Syria extends permission on post-quake aid border crossings

Bab Alsalama and al-Ra’i will remain open for an additional period of three months ending on 13 August.

U.N. vehicles park outside a hospital supported by Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS)
The UN asked Syria's government to extend its approval for the two crossings to deliver aid into opposition-held zones [File: Khalil Ashawi/Reuters]

Syria has extended permission for the United Nations to use two additional border crossings for post-earthquake aid for three more months, a Syrian official has said.

Syria “has decided to extend the permission it granted to the UN and its specialised agencies to use the two border crossings of Bab Alsalama and al-Ra’i for an additional period of three months ending on 13 August,” Bassam Sabbagh, Syria’s UN ambassador, said in a tweet.

“This decision is based on Syria’s keenness on enhancing stability and improving the living and humanitarian situation of all Syrians, and comes within its efforts to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid to all those in need in all Syria,” he added.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad initially agreed to open the two crossings for three months starting on February 13, a week after an earthquake that killed more than 50,000 people in Turkey and Syria. Parts of the northwest are held by groups opposed to al-Assad in the 12-year-long war.

The UN on Friday asked Syria’s government to extend its approval for the two crossings to deliver aid into opposition-held zones, a spokesperson said.

The UN said in a statement on Saturday that Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad conveyed to the UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, Martin Griffiths, the decision to allow the UN to use the crossings for an additional three months.

The Bab al-Salam crossing was opened to UN humanitarian assistance in February, marking the first time a United Nations convoy crossed to deliver aid since its closure in 2020.

Damascus had long opposed cross-border aid deliveries to the rebel enclave.

The delay in opening new crossings stalled immediate relief and search and rescue efforts when the “time for effective search and rescue is tragically running out,” the International Rescue Committee said in a statement.

The UN has pushed for aid to flow more freely into Syria, especially into the country’s northwest, where it estimated more than four million people already required aid before the quake. It wants the aid to move across the front lines within Syria and through border crossings with Turkey.

After years of animosity during Syria’s war, the foreign ministers of Russia, Syria, Turkey and Iran met in Moscow this month for high-level talks on rebuilding ties between Ankara and Damascus.

Al-Assad was also formally invited to attend the Arab League summit in Saudi Arabia on May 19 in a significant sign that the regional isolation of Damascus has thawed.

The restoration of ties with Damascus quickened pace following the deadly February 6 earthquake in Turkey and Syria, and the Chinese-brokered re-establishment of ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which had backed opposing sides in the Syrian conflict.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies