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Syria approves aid delivery to 19 besieged areas: UN

Syrians unload boxes from a lorry after an aid convoy of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent entered the town of Rastan, in central Homs province, on April 25, 2016. ©AFP

The UN says the Syrian government has given approval for humanitarian convoys to reach all besieged areas in the country by the end of this month.

“We were informed by our team in Damascus that basically there has been permission, an approval... by the government of Syria for all 19 besieged areas," Staffan de Mistura, the UN special envoy for Syria, told reporters in the Swiss city of Geneva on Thursday.

The UN envoy made the remarks after the weekly meeting of the Syria humanitarian task force, which has for months been attempting to boost aid supplies to millions of Syrians trapped in hard-to-reach areas across the country.

This comes as the task force has recently come under pressure by some Western countries, including France and Britain, to start air-dropping aid into besieged areas.

However, De Mistura voiced hope that a surge of road convoys in the coming weeks would make dangerous and costly air deliveries unnecessary.

The delivery is part of a UN-backed deal sealed earlier between the Damascus government and the militants. The Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) is cooperating with the United Nations on the aid deliveries.

Damascus has pledged full cooperation with the UN and the Red Cross to deliver humanitarian aid to all civilians “without any discrimination,” including those in hard-to-reach areas.

The Syrian government has, however, voiced concern that militants in the troubled areas could withhold food from needy citizens.

Members of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent deliver aid boxes to the militant-held town of Douma near the Syrian capital on May 26, 2016. ©AFP

According to UN estimate, more than one million besieged Syrians are in need of help. Since the February ceasefire, there have been efforts to scale up humanitarian aid.

Syria has been the scene of a foreign-backed crisis since March 2011.

The UN no longer keeps track of the death toll due to the inaccessibility of many areas and the complications of going through the statistics put forward by the Syrian government and other sources.

De Mistura, however, estimates that over 400,000 people have been killed in the conflict.

According to a February report by the Syrian Center for Policy Research, the conflict has claimed the lives of over 470,000 people in total since March 2011.

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