Aid convoys on the move as German leader renews call for Syria no-fly zone

DAMASCUS, Syria -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday renewed her proposal for a no-fly zone in Syria where civilians would be protected, a suggestion that was promptly rebuffed by Moscow that said it can only be done with the Syrian government's consent.

See Full Article

In Damascus, over 100 trucks loaded with humanitarian aid that were expected to be delivered to five besieged areas in the country arrived as part of an effort described by a Russian official as a first step toward implementation of an agreement reached among world powers in Munich last week.

UN envoy Staffan de Mistura has been trying to secure aid deliveries to improve the chances of restarting peace talks before the end of February. But those efforts have been clouded by the intense fighting north of Aleppo, where various forces backed by regional and international rivals are clashing over a crucial strip of land linking Syria's largest city to the border with Turkey.

The violence in Aleppo and lack of improvement on the humanitarian front led to the collapse of indirect talks between the Syrian government and its opponents in Geneva earlier this month.

It appears also to have revived a long-standing proposal to establish a no-fly zone in northern Syria -- an idea that has been repeatedly floated by Turkey and other opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad throughout the five-year-old war.

A no-fly zone would potentially create a safe haven for tens of thousands of displaced Syrians. But Washington has long rejected the idea, fearing it would draw U.S. forces further into the civil war.

Merkel expressed support for the idea on Tuesday, and repeated it again on Wednesday at parliament. She said it could be done by agreement between Assad, his backers and the coalition fighting the Islamic State group.

At a news conference, she said such an agreement would be "a sign of good will" and would put many people at ease.

She appeared to be referring to a more informal agreement to stop aerial attacks within the suggestion that this could help bring about the overall cessation of hostilities agreed upon in Munich.

"It would be helpful if there were an area in Syria that none of the parties to the war bombed," she said.

Enforcing a no-fly zone has become considerably more difficult since Russia began its air campaign in Syria late last year. A senior Russian diplomat, Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov, shrugged off Merkel's proposal, saying it would require Damascus' consent and Security Council approval.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticized the United States for not backing his country's proposals, adding that a no-fly would have prevented Russia's air campaign in the region and thwarted thousands of civilian deaths.

"Oh America! You did not say 'yes' to 'no-fly zone.' Now the Russian planes are running wild over there, and thousands and tens of thousands of victims are dying," Erdogan said. "Weren't we coalition forces? Weren't we to act together?"

The U.S., Russia and other world powers agreed last week on ceasing hostilities within a week, the delivery of urgently needed aid to besieged areas of Syria and a call to return to peace talks in Geneva.

Gatilov said that "the implementation of the Munich agreements on Syrian settlement has started."

He said a working group on humanitarian access to the besieged areas has met and is set to again meet Thursday. He said it will discuss practical issues related to the aid delivery.

In Damascus on Tuesday, de Mistura suggested that humanitarian aid would be allowed into several besieged areas Wednesday, calling it the "duty of the government of Syria."

"Tomorrow we test this," he said after meeting with Syria's foreign minister. The UN later said the Syrian government has approved access to seven such areas across the country and that convoys would head out in the coming days.

The Syrian foreign ministry hit back Wednesday, saying "we do not wait for anyone to remind us of our duties toward our people."

"In fact, the Syrian government is the one that needs to test the credibility of the UN envoy," a statement said.

The operation proceeded nonetheless, with over a 100 trucks heading to besieged areas Wednesday. After an hours-long delay, the convoys carrying food, medicine and other assistance reached the rebel-held town of Madaya, northwest of the capital, while a 35-truck convoy was to deliver aid to the rebel-held suburb of Moadamiyeh southwest of the capital.

A mobile clinic offered by the Syrian Red Crescent also entered Madaya to tend to wounded civilians.

According to the agreement, aid would simultaneously be delivered to two communities in the northern Idlib province that are besieged by rebels.

The convoys represent the third humanitarian aid delivery to the besieged communities after two similar efforts last month.

The UN estimates that 18 Syrian communities are besieged, affecting around half a million people.

Associated Press writers Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow, Zeina Karam in Beirut and David Rising in Berlin contributed to this report



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Thousands of sexual assault cases in U.S. schools not reported: AP

    World News CTV News
    BRUNSWICK, Maine -- Chaz Wing was 12 when they cornered him in the school bathroom. The students who tormented him were children, too, entering the age of pimples and cracking voices. Eventually, he swore under oath, the boys raped him and left him bleeding, the culmination of a year of harassment. Source
  • Tornadoes, flooding kill at least 14 in parts of U.S. South, Midwest [Photos] [Video]

    World News Toronto Sun
    CANTON, Texas — At least 11 people have been killed by tornadoes or flooding in the South and Midwest by a storm that also dumped a rare late-season blizzard in western Kansas on Sunday. Tornadoes hit several small towns in East Texas, killing four people. Source
  • 'Guys, I'm not running': Biden plays down presidential bid

    World News CTV News
    MANCHESTER, N.H. - Former U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden insists he is not making another presidential bid in 2020, despite giving a rousing speech to New Hampshire Democrats about restoring dignity to politics and winning back working class voters. Source
  • Body of missing boater recovered near Fort Chipewyan, Alta.; 3 still missing

    Canada News CBC News
    Searchers near Fort Chipewyan, Alta., have recovered the body of one of the four boaters who was reported missing last week. The body of Walter Ladouceur, 42, was recovered Sunday from the Rocher River, RCMP said. Source
  • Fears grow in Japan over North Korean missile capabilities

    World News CTV News
    FUSSA, Japan -- Residents living near U.S. military bases in Japan are facing a fresh reality: Their neighbourhoods are on the frontline of North Korea's dispute with America and if Pyongyang were to attack they would have just minutes to shelter from incoming missiles. Source
  • Tornadoes, flooding kill at least 13 in parts of U.S. South, Midwest [Photos] [Video]

    World News Toronto Sun
    CANTON, Texas — At least 11 people have been killed by tornadoes or flooding in the South and Midwest by a storm that also dumped a rare late-season blizzard in western Kansas on Sunday. Tornadoes hit several small towns in East Texas, killing four people. Source
  • 2 dead after boat sinks off Vancouver Island

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    VICTORIA — Officials say two people are dead and three others are in stable condition after their boat went down off the west coast of Vancouver Island. Coast Guard spokesman Dan Bate says all five people were taken to shore Sunday afternoon, but health officials later confirmed that two of them had died. Source
  • 2 dead, 3 in stable condition after boat goes down off Vancouver Island

    Canada News CTV News
    VICTORIA -- Two people are dead and three others are in stable condition after a fishing boat went down off the west coast of Vancouver Island. All five of the passengers were taken to shore Sunday afternoon, but health officials later confirmed that two of them had died, Coast Guard spokesman Dan Bate said in a statement. Source
  • Venezuela's president hikes minimum wage amid rising protests

    World News CTV News
    CARACAS, Venezuela - Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is hiking salaries and handing out free homes as he tries to counter a strengthening protest movement calling for his removal. Maduro said on his Sunday TV show that the minimum wage will rise 60 per cent starting May 1. Source
  • Biden tells New Hampshire crowd: ‘Guys, I’m not running’

    World News Toronto Sun
    MANCHESTER, N.H. — Former Vice-President Joe Biden insists he is not making another presidential bid in 2020, despite giving a rousing speech to New Hampshire Democrats about restoring dignity to politics and winning back working class voters. Source