of a truce deal reached last week by world powers.
Syrian Red Crescent vehicles have reached Madamiyet Elsham, Syrian state-run television said. The rebel-held area outside Damascus is one of five towns expected to receive United Nations supplies on Wednesday, the Red Crescent said on its Facebook page. Two towns, Fouah and Kefraya in Idlib province, are mostly Shiite and are surrounded by anti-government fighters.
“This is great,” Mark Toner, a U.S. State Department spokesman, told reporters in Washington on Wednesday. “This is a step forward. But I would be clear that this is just a first step in dealing with the significant problem of humanitarian assistance in these besieged areas, and frankly, it’s a problem that never should have happened.”
The convoys moved after UN Syria envoy Staffan De Mistura held talks with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem in Damascus Tuesday on getting aid to areas cut off by fighting, a key demand of the opposition at peace talks this month. It’s 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 after the meeting. “Tomorrow we test this.”
Around 400,000 people throughout Syria are trapped in areas choked off by the various parties to the conflict, according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
The U.S., Russia and regional neighbors of Syria agreed Feb. 12 in Munich to broker a cease-fire within a week, in a deal that also included the delivery of aid to besieged areas. But there has been no let up in violence, with airstrikes on two hospitals this week killing dozens.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennadiy Gatilov, whose government entered the war last year in support of President Bashar al-Assad, said Wednesday the Munich accord is being implemented and would be discussed by defense officials from Russia, the U.S. and “key countries” on Friday.