Syria stops Tur­key aid con­voy from reach­ing Aleppo area

Baltimore Sun - - WORLD - By Roy Gut­man

IS­TAN­BUL, Tur­key — Less than a day into a frag­ile cease-fire in Syria, Tur­key on Tues­day said it was send­ing an aid con­voy to the be­sieged rebel-held area of Aleppo.

But the Syr­ian govern­ment re­sponded by de­mand­ing prior ap­proval for all re­lief de­liv­er­ies, and the 20 truck­loads of flour and other food never got close to the be­sieged city.

The de­liv­ery fail­ure ex­posed an ap­par­ent gap in the cease-fire agree­ment the United States and Rus­sia ne­go­ti­ated in Geneva and an­nounced Satur­day: how hu­man­i­tar­ian aid would reach the es­ti­mated one mil­lion peo­ple who’ve been liv­ing in dire cir­cum­stances un­der govern­ment siege for up to four years.

Mean­while, the ceasefire ap­peared to re­duce hos­til­i­ties across the coun­try, with some notable ex­cep­tions.

Rus­sia, an ally of Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad’s govern­ment, charged that mod­er­ate rebels had bro­ken the cease-fire 23 times, killing six peo­ple near Aleppo, and op­po­si­tion news me­dia re­ported that Rus­sian or Syr­ian govern­ment war­planes at­tacked civil­ian tar­gets.

In Bza’a, a town con­trolled by Is­lamic State, three civil­ians were killed and more than 20 wounded in a Rus­sian air strike, the SMART news agency re­ported. In an­other airstrike in al-Bab, one per­son was killed, the agency said.

The agree­ment struck by Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry and Rus­sian For­eign Min­is­ter Sergey Lavrov called for a seven-day ceasefire, which be­gan Mon­day at sun­set. If the ar­range­ment holds, it is ex­pected to lead to the set­ting up of a joint U.S.-Rus­sian mil­i­tary cen­ter to co­or­di­nate oper­a­tions against Is­lamic ex­trem­ists and even­tu­ally a re­vived ef­fort to reach a po­lit­i­cal ac­cord be­tween the Syr­ian govern­ment and the op­po­si­tion.

On Tues­day, there ap­peared to be con­fu­sion about who’s re­spon­si­ble for en­sur­ing se­cu­rity in what is still a treach­er­ous war zone.

Tur­key’s state news agency, Anadolu, said the United Na­tions had sent 20 hu­man­i­tar­ian aid trucks that had crossed into Syria, the first of 40 trucks to go in. But the U.N. said it would not launch any such con­voy un­til it was as­sured that the group could travel to Aleppo with­out risk.

“We are wait­ing for this ces­sa­tion of hos­til­i­ties to ac­tu­ally de­liver the as­sur­ances and the peace be­fore trucks can start mov­ing from Tur­key,” said Jens Laerke, a U.N. spokesman.

In ad­di­tion, Rus­sian state news me­dia re­ported that the Rus­sian govern­ment had set up an ob­ser­va­tion post on a strate­gic high­way that had linked rebel-held ar­eas of Aleppo city to the Turk­ish border un­til the govern­ment closed it. The post was in­tended to en­able the Syr­ian Arab Red Cres­cent to in­spect ship­ments into the rebel-held zone.

In east Aleppo, about 200 marchers staged a demon­stra­tion in two neigh­bor­hoods. They protested against the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity’s ap­par­ent plan to send food but do noth­ing to lift the siege.

“Death is bet­ter than hu­mil­i­a­tion,” pro­claimed one poster. An­other read: “This is a revo­lu­tion of free­dom, not of hunger.” Ac­tivists in Aleppo protest what they say is the United Na­tions’ fail­ure to end a Syr­ian govern­ment siege and re­lieve dire cir­cum­stances for about one mil­lion peo­ple.

MO­DAR SHEKHO/AP

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