Russia seeks extension of cease-fire in Syria to allow aid trucks into Aleppo

ALEPPO, Syria, Sept. 14 (UPI) — As humanitarian aid to Syria is held up at the Turkish border despite a nationwide cease-fire, Russia is asking for the truce to be extended another 48 hours.

Russian General Staff official Viktor Poznikhir said the terms of the original agreement have generally been adhered to by both sides although he noted rebel forces had violated the agreement 60 times through Wednesday morning.

“In accordance with the Russian-U.S. agreements, the existing 48-hour ceasefire is expiring today at 7 p.m. [local time],” he said. “We note that recently the cessation of hostilities was observed in full.”

The Russian military also announced it carried out airstrikes on Islamic State militants who were preparing an assault on Palmyra, liberated from the terrorists earlier this year. According to the Russian General Staff, the strikes killed 250 militants.

Al Jazeera reported that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad‘s regime won’t allow any humanitarian aid to enter the rebel-held Aleppo from Turkey.

The Syrian state news agency SANA, quoting a foreign ministry source, said: “Commenting on the Turkish regime’s statements highlighting its intention to send materials disguised as humanitarian aid to Aleppo city, the Syrian Arab Republic announces its rejection to allow such materials to enter no matter who provides them, including the Turkish regime in particular, without coordination with the Syrian government and the U.N.”

Turkey, which borders Syria in the north, has backed the rebels in Syria, and consistently opposed Assad.

“Since the very beginning of the crisis in Syria, Turkey has always provided support to the armed terrorist organizations and supplied them with money, arms, not to mention harboring terrorists, assisting them and bringing mercenaries from all over the world to murder the Syrian people and destroy their country,” the foreign ministry said.

A Turkish Red Crescent official told Al Jazeera on Wednesday its aid trucks were still at the Cilvegozu border crossing in Hatay. The trucks will be using only U.N. flags as requested by Russia, the official said.

Staffan de Mistura, United Nations special envoy for Syria, told reporters in Geneva on Tuesday he hoped the convoys could start deliveries later Wednesday to the estimated 250,000 civilians in rebel-held areas in eastern Aleppo.

“The Aleppo provincial council needs to accept the fact that this aid is urgent and it is according to [the] U.N. approach and according to a well-recognized agreement,” he said.

He said he understood that Russia was working on “helping the unhindered access of the convoys.”

But Jens Laerke, a spokesman for the U.N.’s humanitarian office, said, “We need to enter an environment where we are not in mortal danger.”

De Mistura said the situation had “dramatically improved” with no airstrikes in Aleppo, while the capital, Damascus, and central Syria also remained calm with “reports limited to some clashes around Harasta between government and opposition forces.”

The truce, reached last week by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, began at sunset on Monday, coinciding with the major Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.
The two-day truce was the first step of a proposed seven-day truce.

Both sides have accused the other of cease-fire violations.

A Syrian military source told the Syrian state news agency that the armed groups broke the truce Wednesday morning with seven mortar shells in the western and northern countryside.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a pro-opposition monitoring group, said Tuesday pro-regime forces shelled Aleppo and two towns in the northern countryside.

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