Syria truce extended, but aid deliveries still on hold

The US State Department said late Wednesday that US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov had spoken and agreed to prolong the ceasefire which began on Monday.

Syria truce extended, but aid deliveries still on hold

World Bulletin / News Desk

A fragile truce in Syria has been extended for 48 hours under an agreement between Moscow and Washington, but there was still no sign of much-needed aid deliveries on Thursday.

They recognised that "despite sporadic reports of violence, as a whole the arrangement is holding and violence is, I'd say, significantly lower in comparison to previous days and weeks," US State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters.

Earlier Moscow had called for the ceasefire to be extended, despite accusing rebels of violating the truce 60 times since it came into force.

The truce, agreed after marathon US-Russia talks in Geneva last week, is part of the latest bid to end a five-year conflict that has killed more than 300,000 people.

It aims to halt fighting between President Bashar al-Assad's forces and rebel factions, but does not include jihadists like the ISIL group.

So far it has produced "a significant drop in violence," according to the UN's Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura, but a key plank of the deal calling for unhindered aid access, in particular to besieged areas of Syria, has yet to be implemented.

A key focus is eastern Aleppo, where around 250,000 civilians are besieged by government forces and waiting for aid stuck on the Turkish border over security concerns.

The deal calls for the demilitarisation of the Castello Road route into the city, and Russia said Syrian troops were set to begin withdrawing by 0600 GMT on Thursday.

- UN aid trucks stranded -
But the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, said Thursday that government forces were still on the road, and there was no official announcement of a withdrawal.

Moscow said Wednesday that mortar fire on the route could delay the pullback.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged Russia and the United States on Wednesday to press all sides to guarantee the security of the UN aid convoy.

"It's crucially important (that) the necessary security arrangements should be given so that they can be allowed to cross the lines," he said.

"I have been urging the Russian government to make sure that they exercise influence on the Syrian government, and also the American side to make sure that Syrian armed groups, they also fully cooperate."

Rebel-held eastern Aleppo is in desperate need of humanitarian aid after weeks of heavy fighting, and a government siege that has lasted most of the past two months, with no aid entering since early July.

A convoy of 20 aid trucks stocked with a month's worth of food supplies for 40,000 people is waiting on the Turkish border, but Ban said the necessary security guarantees had not been given.

"They are at the border with Syria. They are still there," he said.

Residents in Aleppo have welcomed the lull in the conflict that has displaced more than half their country's population and destroyed their city, a former economic powerhouse.

But they expressed frustration about the delay in promised aid.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 15 Eylül 2016, 11:47