First U.N. aid convoy reaches Syria via Turkey
The first United Nations convoy carrying relief supplies for Syrians hit by a deadly earthquake three days ago crossed into Turkey on Thursday, as winter weather and quake-related damage to roads and airports hampered earthquake relief efforts in northern Syria.
The convoy reached Syria at the Bab Al Hawa border crossing, which is a key link to opposition-held areas in Syria. Some 4 million people there were already in need of humanitarian aid before the earthquake, many of them displaced by the 12-year conflict in the country.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey would open more border crossings in two days if security is guaranteed.
The U.N. special envoy for Syria had said earlier that "absolutely everything" in aid was needed following Monday's massive earthquake that devastated large parts of southern Turkey and northern Syria.
"We need life-saving assistance," U.N. Special Envoy Geir Pedersen told reporters in Geneva.
"It is urgently needed by civilians wherever they are, regardless of borders and boundaries. We need it urgently through the fastest, most direct and most effective channels. They need more of absolutely everything."
Pedersen called for assurances that there would be no political obstacles inside Syria to get aid to where it is needed most.
"We had a problem because the roads leading to the border crossing (between Turkey and Syria) had been destroyed," Pedersen said. "But we were assured that we could get the first aid through today
A major problem complicating aid distribution is "the war and the way aid is divided between rebel areas and Damascus," said Aron Lund, a fellow at the New York-based Century International think tank who covers Syria.
While most of Syria is under the control of the government in Damascus, most of the north is controlled by various-and sometimes conflicting-groups. The northwest is divided between areas de facto controlled by Turkey and by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a rebel group with ties to al-Qaeda. Northeastern Syria is largely held by U.S.-backed Kurdish-led groups.
Humanitarian convoys traveling from areas controlled by the Kurdish groups to rebel-held areas were also blocked by rebels at the Um Jeloud border crossing east of Aleppo.
According to the SOHR, the convoy was carrying urgent relief supplies and fuel and the Turkish-backed groups are blocking the humanitarian aid convoy because they have not received Turkish instructions to allow the convoy to enter the areas they control.