U.N. officials say Syrian gov’t stopping aid shipments at the border

Vendors sell fruits and vegetables in the rebel-held city of Aleppo, Syria, where residents continued to await relief aid on Thursday during the newly-implemented cease-fire. Two U.N. officials said Thursday that Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime is holding about 40 truckloads of humanitarian supplies at the northern border with Turkey. File Photo by Ameer Alhalbi/ UPI

NEW YORK, Sept. 15 (UPI) — The regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad continues to keep shipments of humanitarian aid from entering the country — a violation of the newly-implemented cease-fire brokered by the United States and Russia, two U.N. officials said Thursday.

Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov extended the cease-fire by an extra 48 hours on Wednesday in an attempt to clear the road for relief aid into the war-torn nation.

U.N. Syria diplomat Staffan di Mistura, though, has said Assad’s forces aren’t allowing that to happen. Thursday, another U.N. official reaffirmed that contention.

Syria is in desperate need of aid, particularly in Aleppo where the fighting has been the most intense. Nearby at the Syria-Turkey line, about 40 truckloads of aid from Ankara is still waiting to cross the border.

“The permits have not been given,” Jan Egeland, chairman of the Syrian humanitarian task force, said Thursday. “We hope to go tomorrow, to eastern Aleppo.”

Egeland said the aid is ready to move just as soon as approval is given.

Video: CBS NewsLeaders saw the cease-fire as an ideal opportunity to deliver the aid because there is essentially no fighting, and no threat to aid workers — which has been a major obstacle in getting aid delivered so far.

“Final permission for the U.N. to actually reach those areas has not been received. That is a fact,” di Mistura said Thursday. “We are losing time, these are days which we should have used for convoys to move with the permit to go because there is no fighting.”

The claims against the Assad regime followed other claims by Russia’s military that more than 60 violations by rebels have occurred since the cease-fire took effect Monday.

The hold-up of relief supplies, if true, amounts to a substantial violation of the agreement and could potentially derail the already fledgling peace process.

The Syrian government said previously that no aid could enter the country without approval from Assad’s regime and the United Nations. Egeland, though, said Thursday that Assad has yet to issue even “a single permit.”

The aid is eagerly anticipated in Aleppo, where Assad’s forces have been trying to retake the city from rebel control for weeks. Critics say the blocking of aid is merely an attempt by Syria’s government to gain an upper hand in that battle.

“Are we disappointed? Of course, we are,” di Mistura added. “[There is] no reason, no excuse, for not being able to deliver.”

“Can well-fed, grown men please stop putting political bureaucratic and procedural road blocks for brave humanitarian workers that are willing and able to go to serve women, children, wounded civilians in besieged and cross-fire areas?” Egeland said.


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