02/29/2016, 14.24
SYRIA
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Fragile Syrian truce to allow aid into besieged cities

Blame traded between the various fronts for alleged "violations" the cessation of hostilities. The goal of the United Nations is to bring aid to 1.7 million people by the end of March. Vicar of Aleppo: "Increased calm, but siege remains, urgent need of water and fuel”. Sources in the capital: "Continue the peace negotiations".

Damascus (AsiaNews) - The fragile truce is so far holding in Syria, a country battered by five years of conflict that has left hundreds of thousands dead and millions displaced. Over the weekend fronts fighting denounced isolated "violations", of the attempt to silence the weapons.

Taking advantage of the cessation of hostilities wanted by Russia and the US, the UN has started the procedures for the distribution of aid to those in distress and areas under siege by government army and rebel militias. AsiaNews sources in Damascus and Aleppo confirm that "the truce appears to be holding" and "the frequency of the bombing" declined but only in "the next few days, if not weeks, will we understand the effectiveness of the plan".

The opposing sides are blaming each other for violations of the ceasefire. Western powers (and Saudi Arabia) point the finger at Russia, accused of attacking rebel groups involved in the fight against President Assad. Moscow claims it has only been targeting terrorists groups designated by the UN (the Islamic State and the Nusra Front).

Meanwhile, the Russian Defense Ministry reported nine violations in the cessation of hostilities yesterday, some of which are committed by Turkey. In turn, Ankara says it is not bound by the agreement for a ceasefire in the event that "national security is "threatened”.

Turkey believes the Kurdish presence is a threat. With this justification in recent weeks Turkey has launched attacks on Syrian territory against Kurdish positions, and is suspected of allowing the passage of fighters - even militia extremists - through its borders.

Although still skeptical on the premises of the truce, the UN is engaged in distributing food, water, medicines and basic necessities. The first load should leave as early in the day today and reach, over the next five days, at least 150 thousand people in war zones. The UN goal is to help up to 1.7 million people by the end of March, should the fragile truce between the parties hold. According Yacoub El Hillo, head of the UN humanitarian coordination for Syria, the truce is the " Syrian people’s best opportunity in the last five years, for a stable and lasting peace."

Speaking to AsiaNews, the Vicar Apostolic of Aleppo of the Latins, Msgr. Georges Abou Khazen, said that "for now the situation is calmer, although there is still a state of siege." The connections to the city, especially the main road "is still blocked and food and fuel are cut. We hope - he adds - that this cessation of hostilities will go ahead, we hope that this situation holds. The bombings have diminished, quite a bit ... we can only hope. "

For the apostolic vicar the main problem remains supplies of "electricity and water, especially if the siege lasts a long time" and "the inventory of wells and diesel reserves. We could face being left in total darkness and without water. We can always muster together some food, but the emergency is water". "We hope that the various fronts - says the prelate - push for peace, that the plan proposed by Russia (and the US) will last, that the parties agree. The Syrians, the people want peace. "

Meanwhile in Damascus, a diplomatic source, speaking to AsiaNews on condition of anonymity, urged caution and says we need to wait for  "the next few days, if not weeks, to understand whether the truce will hold".

 In the last two days, the source said, "we have not heard the bombers pass over our heads, this is a good sign." On the morning of 27 "mortar rounds have fallen. This is a patchy truce, with exchanges of accusations of violations, the presence of Al Nusra Front and the Islamic State fighters among the targets ", although in many points, opposition and Islamists" are mixed. " "The important thing - concludes the source - is the distribution of aid, to reach the worst-hit areas, and to continue the peace negotiations."

The cessation of hostilities began on February 27 and for the first time involve a large part of the country. Areas occupied by the Islamic State and al Nusra Front, a branch of al-Qaeda in Syria, are excluded which means more than half of the territory, in the center and south-east of the country. The truce applies in particular to Damascus, Aleppo, Deera (to the south) and Homs, in the center.

he war in Syria flared up in March 2011 after a popular protest motion against President Bashar al-Assad was transformed into a widespread conflict with extremist Islamic tendencies and jihadist movements.  Thus far it has caused over 270 thousand deaths and 11 million refugees, more than half of the population.

Today on the ground the conflict involves the Syrian army - supported by Russian air raids - and the rebels front of Islamist groups from 80 nations, with the direct or indirect involvement of international powers such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, the United States and Russia.

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