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Trucks carrying UN aid to Syria cross Turkish border: UN

'They've been waiting and sleeping at the border now for 48 hours. So they could go on a minute's notice,' Egeland said, voicing hope the aid could be delivered to eastern Aleppo on Friday. Photograph: (AFP)

AFP Geneva, Switzerland Sep 15, 2016, 12.54 PM (IST)
Twenty trucks loaded with desperately needed aid for eastern Aleppo have crossed into a buffer zone between Turkey and Syria, a high-level UN official said Thursday. 

"The 20 trucks... have passed over the Turkish border, they are in the buffer zone between the Turkish and Syrian border," Jan Egeland, head of the United Nations humanitarian taskforce for Syria, told reporters.

"They've been waiting and sleeping at the border now for 48 hours. So they could go on a minute's notice," he said, voicing hope the aid could be delivered to eastern Aleppo on Friday.

UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura warned however that the aid could not move into Syria's second city before the Castello Road supply route had been fully secured, as agreed in marathon US-Russia talks in Geneva last week. 

Those talks led to a fragile truce, which took effect Monday evening, in the latest bid to end a five-and-a-half-year conflict that has killed more than 300,000 people.

Egeland hailed that it was "largely holding".

"The killing has been greatly reduced," he said, pointing out that there had been "no reports on civilian killings in the last 24 hours. Attacks on schools, attacks on hospitals have stopped."

But while violence had reduced significantly, de Mistura harshly criticised Damascus for failing to produce the promised permits allowing aid convoys to move into besieged areas in the war-ravaged country.

- 'Unimpeded movement of convoys' -
"We cannot let days of this reduction of violence to be wasted by not moving forward" on aid deliveries, de Mistura said.

Egeland echoed those concerns, saying "the bad news is that we are not using this window of opportunity so far to reach all of these places with humanitarian assistance."

He said that "not a single permit is in hand for our people, and if they don't have that they cannot load and they cannot go." 

No such permits are needed for eastern Aleppo, which enjoys a "special status" under the Russia-US deal, de Mistura said, pointing out that the regime would not inspect humanitarian cargo travelling to the city on the Castello Road. 

An estimated 250,000 civilians are besieged by government forces in rebel-held eastern Aleppo, and have been without aid since regime forces seized Castello Road in early July.

The Russian-American agreement states that convoys on the road will not be "harassed" or "investigated" once UN trucks are sealed, de Mistura said. 

Once Castello Road has been secured, special checkpoints will be set up to allow "the unimpeded movement of UN convoys," he added.

Egeland said he was optimistic the aid delivery problems would be resolved quickly.

"We can get the permits today actually, or they could come tomorrow morning," he said, adding "we hope to go tomorrow to eastern Aleppo (and) we are ready to go before the end of the week to the other places."

(AFP)
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