European officials: Iran and Russia helping Syrian aid effort

December 19, 2013 20:44

GENEVA - Iran and Russia have used their influence on Syrian President Bashar Assad's government to get visas for UN aid workers and improve access for convoys in Syria, but much remains to be done, senior European officials told Reuters on Thursday.

US officials were more cautious, saying that "all voices" taking part in secretive UN talks aimed at bringing food and medical supplies to civilians in out-of-reach areas are critical. There was limited progress in recent weeks, they said.

UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos chaired a meeting in Geneva attended by some 20 states on Thursday to pressure the government and opposition to allow in more food and medical assistance, especially to people in besieged areas.

Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Gulf states with links to rebel forces were urged to smooth deliveries, officials said.

"The important thing is to put pressure on the parties to the conflict to actually open up," Claus Sorensen, director-general of the European Union's humanitarian aid department ECHO, told Reuters in an interview after the high-level meeting.

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