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Syria: UN advisor warns of 'lost momentum' and frustration in humanitarian access talks

1 April 2016 – Diplomats are "very frustrated" about not being able to keep the early momentum in the humanitarian track of the intra-Syrian talks, a United Nations humanitarian mediator has warned.

Coming out of yesterday's International Syria Support Group (ISSG) meeting on humanitarian access, Jan Egeland, Special Advisor to the UN Special Envoy for Syria, told reporters that the situation has notably improved from 2015, but the operation is now running into difficulties.

Compared with a year earlier, when UN had access to only one besieged area in Yarmouk, humanitarian supplies have now reached 150,000 people in 11 of the 18 besieged areas, he said.

In addition, convoys got a greenlight to go to three new places, Arbeen, Zamalka and Zabadin. Airdrops in Deir Ez Zor are likely to start on a regular basis within a fortnight.

"However, I will not hide that we are afraid now to lose some of the momentum that we got after the Munich meeting," Mr. Egeland said.

There is no access or greenlight at all to Douma, Darayya and East Harasta. In Douma, more than 90,000 people are in need. And there are a number of administrative problems, security issues, and delays. For the three new areas, UN has much higher number of people in need that the Government approved.

"And perhaps, most importantly, we are still not where we should be according to international law on medical services and health services for the besieged areas," he said, noting that surgical equipment is still taken off convoys, the besieged areas remain off-limits to medical personal, and medical evacuation is not permitted.

Within the last 75 hours, three children bled to death in Madaya, he said. "They were playing with an unexploded bomb, they were gravely wounded but they didn't die. They died because of medical evacuation was not allowed and possible to organize," he added.

"It is basically a bit frustrating now and my clear message was that all of the countries that have influence, not only Russia, have to help us," he said.

Urging the Government and the opposition groups to break the impasse, Mr. Egeland said "we must continue to get to the remaining besieged areas and we cannot allow medical services to be exempted."

The next ISSG meeting on humanitarian access will take place on Thursday, 7 April. He said he expects Russia, Iran, China, Iraq as well as the Europeans who have contact with Damascus to be actively engaged with the Government.

The ISSG, comprised of the United Nations, the Arab League, the European Union and 18 countries, has been seeking a path forward on the crisis in Syria for several months.

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