Syria: risk of aid stopping

Submitted by Matthew on 21 September, 2016 - 10:43 Author: Simon Nelson

The ceasefire in Syria had already appeared to be on the verge of collapse following a US-led attack on Syrian troops, who, so Russia has said, were fighting Daesh. Then came an air attack on UN aid convoys near Aleppo. Russia and Syria have both denied responsibility, but are suspected of being involved. The US has said the ceasefire is not dead.

The US said its attack on Deir al-Zour was aimed at Daesh, and it was unaware Syrian government troops were present. The Russians declared it was a “display of heavy handedness” by the US.

Russia has called on the US to coordinate airstrikes alongside it, so as to avoid such mistakes. The ceasefire was supposed to last for a week after which Russia and the US led-coalition would begin coordinated action against Jabhat Fateh al-Sham and Daesh. Russia complains the US are unable to control the opposition.

That is partially true: the ceasefire demands that the rebels disengage from jihadist groups in order to receive support and most are unwilling. In any case little aid has been let into besieged areas. The attack on the convoy is therefore very serious indeed. Continued Russian bombing of the aid route from Turkey has been a way of stalling aid and for Russians to continue to show their support for Assad.

The rebels have still not formally accepted the deal. On the other hand they have not denounced it outright, as they knew the people living in their areas need the aid. A meeting of the largest rebel groups, which will include Ahrar al Sham known to be working alongside Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, was meant to be working on a coordinated position on the ceasefire. Turkey has confirmed it plans to create a 5,000 square km safe zone inside Syria with large scale infrastructure projects. Turkey wants to counter growing Kurdish influence on the Syria/Turkey border. All of this is now hanging in the balance.