With the Assad regime continuing to besiege towns and villages across Syria, the US has criticized Russia for taking no “demonstrable steps” to ensure assistance, even though Moscow has been part of the international calls for aid.
US State Department spokesman Mark Toner on Wednesday noted that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was in Vienna in mid-May as part of the International Syrian Support Group’s (ISSG) declaration for assistance by June 1, including airdrops, if the Assad regime did not allow ground access.
“We are obviously disappointed, to put it mildly, that…Russia has not taken any demonstrable steps to support the International Syria Support Group’s call for the delivery of humanitarian relief by air,” Toner said.
“They were there in Vienna. And they committed to this deadline as well. So, you know, they can also step up and apply pressure,” Toner added.
The Assad regime continues to take out medical supplies and foodstuffs from some of the aid convoys, Toner said. “If the regime does not allow full supplies, we will consider it to have reneged on its commitment and continuing a policy of denying food and medicine to needy people as a military tool.”
Earlier this week, the UN set a new target date of June 10 for the regime to agree to deliver assistance by land routes.
Pressed by reporters on Wednesday about why the airdrop option was even mentioned if it depended on the Assad regime’s consent, Toner initially noted that Damascus has said it may permit an aid delivery to Daraya tomorrow: “I think we’re going to – we’re – although skeptical, we’re also going to wait and see what happens on Friday.”He then made his call for Moscow to intervene.
The Assad regime briefly allowed assistance into some areas after the February 27 cessation of hostilities agreement, but tightened its blockades in April and May. UN agencies assisted only 5% of Syrians in besieged and hard-to-reach areas.
Toner pointed out that “Russia actually has air assets on the ground in Syria and ostensibly has the permission of the Syrian government to fly.” Toner assured that Moscow was “aware of our concerns” but declined to say whether Washington had talked to the Russians about using its aircraft to deliver aid, saying he did not want to discuss specifics. (Source: Syrian Coalition)