The UN envoy to Syria has received the green light from the Assad regime to deliver aid to areas of the country under siege. Staffan de Mistura said the UN would have to "test" the government's commitment to the deal.
UN envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura was given permission by Damascus on Tuesday to send aid convoys to seven embattled areas throughout the country. The UN made the announcement following crisis talks between de Mistura and Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem in the Syrian capital.
"It is clear it is the duty of the government of Syria to want to reach every Syrian person wherever they are and allow the UN to bring humanitarian aid," read a statement from de Mistura. "Tomorrow we test this."
Assad irked by UN allegations
The UN convoys are likely to set off in the coming days, despite ire from the regime of President Bashar al-Assad at the UN envoy's comments. Syrian state media reported that the Foreign Ministry took issue with de Mistura's insinuations that Damascus' commitment to the agreement needed to be tested.
"The truth is Syria needs to test the credibility of de Mistura, who has been contradicting what happened during the meeting with the Syrian government," a source from within the ministry was quoted as saying.
"Delivering aid to areas besieged by terrorists has been the government's commitment towards its people for years," the source added.
Second try at peace talks
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) told the press that Assad had given the green light for convoys to Deir al-Zor, Foua, Kafraya, Madaya, Zabadani, Kafr Batna and Mouadamiya al-Sham.
"Humanitarian agencies and partners are preparing convoys for these areas, to depart as soon as possible in the coming days," OCHA said
The approval from Damascus comes as government troops, with the help of Russian airstrikes, have been making advances against rebels only days ahead of a planned ceasefire.
The shaky deal was made after UN-brokered peace talks in Geneva broke down amid rebel complaints that they would not sit down at the negotiating table while Assad's forces and Moscow continued to bomb them. A new round of talks is set to resume on February 25.
es/cmk (AP, Reuters)