World Bulletin / News Desk
A fragile cessation of hostilities that went into effect in Syria a week ago has afforded direly needed humanitarian access while providing hope for wider political progress, according to aid leaders.
Brokered by the United States and Russia, the agreement, whose implementation has been imperfect, has nonetheless “improved humanitarian access” in Syria, allowing aid workers to reach previously besieged areas, Neal Keny-Guyer, CEO of Mercy Corps, told Anadolu Agency.
“There’s still a long road ahead fraught with many, many challenges, and this thing can unravel overnight, but let’s celebrate that at least we have a cessation,” said Keny-Guyer, whose organization works throughout Syria and has large operations in the country’s north.
The deal is meant to halt fighting between Syria’s warring parties and facilitate aid deliveries to civilian communities that have suffered shortages of basic necessities due to sieges carried out by the Syrian government or rebel forces.
UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura said the “fragile” agreement is largely holding despite continued fighting in Hama, Homs, Latakia and Damascus.
“Success is not guaranteed but progress has been visible. Ask the Syrians,” de Mistura said in Geneva.
Since the truce went into effect, the UN has ramped up deliveries of food, water and medicine.
The organization said earlier this week that it planned to reach more than 150,000 people by week’s end, and sought to help 1.7 million across the country by the end of March.
The UN estimates nearly 500,000 Syrians are currently living in one of 18 besieged areas.
Aid has yet to reach rebel-held Madaya, whose images of emaciated men, women and children prompted international outrage, following the implementation of the cessation of hostilities.
The UN last sent an aid convoy to the city in early January.
Located northwest of capital Damascus, the town of 40,000 has been reeling under a crippling siege by Syrian government forces and allied militants of Lebanon's Hezbollah for more than eight months.
The World Health Organization said it was able to deliver called-for shipments of antibiotics and painkillers to nearby Mouadamieh, which is located just south of the capital.
The city has been under siege for over 18 months.
In addition to the lull in violence and limited, but increasing shipments of aid, the truce is also seen as perhaps the best hope ending the Syrian conflict.
The last effort to negotiate a political transition in Syria ended without meaningful progress. It also lacked even face-to-face talks between the opposing sides.
The latest round has been scheduled for March 9.
While it's not clear if the new talks will be more successful than prior attempts, the halt in violence has stoked hopes for a greater political opening.
"It is so important now that we encourage all the negotiators to double down on creating comprehensive humanitarian access, turning the cessation of hostilities into an enduring cease-fire, and then doing the really hard work of laying foundations for a long term peace," said Keny-Guyer.
Raymond Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America, said that while a political transition may be more of a “a long-term question,” it must ultimately must be decided by the Syrian people.
“Our hope is that as part of the political solution, and negotiations that are taking place, there’s some effort to figure out what kind of a very inclusive process can be put in place for a discussion of what the political future is for Syria,” he said.
The war in Syria has claimed more than 470,000 lives, according to the Syrian Center for Policy Research.
Millions more have been displaced internally or been sent into exile, straining regional economies and prompting a humanitarian catastrophe that has overrun Europe's borders.
The ramifications, however, have reached far beyond the continent, with U.S. politicians sharply resisting additional resettlement during America's presidential race, particularly among Republican candidates.
Billionaire Donald Trump notably took the refusal one step further, demanding authorities halt all Muslim entry to the United States until officials “can figure out what’s going on”.
Those calls have “shocked” many Syrian refugees.
“They think of America as a place of freedom, as a place of hope, as one of those places where someone doesn’t care what your last name is, who your father was, and where there is opportunity and freedom,” said Keny-Guyer, who added that the controversial comments are “at opposite ends of what I think of as the best of America.”Güncelleme Tarihi: 04 Mart 2016, 11:35