UN Plans Syria Aid Deliveries as Cease-fire Continues
by VOA News February 29, 2016
The United Nations plans to begin aid deliveries Monday in hopes of reaching more than 150,000 Syrians as a cessation of hostilities in the country stretches into a third day.
The U.N.'s humanitarian coordinator for Syria, Yacoub El Hillo, said the deliveries are scheduled for besieged areas between Monday and Friday.
'It is the best opportunity that the Syrian people have had over the last five years for lasting peace and stability,' he said.
The cease-fire began early Saturday, and despite multiple claims of violations by both sides of the conflict, the truce has largely held.
Russia blamed Turkey for nine violations, according to the French News Agency, while Syrian state media claimed 'terrorist groups' fired mortars from hills close to the Turkish border into rural areas of the country's coastal Latakia province.
A senior Saudi Arabian official in turn alleged Syrian and Russian forces committed 'cease-fire violations' in Syria.
'We are discussing this with [the 17-nation] Syria Support Group,' co-chaired by Russia and the United States, said Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Jubeir in Riyadh.
While many Syrians are enjoying the relative calm of a cease-fire, that quiet was broken in several towns hit by airstrikes Sunday.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least six villages were targeted in the strikes. The identity of the jets was not known and it was unclear if the raids hit areas covered by the truce, which does not apply to assaults on militants from Islamic State and the al-Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front.
U.S.-led coalition airstrikes have also continued against Islamic State targets in Syria, focusing heavily on the IS stronghold of Raqqa.
Less than an hour before the temporary truce went into effect, members of the U.N. Security council unanimously endorsed the deal. At the same meeting, the U.N. envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura announced that if the truce largely holds and humanitarian aid access continues he will reconvene intra-Syrian peace talks in Geneva on March 7.
The co-chairs of the International Support Group for Syria (ISSG), Russia and the United States, will be responsible for addressing violations, not the United Nations.
President Barack Obama said the United States will do everything it can to make the agreement hold.
VOA's Margaret Besheer contributed to this report.
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