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Syria Ceasefire: Assad Blocking Food Convoys from Reaching Civilians

The government of Syrian Dictator Bashar al-Assad is refusing to grant letters of permission to UN convoys to deliver aid to besieged cities, a move that violates the U.S.-Russian brokered ceasefire, according to the UN special envoy for Syria.

Staffan de Mistura, the special envoy, noted that aid for eastern Aleppo, which also required permission from the regime, was being blocked by the Syrian government and opposition fighters.

The Guardian notes:

The Russian-American agreement states trucks should be allowed to travel into eastern Aleppo without the need for written permission from the Syrian government. The Syrian government involvement is limited to being informed of the details of the aid being delivered, and details of what had been delivered.

In addition, as part of the agreement, regime checkpoints on the Castello Road [in Aleppo] should be withdrawn, and opposition forces inside the city’s east should not seek to block the delivery.

According to The Guardian, “UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura condemns government’s failure to provide letters of permission for convoys.”

De Mistura argues that the Russian-American agreement “is and remains a potential game-changer” despite the problems.

He noted that it had reduced violence and that “by and large it is holding and is, in fact, substantial.”

Aid delivery is essential for the cessation of hostilities, which started Monday, to remain in effect. The ceasefire is expected to eventually lead to an unprecedented collaboration between Russia and the United States against jihadi groups in Syria.

The Guardian reports:

De Mistura insisted the Russians were as disappointed as the UN at the “deeply regrettable” refusal of the Syrian government to grant letters of permission in line with the agreement. He said he had been given fresh assurances by the Russians at a meeting on Thursday morning that the absence of the permission letters was a very severe disappointment, but he did not specify what pressure the Russians were placing on the Syrians to abide by the agreement.

Hundreds of trucks were ready to be loaded, he said, and an opportunity to deliver aid and help solidify the ceasefire was being wasted. The UN has said it cannot cross front lines or checkpoints without Syrian permission.

In eastern Aleppo, 20 UN trucks have been waiting for the past 48 hours to get a UN agreement telling them it is safe to drive along the city. The 20 trucks traveled from Turkey and are expected to deliver aid to a portion of Aleppo where 250,000 people are desperate for food and fuel.

“The trucks are ready and sealed, and the agreement is that once they move they will not be harassed and they will not be investigated and they will be moving along that road,” De Mistura said.

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