UN: basic aid to Syria, the US and Russia must keep out warring factions

Ban Ki-moon appeals  for the distribution of food and basic necessities. For days a convoy has been blocked on the Turkish border. Situation still insecure. Washington and Moscow agree on the extension of the truce for another 48 hours. Situation in east Aleppo critical, 250 thousand people trapped.


Damascus (AsiaNews / Agencies) - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called on the US and Russia, inviting them to exert constant pressure on opposing sides fighting each other in Syria to allow the entry of aid into the areas most at risk.  48 hours after the start of the ceasefire, a convoy laden with basic necessities and food to feed 40 thousand people for a month has been blocked on the Turkish border.

United Nations experts say the priority must be the delivery of aid to civilians in endangered areas - including the area east of Aleppo, controlled by rebels -  during the lull in the fighting. However, the persistent disagreements between the various parties and concerns about safety are delaying deliveries.

The UN leaders are highly critical of President Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian government, accusing them of seeking  to control the flow of aid into the country.

The ceasefire that started with the Islamic festival of Sacrifice (Eid al-Adha) is the latest in a series of diplomatic efforts so far rolled out by Washington and Moscow. The goal is to try to stem a five-year conflict that has caused, according to the latest estimates, more than 300 thousand deaths (430 thousand according to other sources) and millions of refugees, creating a unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe. More than 4.8 million people have fled abroad, 6.5 million are internally displaced.

The agreement provides for the end of the fighting between forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the various rebel groups operating on the ground; jihadist groups like the Islamic State (IS) and the Nusra Front are excluded from the truce. The US and Russia are continuing diplomatic work to launch a joint campaign against the latters objectives.

In an official statement the UN secretary general said that "it is crucial to put in place all the safety mechanisms" to ensure the passage of food and basic necessities. Ban Ki-moon appealled to Russia, to use all its "influence" on the Syrian government; similar appeals were made to the United States, so that the Syrian armed groups give their maximum collaboration".

Damascus said they would allow a "coordinated passage" of aid into Aleppo under "its control" and that of the United Nations.

Meanwhile, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an activist group based in London with an extensive network of informants on Syrian territory, reports that there have been deaths and injuries among civilians in these first 48 hours of respite. Russia had earlier spoken of two victims among the army, hit while on patrol on the Castle Road, the road leading to Aleppo.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in a telephone conversation decided to extend the ceasefire for another 48 hours. "The directive holds," said a spokesman for the American government.

The most tense situation remains linked to Aleppo, the metropolis of the north of Syria, where there are at least 250 thousand people trapped in the eastern sector. Haitham Abo, one of the leaders of the Free Syrian Army, reports that in general "the streets are always empty." However, now people "come and go", you see "children playing in the fields" but markets "remain empty." In the west, in the hands of the government, some photos show young people outdoors in the districts where until two days ago were targeted by mortars.

Local sources said the people are in desperate need of fuel, flour, wheat, milk powder and medicines. From September 13 last two convoys carrying aid have been blocked about 40 km west of Aleppo. The fact is that the road leading to the city is controlled by militias affiliated to al Qaeda.