UN halts Syria humanitarian task force amid intense fighting
The United Nations has suspended a meeting of its humanitarian task force in Syria amid concerns over the ongoing conflict in the Middle Eastern country.
Speaking at a press conference in the Swiss city of Geneva on Thursday, UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said that he had decided to stop the meeting after just eight minutes, arguing it made “no sense” to plan aid deliveries when they would not be let into the humanitarian besieged areas.
“Not one single convoy in one month has reached any of the humanitarian besieged areas,” de Mistura said, blaming relentless fighting.
The UN envoy renewed a call for a weekly 48-hour humanitarian pause in the embattled northwestern city of Aleppo.
Aleppo has been divided since 2012 between government forces in the west and the Takfiri terrorists in the east. Syrian forces have been engaged in a major operation to liberate the militant-held parts of the city as well as the province with the same name.
Elsewhere in his comments, de Mistura said the issue of a humanitarian pause in Aleppo would be the main topic of a meeting later on Thursday of the countries that make up the International Support Group for Syria (ISSG), which sit on the humanitarian task force.
The UN official also stressed that the task force’s co-chairs, Russia and the United States, still want a political solution to the crisis in Syria.
The UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have delivered aid to almost 1.3 million Syrians living in blockaded or hard-to-reach areas so far in 2016, but the movement of the aid convoys has primarily been hampered by access restrictions.
The eastern Syrian city of Dayr al-Zawr, which is held by the militants, has continued to receive aid over the past month through World Food Programme air drops, de Mistura said, adding, however, that four other besieged areas have not been reached by a convoy in 110 days.
The Takfiri militants operating in Syria have suffered major setbacks over the past few months as the Syrian army has managed to liberate several areas.
According to de Mistura, over 400,000 people have been killed in the conflict in Syria. The UN has stopped its official casualty count in Syria, citing its inability to verify the figures it receives from various sources.