UNITED NATIONS, UNITED STATES (AFP) – Syria has extended for three months humanitarian aid access into quake-stricken rebel-held areas from Turkiye via two border crossings, a United Nations (UN) representative said on Saturday.
The Syrian Foreign Minister conveyed the decision “to allow the UN to continue using the Al Ra’ee and Bab Al-Salam crossings for an additional three months”, spokesperson for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Eri Kaneko said in a statement to AFP.
There was no immediate comment from Damascus. Syrians affected by the February 6 earthquake that killed over 55,000 people in Syria and Turkiye have been relying on the two border crossings for vital humanitarian deliveries. Following international pressure, Damascus agreed to let the UN use the Bab al-Salama and Al-Rai crossings, operated by Turkish-backed rebels, to bring in food and medical supplies for three months.
The permission had been set to expire on Saturday, so Syria’s decision was welcome news for those affected as well as for human rights organisations, which had urged the UN to continue deliveries even absent re-authorisation from Damascus. Amnesty International said on Friday that the lives of four million people are at stake if humanitarian aid via the crossings is halted. Turkish-backed rebels operate the crossings, both in Aleppo province.
The UN estimated earlier this week that Syria needs almost USD15 billion to recover from the quake, and it put the total cost of damage and losses at almost USD9 billion.