Syria Convoys Prepare to Deliver Aid

Syria Convoys Prepare to Deliver Aid

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) -- Trucks loaded with humanitarian aid intended for besieged areas were expected to head out to five destinations in Syria Wednesday as part of an agreement reached between Syrian authorities and a U.N. envoy who said it would be a "test" of the government's intentions.

The U.N. envoy, Staffan de Mistura, has been trying to secure aid deliveries to improve the chances of restarting peace talks before the end of February. But those efforts have been clouded by the intense fighting north of Aleppo, where various forces backed by regional and international rivals are clashing over a crucial strip of land linking Syria's largest city to the border with Turkey.

In Damascus on Tuesday, de Mistura suggested that humanitarian aid would be allowed into several besieged areas Wednesday, calling it the "duty of the government of Syria."

"Tomorrow we test this," he said after meeting with Syria's foreign minister. The U.N. later announced the government of President Bashar Assad has approved access to seven such areas across the country and that convoys would head out in the coming days.

The Syrian foreign ministry hit back Wednesday against de Mistura, saying "we do not wait for anyone to remind us of our duties toward our people."

"In fact, the Syrian government is the one that needs to test the credibility of the U.N. envoy," a statement said.

Still, the convoys appeared to be preparing to head to besieged areas Wednesday. At least 16 trucks were parked on the side of the highway at the entrance to Damascus, waiting to leave for the besieged rebel-held towns of Madaya, Zabadani and Moadamiyeh near the capital.

According to the agreement, aid would enter simultaneously to two communities in Idlib province in northern Syria that are besieged by rebels.

The convoys represent the third humanitarian aid delivery to the besieged communities after two similar efforts last month.

The U.N. estimates that 18 Syrian communities are besieged, affecting around half a million people.

(KA)