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Wednesday 21 March 2018

Aid trucks ready to head to besieged Syrian areas

A convoy of humanitarian aid waits before making its way into government-besieged rebel-held towns in Syria (AP)
A convoy of humanitarian aid waits before making its way into government-besieged rebel-held towns in Syria (AP)
Staff from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent get ready to accompany a convoy of humanitarian aid as it waits in front of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) offices before making their way into the government besieged rebel-held towns of Madaya, al-Zabadani and al-Moadhamiya in the Damascus countryside, Syria. (AP PHOTO)

Trucks loaded with humanitarian aid intended for besieged areas are expected to head out to five destinations in Syria on Wednesday.

The move is part of an agreement reached between Syrian authorities and UN envoy Staffan de Mistura, who said it would be a "test" of the government's intentions.

Mr de Mistura has been trying to secure aid deliveries to improve the chances of restarting peace talks before the end of February.

Those efforts have been clouded by intense fighting north of Aleppo, where various forces backed by regional and international rivals are clashing over a crucial strip of land linking Syria's largest city to the border with Turkey.

In Damascus on Tuesday, Mr de Mistura suggested humanitarian aid would be allowed into several besieged areas on Wednesday, calling it the "duty of the government of Syria".

The UN later announced the government of president Bashar Assad has approved access to seven such areas across the country and that convoys would head out in the coming days.

The Syrian foreign ministry criticised Mr de Mistura on Wednesday, saying "we do not wait for anyone to remind us of our duties toward our people".

"In fact, the Syrian government is the one that needs to test the credibility of the UN envoy," a statement said.

At least 16 trucks were parked on the side of the road at the entrance to Damascus, waiting to leave for the besieged rebel-held towns of Madaya, Zabadani and Moadamiyeh near the capital.

According to the agreement, aid would enter simultaneously to two communities in Idlib province in northern Syria that are besieged by rebels.

The convoys represent the third humanitarian aid delivery to the besieged communities after two similar efforts last month.

The UN estimates that 18 Syrian communities are besieged, affecting around half a million people.

Press Association

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