Syria President Agrees to Open 2 More Entry Points for Quake-Hit North
Alwaght- The Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has agreed to open two border crossing points to allow in a greater volume of emergency aid for victims of the earthquake that has devastated parts of Turkey and Syria, and killed at least 36,000 people.
President Assad’s decision was announced and welcomed by the UN secretary general, António Guterres, who said the two crossing points between Turkey and north-west Syria, at Bab al-Salam and Al Ra’ee, would be open “for an initial period of three months to allow for the timely delivery of humanitarian aid.”
Until Monday, the sole entry point to Syria’s rebel-controlled Idlib province had been through the Bab al-Hawa border crossing. Previous efforts to open other humanitarian routes had been vetoed by Russia and China who had claimed such a movement without Assad’s consent would undermine the sovereignty of the regime in Damascus. Guterres announced Assad’s agreement after a closed-door meeting of the UN security council on Monday afternoon.
“As the toll of the 6 February earthquake continues to mount, delivering food, health, nutrition, protection, shelter, winter supplies and other life-saving supplies to all the millions of people affected is of the utmost urgency,” Guterres said. “Opening these crossing points – along with facilitating humanitarian access, accelerating visa approvals, and easing travel between hubs – will allow more aid to go in, faster.”
The Turkish toll now exceeds the 31,643 killed in a quake in 1939, the country’s disaster and emergency management authority said. In Syria the death toll has reached 5,714 and millions of people are homeless through a combination of the earthquake and the foreign-backed militancy, and the humanitarian situation is desperate with a severe need for aid in rebel-held northern areas.
Assad slams US sanctions, unilateral actions for hampering humanitarian aid delivery
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said emergency humanitarian aid must be brought into all quake-hit areas in northwest Syria, including those not under the Damascus government’s control.
Assad made the remarks in a meeting with Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator at the United Nations Martin Griffiths and his accompanying delegation in the Syrian capital city of Damascus.
During the meeting, the two sides discussed the aftermath of last week’s deadly earthquake in the worst-affected areas of Latakia, Hama, Aleppo and Idlib, with the Syrian president asserting that aid needs to be delivered to victims in all earthquake-devastated towns and cities in northwestern Syria, including militant-held areas.
The Syrian president also said international efforts must concentrate on reconstruction of Syria’s vital infrastructure, as it is a matter of great urgency for the stability of Syrians and return of displaced people to their communities.
Griffiths, for his part, appreciated the Syrian government’s prompt response in terms of disaster relief operations.
He underscored that the UN supports search and rescue operations in Syria and will facilitate delivery of humanitarian aid into the northwestern part of the war-battered country.
'US temporary sanctions waiver insufficient’
Syria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Bassam Sabbagh has dismissed the United States’ decision to issue a six-month sanctions exemption for all transactions related to providing disaster relief after the powerful earthquake, saying the measure would be “insufficient” to offset the long-term dire consequences of the coercive measures.
Speaking at a closed-door UN Security Council session on the humanitarian situation in Syria following the quake on Monday, Sabbagh said that there was an international delay in extending a helping hand as a result of the US-led illegal coercive economic measures, whose effects, "are no less destructive than the devastating earthquake."
He said more than 250,000 Syrian citizens have been displaced as a result of the recent calamity.
“In order to ensure the timely delivery of humanitarian aid to all quake-hit regions, Syria agrees to open more border crossings in the northern sector of the country for an initial period of three months,” the top Syrian diplomat said.
Sabbagh went on to say that his country is in dire need of humanitarian aid following the recent 7.8 magnitude earthquake, arguing that US sanctions and unilateral Western coercive measures have complicated the situation.
“Those who have not been affected by the earthquake should not be allowed to die of cold, hunger, lack of medical supplies and/or safe shelter,” he said.
He said it was highly necessary for quake-damaged infrastructure and facilities, including water supply and sewage networks, hospitals and clinics, to be repaired quickly in order to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.