Air drops in Syria could be inevitable in June – UN envoy

GENEVA, May 19 (KUNA) — The UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said the meeting in of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) Humanitarian Access Task Force in Vienna on Thursday resulted in an important statement and delivered “a strong message.” “It is quite an important statement in spite the impression there was at the beginning that it was basically a replication of the Russian-American public statement,” he said at a joint press conference with UN Senior Adviser Jan Egeland following the Humanitarian Access Task Force meeting.
“If you go through it, there are some areas which are quite a strong message.
“Bottom line, it is clear that both the (Syrian) government and the opposition need to be, based on the decision of the ISSG, in no doubt, that if, by the first of June no progress on land deliveries take place, and both can do an effort on that, the air bridges, air drops will become the focus of the international community,” he stressed.
“Regarding the cessation of hostilities, I would suggest that you look carefully on page one, the last part. You will see that regarding the support to making sure that things need to happen has increased substantially in terms of messaging. “Then came the issue about humanitarian aid and that is linked to the Intra-Syrian talks and I will address that,” de Mistura said. “Let me be very frank — there was a profound unhappiness, I would say impatience, regarding the fact that not all the besieged areas were being reached and that we were constantly coming up with a reminder that all besieged areas need to be reached and that was not happening.
“And the last drop, let’s call it like this, was Darayya, when we very close to do so, and baby food was not reaching, stopped by grown-up, well fed soldiers, and those were stopping baby food to actually go to Darayya.
“And that applies also to other places, such as Kafraya and Foua, where not the government, but armed opposition, has been stopping the UN to be able to go there, where we know that there are 20,000 at least people in need of assistance, an assessment of that.
“So that was the triggering element. And there was an identification of areas where there, in fact, was an urgent need of showing that the patience of the international community in repeating constantly the besieged, medieval besieged technique/approach by the government and in some cases by the opposition and in one case by Daesh (IS or ISIS), need to be stopped.
“Al-Wa’er, we have not reached it since March. “(In) Darayya — There are 4,000 people there, we know it. There are civilians, there are children. And Kefraya and Foua, and Hasakah,” he went on.
“So the bottom line was, if by the first of June there is no substantial progress in humanitarian access to these areas, in particular, but of course aiming at all of them, then the option of air drops and air lifts, in other words, bringing even to those areas where can be airports, such as in the Hasakah area, needs to be concretely, solidly, seriously taken.
“WFP, the World Food Programme, was tasked to prepare concretely for these air drops and air bridges. But — WFP is a very serious organization of the UN which never says no. “And if WFP finds a problem in doing it, they should then be involved in making sure that it happens.
“So the top priority is that one. Now of course when you look at Deir ez-Zor where in fact six weeks of air drops have been actually bringing the equivalent amount of food of one convoy, you will understand that the cost and the benefit of it, comparing to the airdrops by convoys on land is unquestionable. “So the air drops are the last resort. But we are getting close to it, that is why we need to send a strong message, we, I mean the ISSG, and they did it.
“It took a lot of effort to actually organize Deir ez-Zor, but that doesn’t mean it cannot be done elsewhere.
“If the government is capable and ready to support the air drops to Deir ez-Zor and there are 110,000 people reached there, with the contribution by the Russian Federation, US, Canada, Netherlands and WFP organization, there is no reason, no excuse, to consider any other citizen, civilian, anywhere else, not deserving the same treatment. Hence, the message of the ISSG,” he revealed.
On his part, Egeland said: “One small glimmer of hope in the darkness which is now the humanitarian realities of Syria. Yesterday the besieged area of East-Harasta was reached with food and other humanitarian supplies for 10,000 people.” “The last time that this place was reached by the Red Cross/the Red Crescent and the UN and the partners involved was March 2013. “We have now reached 13 out of the 18 besieged areas as compared to reaching two of the besieged areas of last year. But that is the end of the good news really, because May was, and is, one of the most difficult months we’ve had this year. “We reached more than 40 percent of the people besieged last month with humanitarian supplies. This month of May, so far, we have maybe reached less than 5 percent. “We also asked to deliver the June plan today to the government, it is an even more ambitious plan, reaching more than 1.1 million people with inter-agency convoys. “All of the people of the besieged areas and 750,000 people in so called hard to reach areas. Indeed the place of Al Wae’r is now meeting all of the criteria for being a besieged area.
“The final image is that we have brought to the ISSG today is that we really have to stop that kind of images that too many have in Syria, that it is bad guys against bad guys, bad guys with arms shoot at other bad guys with arms. Besiegement means that well-fed bad guys keep food away from babies and mothers. (end)

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