Syria aid still blocked, UN invited to Astana peace talks

By REUTERS
January 19, 2017 16:35
1 minute read.

GENEVA - UNSyria envoy Staffan de Mistura has been invited to peace talks convened by Russia, Turkey and Iran in the Kazakh capital Astana, his spokeswoman Yara Sharif said on Thursday.

A UN statement said de Mistura himself would lead the UN team in Astana because of the complexity and importance of the issues likely to be raised. The talks are expected to begin on Jan. 23.

De Mistura has said he hopes Astana will support the next round of UN-led talks he plans in Geneva from Feb. 8. Russia's foreign minister has previously dismissed the negotiations in Geneva as "fruitless sitting around."

De Mistura's humanitarian advisor Jan Egeland said Russia, Turkey and Iran had taken on an immense responsibility as guarantors of a process that aimed to enable a new beginning for the civilian population.

Despite a nationwide "cessation of hostilities", aid is still not getting to people who need it the most, and all warring sides routinely do all they can to stop aid getting to women, children and wounded on the other side, he said.

Even if Syria's government approves UN aid plans, humanitarian convoys get blocked by a "complete, hopeless, bureaucratic quagmire" of red tape, Egeland said.

Russia, Iran and Turkey had told a weekly humanitarian meeting in Geneva that they would push all sides, including Syria's government, to stop preventing humanitarian aid from getting through, he added.

The upcoming peace talks were also a chance to save the people of Idlib, a rebel-held town which received 36,000 people evacuated from eastern Aleppo, from another "big storm".


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