Syria conflict: Calls for air drops of humanitarian aid to besieged towns

The US, UK and France have urged the UN to begin air
drops of humanitarian aid to besieged areas in Syria.
They said the Syrian government had failed to respect the 1
June deadline for widespread aid distribution agreed by
world and regional powers.
Only a small amount of aid was delivered on Wednesday
and a convoy to the town of Darayya near Damascus did not
carry food.
The UN Security Council will meet on Friday to discuss the
air drops.
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US State Department spokesman John Kirby said hundreds
of thousands of Syrians needed “sustained and regular”
access to aid.
He said the UN food agency, the World Food Programme,
had briefed the US on how the air drops could be carried
out.
Meanwhile British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond
described the limited access for aid allowed on the day of
the deadline agreed by the International Syria Support
group (ISSG) as “cynical”.
“While air drops are complex, costly and risky, they are now
the last resort to relieve human suffering across many
besieged areas,” he said.
The US and UK called on Russia and Iran, which back the
Syrian government, to use their influence to ensure the air
drops could proceed safely.
Russia said the arrival of Wednesday’s aid convoys was a
positive step.
The ISSG, co-chaired by the US and Russia, comprises 17
world and regional powers, as well the Arab League, the
European Union and the United Nations.
In April, the UN said at least 4,000 people were besieged in
Darayya by Syrian government forces, which have
surrounded the suburb for four years.
The Darayya convoy – the first since November 2012 –
contained vaccines, baby milk, medicine and nutritional
goods.
Separately, the rebel-held town of Muadhamiya, north-west
of Darayya, received deliveries of food parcels and wheat
flour on Wednesday, a month since aid convoys last visited.
Darayya’s electricity supply was cut off more than three
years ago.
UN emergency relief co-ordinator Stephen O’Brien said in
April that the Syrian government had ignored “countless”
requests for aid to be allowed in.
An aid convoy was blocked from entering the town last
month, despite all involved parties agreeing aid could be
delivered.
The latest delivery was made by teams from the UN, the
International Committee of the Red Cross and the Syrian
Red Crescent.
Russia’s defence ministry said on Wednesday it had agreed a
pause with the Syrian authorities for 48 hours to allow for
the distribution of humanitarian aid in Darayya.
It borders a military airport used by Russian planes in
support of the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
It was one of the first towns to report demonstrations
against the Assad regime, and has been under siege since
late 2012. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human
Rights reported clashes this week between rebel groups and
government fighters on the outskirts of Darayya.
The UN believes there are more than 4.6m people living in
hard-to-reach areas in Syria, including nearly 600,000 in
besieged areas.

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