Syria: UN welcomes Assad decision to open aid crossings

World Tuesday 14/February/2023 15:04 PM
By: DW
Syria: UN welcomes Assad decision to open aid crossings

Damascus: Volunteer rescue group Syria Civil Defence — also known has The White Helmets — has spoken out after the UN welcomed a move by Syrian President Bashar Assad to open new crossing points to allow aid from Türkiye to the opposition-held northwest region.

The announcement came after a meeting in Damascus between Assad and UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths.

"This is shocking and we are at loss at how the UN is behaving," head of the opposition-run rescue group, Raed al Saleh, told Reuters news agency on Tuesday.

On Monday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed Assad's decision to open two further crossings on the border with Türkiye, allowing more aid into the region following the deadly earthquakes in the region.

"I welcome the decision today by President Bashar al-Assad of Syria to open the two crossing points of Bab Al-Salam and Al Ra'ee from Türkiye to northwest Syria for an initial period of three months to allow for the timely delivery of humanitarian aid,” Guterres said in a statement.

The White Helmets have been heavily involved in assisting victims of Syria's lengthy civil war, with many of those in the region displaced because of the conflict between opposition groups and regime forces.

The Assad regime has been accused of various atrocities during the course of the bloody conflict.

In January, top chemical weapons watchdog, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), said there were "reasonable grounds" to believe that Syrian government forces had used banned chemical weapons against opposition forces in 2018 in the city of Douma.

Northwest region in urgent need following earthquakes
The UN, meanwhile, has been under pressure to act over the slow pace of aid to the quake-stricken region.

In 2014, the Security Council authorised four border crossings to deliver aid to northwest Syria — two from Türkiye, one from Jordan and one from Iraq.

In January 2020, regime ally Russia used its veto threat to reduce the number of crossing to the two from Türkiye.

The following year China and Russia used their power of veto to whittle the number of crossings down to just one.

The toll in the northwestern opposition-held region from the deadly earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria, has reached 2,166, according to the White Helmets.

The Syrian Health Ministry in Damascus says 1,414 people have died in government-held areas.