Syria desperately needs aid - world leaders

9:13 pm on 2 June 2016

The US, UK and France have urged the UN to begin air drops of humanitarian aid to besieged areas in Syria.

They said the Syrian government had failed to respect a 1 June deadline for widespread aid distribution agreed by world and regional powers.

About 4000 people in the besieged Darayya suburb of the capital Damascus have been without food aid since 2012.

Syrian girls sit holding placards in the town of Daraya, southwest of central Damascus.

Syrian girls sit holding placards in the town of Daraya, southwest of central Damascus. Photo: AFP

A convoy reached the area on Wednesday but carried only a small amount of medicines and other non-food items.

The UN Security Council will meet on Friday to discuss the air drops.

US state department spokesman John Kirby said hundreds of thousands of Syrians needed "sustained and regular" access to aid.

He said the UN food agency, the World Food Programme (WFP), had briefed the US on how the air drops could be carried out.

In February, the WFP carried out a 21-pallet air drop of aid to a government-held area of Deir al-Zour in eastern Syria.

But it said the operation was a failure, as 10 pallets were unaccounted for, seven landed in no-man's land and four were damaged.

'Last resort'

Meanwhile British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond described the limited access for aid allowed on the day of the deadline agreed by the International Syria Support group (ISSG) as "cynical".

"While air drops are complex, costly and risky, they are now the last resort to relieve human suffering across many besieged areas," he said.

The Syrian Red Cross tweeted an image showing the convoy entering Darayya.

The US and UK called on Russia and Iran, which back the Syrian government, to use their influence to ensure the air drops could proceed safely.

Russia said the arrival of Wednesday's aid convoys was a positive step.

United Nations vehicles drive as an aid convoy entered the rebel-held Syrian town of Daraya.

United Nations vehicles drive as an aid convoy entered the rebel-held Syrian town of Daraya. Photo: AFP

The ISSG, co-chaired by the US and Russia, comprises 17 world and regional powers, as well as the Arab League, the European Union and the United Nations.

In April, the UN said at least 4,000 people were besieged in Darayya by Syrian government forces, which have surrounded the suburb for four years.

The Darayya convoy - the first since November 2012 - contained vaccines, baby milk, medicine and nutritional goods.

Separately, the rebel-held town of Muadhamiya, north-west of Darayya, received deliveries of food parcels and wheat flour on Wednesday, a month since aid convoys last visited.

Darayya's electricity supply was cut off more than three years ago.

UN emergency relief co-ordinator Stephen O'Brien said in April that the Syrian government had ignored "countless" requests for aid to be allowed in.

An aid convoy was blocked from entering the town last month, despite all involved parties agreeing aid could be delivered.

The latest delivery was made by teams from the UN, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Syrian Red Crescent.

Russia's defence ministry said on Wednesday it had agreed a pause with the Syrian authorities for 48 hours to allow for the distribution of humanitarian aid in Darayya.

It borders a military airport used by Russian planes in support of the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

It was one of the first towns to report demonstrations against the Assad regime, and has been under siege since late 2012. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported clashes this week between rebel groups and government fighters on the outskirts of Darayya.

The UN believes there are more than 4.6m people living in hard-to-reach areas in Syria, including nearly 600,000 in besieged areas.


Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs