MESOP SYRIA THIS MORNING : Aid to Aleppo Held Up on Turkish Border

15 Sept 2016 – By Scott Lucas – eaworldview – As the ceasefire across Syria enters its third day, the first significant aid convoys are still held up on the Turkish border.Two convoys of 20 trucks, carrying mostly food and flour, set off from the Turkish border town of Cilvegozu on Tuesday, However, they were halted soon after they passed the Turkish customs post on the border, 40 km (25 miles) west of Aleppo city.The convoys are testing the public line of Russia, the main ally of the Assad regime, that it will ensure assistance to opposition territory as well as regime-held districts.While neither Moscow nor the Assad regime have issued a statement on the convoys, “security concerns” are being invoked to justify the hold-up of the trucks. Zakaria Malahifji, of the Aleppo-based rebel group Fastaqim, said factions will comply
with the plan to withdraw 500 meters from the al-Castello road, the main route north of Aleppo, so it is a neutral space for transport of aid. However, the regime must also pull back, he said.

The Assad regime has said it will block any aid deliveries to Aleppo which are not coordinated by itself and the UN.

“Things are taking longer than we’d hoped,” said David Swanson, spokesman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. “Some groups are looking to gain political mileage out of this, and this is something we need to put aside.”

A second U.N. official said that deliveries to Aleppo had to cross numerous checkpoints operated by both opposition and pro-Assad forces, and that it was still unclear whether the aid could get through safely.

George Sabra of the opposition High Negotiations Committee said the regime’s insistence on control of aid was obstructing delivery.

On Tuesday, UN envoy Staffan de Mistura said ““We need to do more homework,” about the aid issue. A senior US official said there were some “technical issues” to be resolved, and that Washington was “pressing the Russians and, through the Russians, pressing the regime”.

Claimed Regime Violations of Ceasefire

Opposition activists continue to report regime violations of the ceasefire.

The opposition claimed regime attacks, including shelling and rockets, on Anadan and Qebtan al-Jabal in Aleppo Province.

Pro-Assad forces reportedly bombarded Housh al-Nasri in the East Ghouta area near Damascus, where there was fighting between the rebels of Jaish al-Islam and the Syrian military before Monday’s ceasefire.

Activists also maintain that a Russian airstrike killed six people and injured more than 15 in a displaced persons’ camp in Homs Province, southeast of Palmyra, The area is near the frontline between the regime and the Islamic State.

Top US General Sceptical About US-Russian Deal

Amid reports of the Pentagon’s dissatisfaction over the US-Russian deal, the top US general in the Middle East has expressed scepticism over cooperation with Moscow.

General Joseph Votel, the head of US Central Commander, started with a supportive line: “I’m hopeful but I’m very realistic about what is before us.”

However, in a conference in Washington, the general then set out doubts. He said Russia’s objective is “not clear”: “They say one thing and we don’t necessarily see them following up on that.

While saying that the US military would “look for ways to make this work within the confines of the agreement”, he implicitly cautioned President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry:

I trust that our political leadership will do the right things and make the right calls [and that they have] a very good handle on that. Our job will be to look at how we do that with the Russians.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter and senior Pentagon officials questioned the US-Russia agreement before it was announced.

On Tuesday, Lt. Gen. Jeffrey L. Harrigian, the commander of the US Air Forces Central Command, was hesitant about the proposed US-Russian Joint Information Center, to be established if the ceasefire holds for a week: “I’m not saying yes or no. It would be premature to say that we’re going to jump right into it.”

Votel echoed yesterday, “We have to see how this goes first of all…see what direction it goes…whether it actually pans out or not, I don’t know.”