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Syria cease-fire likely delayed as UN aid arrives

By Shawn Price   |   Feb. 17, 2016 at 11:38 PM
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DAMASCUS, Syria, Feb. 17 (UPI) -- U.S. and Russian representatives have pushed back the meetings designed to organize a Syrian cease-fire, which will likely delay the cease-fire itself.

But even as Friday's tentative cease-fire is unlikely to happen, at least 100 trucks of United Nations-organized aid left Damascus on its way to some of the most battered areas of the country.

The delay puts the cease-fire agreement -- finalized in Munich, Germany last week -- as well as humanitarian relief efforts at risk. President Barack Obama said the civil war continues to obstruct efforts to eradicate the Islamic State in Syria. Russia is considering an airdrop of aid on Deir al-Zour in eastern Syria, an area surrounded by the extremist group.

The Syria Campaign, a global advocacy group, complained the UN's efforts were too little, too late.

"The reality is the U.N. is deeply complicit in the Syrian regime's tactic of besieging civilians," said Anna Nolan, director of the Britain-based group.

"The little aid that goes in [on Wednesday] is a result of public pressure, not because of U.N. action," she said in a statement.

The Office of the UN Special Envoy for Syria praised "brave humanitarian workers" delivering the 100 truckloads of food, water, medical supplies and equipment, and sanitation items for nearly 100,000 people.

"This is hopefully the beginning of the end of Syrian civilians' suffering," said Jan Egeland, senior advisor to UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura.

"Humanitarian access to these areas will be a first step towards full, sustained, and unimpeded access throughout the country, as demanded by Security Council resolutions, the ISSG and international humanitarian law," the Office of the UN Envoy noted.

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