Syria stops Turkey aid convoy from reaching Aleppo area
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.