ISTANBUL - The first UN convoy carrying aid from Turkey into Syria was halted on Friday, less than 24 hours after the long-awaited humanitarian mission began, with one aid official blaming "administrative hurdles" thrown up by the Syrian government.
The convoy only became possible last month after the UN Security Council reached a rare moment of unity on Syria, calling on all sides to provide humanitarian access.
Eight out of a total of 79 trucks carrying medicine, food and bedding to civilians in the Kurdish city of Qamishli were able to cross before the delay, as co-ordinators sought permission from the Syrian government to clear customs during the Syrian weekend, the United Nations said.
"We have overall agreement from the Syrian government but today it's the weekend and the Syrian part of the border is closed," U.N. regional humanitarian coordinator Nigel Fisher said.
"Thursday was Mother's Day - a public holiday in Syria so the government sent a special letter to customs to open the border and we are working to see if the same would be possible on Saturday but movement on Friday is very unlikely," he said.
Aid organisations have until now resorted to expensive and limited air drops to deliver aid, but agencies including WFP, UNHCR, and WHO are hoping the convoy can bring vital supplies to more than 50,000 people.
The blockage is a reminder of the difficulties reaching the estimated 9.3 million people in Syria in need of help.