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Russian Military Police Facilitating UN Delivery of Humanitarian Supplies in Syria

Aug. 18, 2017 (EIRNS)—UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura revealed, yesterday, that Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu sent him a letter in the beginning of August in which Shoigu apparently proposed that the routes of UN humanitarian aid convoys would be put under the control of Russian military police. In the letter, de Mistura said, Shoigu indicated that

"there was going to be an impact on the speed of allowing convoys to get through to areas which have been reaching a de-escalation agreement,"

de Mistura said during a press conference at the UN offices in Geneva.

"This in order to make sure that it would be less complicated than in the past, by having military Russian observation points making the movement of aid quicker and facilitated than in the past."

This happened for the first time on April 16 when a 50-truck convoy made its way to Douma, in the Eastern Ghouta district of Damascus, with supplies for 45,000 people. De Mistura expressed the hope that this will become a pattern.

De Mistura described the Shoigu letter as a "turning point" that needs still to be solidified "because many of these blockages were recurrent and the answer was, okay, now we will be trying to help by being present so that those who block it will be less tempted to do so, and I think Douma today is a good sign in this direction, but we need, obviously, to verify it even more."

Jan Egeland, de Mistura’s assistant for humanitarian affairs, described the convoy to Douma as "highly symbolic," because it was the first convoy to that area since May. "Took a lot of effort, a lot of negotiations and a lot of help from Russia and others to make it happen," he said. Overall, he said, the number of Syrians that the UN is now able to reach with aid has increased from 6 million in January to 9 million in June. There are still eleven besieged areas, with some 540,000 people, that the UN unable to reach, but this is in the process of changing, he said, as permits are getting easier to get.

"So it can change, we have intensive diplomacy, negotiations with the Syrian government, with armed opposition groups and we have been helped by Russia, Iran, the United States, and the other members of our humanitarian task force,"

he said.

Otherwise, on the peace making effort, de Mistura described not so much a schedule, but an expected sequence of events that includes opposition meetings, technical meetings, another meeting in Astana, a meeting in Geneva and the UN General Assembly, all of which will culminate in another meeting in Geneva, sometime in the October-November time frame. De Mistura indicated that he expects that the Syrian opposition delegation, in whatever form emerges by then, will meet face-to-face with the Syrian government’s negotiators. De Mistura explained that part of the reason for this elongated time scale is that the opposition—which consists of the Saudi-backed High Negotiations Committee, and the Cairo and Moscow platforms—needs a bit more time to organize itself.