One of the goals for the recent cessation of hostilities in Syria is for desperately needed aid to reach people in besieged Syrian cities and villages, which have been cut off from food and medical supplies, in some places, for months and even years.
On February 26, The UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2268 endorsing the cessation of hostilities and reiterating “its call on the parties to immediately allow humanitarian agencies rapid, safe and unhindered access throughout Syria by most direct routes, [and] allow immediate, humanitarian assistance to reach all people in need.”
The goal of the U.N. is that by the end of March, 1.7 million Syrians in need will have received relief supplies.
Since the cessation of hostilities went into effect on February 27, there has been a significant, albeit erratic, pause in the fighting, and significant amounts of aid have reached those in desperate need; but other humanitarian convoys have still been delayed.
Speaking at a news conference in Washington with his German counterpart, Secretary of State John Kerry voiced concern over reports that the Assad regime had continued “to drag its feet” in providing necessary permits:
“Much of this aid could move faster. And so we call on the Assad regime to, at least in a moment of cessation of hostilities, try to show some measure of decency, if that is even possible.”
Secretary Kerry noted that Syrian troops and officials had also removed aid from the convoys the Syrian government previously authorized for delivery:
“Actually putting their hands into the shipments and taking out medicine or taking out other preferred items simply to keep for themselves. That’s not the purpose of this.”
“This obstructionism that has existed has to stop,” said Secretary Kerry. “And we call on the Russians and the Iranians to do everything in their power to leverage their client to understand the stakes here.”
Ultimately what is at stake is the chance of ending “the cycle of fighting and of bloodshed that is destroying Syria,” said Secretary Kerry, and, following the diplomatic path agreed to in Vienna and in the UN Security Council, “to create over time a stable, united, whole, non-sectarian Syria...in which the people of Syria decide the future.”