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Thursday 2 June 2016

Welcome cross-party UK support for humanitarian air drops

The Assad regime in Syria has failed to fulfil the demand for aid access to besieged areas set out in the International Syria Support Group statement of 17 May. In that statement, the ISSG set a deadline of 1 June, and named seven besieged areas of particular concern.

Yesterday saw last minute limited deliveries of aid to just two areas out of seven highlighted by the ISSG: Moadamiya and Daraya. In the case of Daraya, the shipment did not include food aid. All seven areas highlighted by the ISSG are areas besieged by the regime: Arbin, Daraya, Douma, East Harasta, Moadamiya, Zabadin and Zamalka.

Syria Solidarity UK welcomes yesterday’s remarks by Secretary of State for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs Philip Hammond affirming UK commitment to seeing that humanitarian air drops are carried out, now that the Assad regime has failed to meet the deadline.

We also welcome yesterday’s remarks by Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn that the UK now has a responsibility to deliver on air drops.

We note that this is the first time in over five years that we have seen agreement between UK Government and Opposition on taking active measures to protect civilians inside Syria.

We welcome also the widespread support for humanitarian air drops from other party leaderships, and from MPs and peers across Parliament.

The ISSG 17 May statement tasked the World Food Programme with implementing humanitarian air drops or air bridge delivery to all besieged areas should the regime fail to allow road access. The WFP has already made a large number of successful air drops to regime held territory in Deir Ezzor, but none to areas besieged by the regime, even though the vast majority of sieges are inflicted by the regime.

We are dismayed that the WFP refuses to deliver aid without the permission of the Assad regime. We are dismayed that employees of the WFP and the International Committee of the Red Cross have been briefing the press in opposition to air drops, despite their successful use in regime-held Deir Ezzor.

Yesterday’s ICRC delivery of aid to Daraya was the first since the Assad regime began besieging the town in November 2012. Five half-empty trucks went to malnourished Daraya, and nine cars filled with what one activist described as ‘tourists’. No food was included other than baby formula, and only enough of that to last one day. The ICRC said they planned to deliver food on Friday, but now Jan Egeland, chair of the UN/ISSG Task Force on Humanitarian Access in Syria, says says he’s disappointed they cannot confirm that a food convoy will go in to Daraya tomorrow as planned.

The UN, the World Food Programme, and the ICRC, have allowed themselves to be used by the Assad regime throughout this crisis: a crisis overwhelmingly caused by the deliberate actions of the regime. Negotiation has become accomodation, compromise has become appeasement.

If the World Food Programme is unwilling to carry out humanitarian air drops, then the UK should call on the expertise and resources of the RAF.

Keep the promise.

Break the sieges.

Air drops now.

From the International Syria Support Group 17 May statement:
Starting June 1, if the UN is denied humanitarian access to any of the designated besieged areas, the ISSG calls on the World Food Program to immediately carry out a program for air bridges and air drops for all areas in need. The ISSG pledges to support such a program, and also calls on all parties to the cessation of hostilities to provide a secure environment for that program. Air deliveries should also continue to Dayr al-Zour. The ISSG stressed that such access, as in other areas, must be continuous for as long as humanitarian needs persist.

Full ISSG statement of 17 May 2016 here.