With Ramadan around the corner, the United Nations will make an eleventh-hour push Sunday to get the Assad regime to allow humanitarian aid deliveries to besieged areas in the war-torn country, a top UN diplomat has said.
Francois Delattre, permanent representative of France to the UN and the current president of the UN Security Council, told reporters Friday that the council would ask Damascus to authorize humanitarian airdrops on localities where land access had earlier been denied.
Describing May as a "bad month" regarding humanitarian access, Delattre said: "A very high number of access requests made by the United Nations are still denied as we speak by the Syrian authorities."
The regime has been unresponsive to an international plan to start the delivery on June 1, as announced on May 17 by U.S. State Secretary John Kerry, on behalf of the International Syria Support Group.
Nevertheless, Delattre called Security Council discussions on the topic "useful", and said consensus was reached to follow the situation "almost daily".
Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department expressed its "deep appreciation" for the efforts of the UN team on the ground in Syria helping those in need.
Over Bashar al-Assad regime's media adviser Bouthaina Shaaban's claims that the Syrian town Darayya was not suffering from any food shortage, State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner said her claims were "beyond the pale".
"For that person to somehow claim that parts, civilians who have not received any food assistance since 2012, are somehow in the land of milk and honey, is just beyond the pale," he said.
"We base our assessments off of the UN, but also on our very clear knowledge of the extent of the suffering of the civilians in some of these besieged areas."
Toner added that the UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, had previously called the besiegement of places like Darayya something "out of the Middle Ages".
In her pre-recorded speech at a panel in Washington D.C. Thursday over global alliance to degrade Daesh and al-Qaeda, Shaaban had also said the Syrian government was in talks with the UN to allow aid shipments to go in.
On a question whether it was a must for the UN to seek permission from the Syrian government to deliver aid by air, Toner said it was.
This is necessary as UN wants to ensure the safety of the airplanes or helicopters which are going to deliver the aid, according to Toner.
"We're going to continue to push hard on this [...] through the ISSG [International Syria Support Group] working with obviously Russia to exert influence on the regime," he said.
More than 250,000 people died and almost half the population was displaced in five years of war in Syria, according to UN figures. Activists put the number of casualties at almost double that figure.
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