Wednesday 28 September 2016

US and UK push for air drops of food to save starving Syrians

Louisa Loveluck in Istanbul

Published 03/06/2016 | 02:30

Boys help their injured friend after an airstrike on Aleppo's rebel held al-Fardous district, Syria. Photo: Reuters
Boys help their injured friend after an airstrike on Aleppo's rebel held al-Fardous district, Syria. Photo: Reuters
Residents flee violence while they drive on the outskirts of the Syrian rebel-held city of Idlib, Syria June 2, 2016. REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah
Men inspect damage after an airstrike on Aleppo's rebel held al-Hallak neighbourhood, Syria June 2, 2016. REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail
Smoke rises after airstrikes on Aleppo's rebel held neighbourhoods, Syria June 2, 2016. REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail
Men inspect damage after an airstrike on Aleppo's rebel held al-Hallak neighbourhood, Syria June 2, 2016. REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail
Residents flee violence on the outskirts of the Syrian rebel-held city of Idlib, Syria June 2, 2016. REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah

Britain and the US have said they are prepared to support air drops to save the lives of starving Syrians as a last resort after a deadline for the Assad regime to end its siege tactics passed.

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On May 17, Britain helped secure a deal with every country with influence in Syria - including Russia - to ensure the delivery of aid to one million people by June 1.

But instead of emergency supplies reaching all those in need, Bashar al-Assad's regime allowed convoys to reach only two of the 49 areas besieged by its forces.

The regime also prevented one of those convoys from carrying any food.

"On the day of that deadline, the Assad regime has cynically allowed limited amounts of aid into Daraya and Mouadamiyeh, but it has failed to deliver the widespread humanitarian access called for by the international community," British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said on Wednesday. "While air drops are complex, costly and risky, they are now the last resort to relieve human suffering across many besieged areas."

Mr Hammond also called on Iran, Russia and other countries who have influence over Syria to "ensure that these air operations can proceed in a safe and secure manner".

Residents flee violence on the outskirts of the Syrian rebel-held city of Idlib, Syria June 2, 2016. REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah
Residents flee violence on the outskirts of the Syrian rebel-held city of Idlib, Syria June 2, 2016. REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah

US State department spokesman John Kirby said the US was willing to support the World Food Programme (WFP) in its plans to air drop aid to besieged areas.

"The United States supports the WFP moving forward with their plan to carry out air operations to provide additional aid," he said.

He added that the US was urging Russia to allow aid in by ground delivery as well as air drops.

He said: "We urge and expect Russia to use its influence with the regime to fulfil commitments already made for continued ground delivery of aid and, if needed, supporting international air operations."

Britain is expected to call an emergency Security Council meeting later this week in an attempt to honour the promise of more aid.

Hilary Benn, the UK Shadow Foreign Secretary, said earlier that Britain had a "responsibility to deliver" the air drops.

Irish Independent

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