Syrian government approves humanitarian aid delivery across front lines

Syrian government approves humanitarian aid delivery across front lines

Follow the latest on the earthquake in Turkey and Syria

The Syrian government has approved the delivery of humanitarian aid across the front lines of the country’s civil war, state media said on Friday.

An earthquake has killed at least 22,000 people across site of the epicentre in Turkey and Syria. Most of the hardest-hit areas in Syria are out of government control and are yet to receive any meaningful international aid, days after Monday’s quake.

“The Syrian cabinet has approved the delivery of humanitarian aid to all parts of the country, including through the front lines from inside the areas controlled by the state to areas that are out of the state control,” Sana news agency reported.

Aid would be distributed with the help of the UN, Syrian Red Crescent and International Red Cross to guarantee delivery to those who in need.

State media reported that the government had declared Lattakia, Hama, Aleppo and Idlib ― the areas worst-affected ― as disaster zones and would set up a fund to rehabilitate those regions.

Syrian opposition groups have not yet said whether aid would be accepted in this manner.

Fabrizio Carboni, Near and Middle East regional director for the International Committee of the Red Cross, who is in Syria, told The National: “Any initiative that contributes to alleviating the suffering is welcome.”

The cabinet has approved creating a national fund to rehabilitate affected areas and enable the entry of all donations and relief to the affected areas.

It also delegated ministers to handle aid through the supreme commission of relief.

The Swiss ambassador to the UN, Pascale Baeriswyl, told reporters in New York on Friday that Switzerland and Brazil have requested a Security Council meeting to discuss the humanitarian situation in Syria.

This meeting is expected to take place early next week so that Security Council members can hear directly from UN aid chief Martin Griffiths on the “the humanitarian needs of the affected population”.

Mr Griffiths is currently in Turkey and is set to travel over the weekend to Syria.

The first UN convoy since the earthquake passed from Turkey into north-west Syria through the Bab Al Hawa border crossing on Thursday, said the UN.

Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he hoped the UN could use more than one border crossing to deliver aid to Syria.

A UN diplomat told The National that Security Council members had discussed expanding access and including one or more additional border crossings.

The UN diplomat suggested the best way to address “humanitarian needs, doesn’t necessarily require a UN Security Council resolution”.

Louis Charbonneau, UN director for Human Rights Watch, told The National that Security Council approval is not a legal prerequisite to conduct cross-border aid operations into Syria.

Mr Charbonneau said if the Security Council is deadlocked and the UN determines it’s feasible and safe, then the “UN should push ahead to address the crisis and help victims”.

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