Aid efforts underway as Syria truce holds
September 14 2016 12:30 AM
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Reuters/Beirut, Geneva

A new ceasefire in Syria brought a full day with no combat deaths in the war between President Bashar al-Assad and his opponents, a monitoring body said yesterday, and efforts to deliver aid to besieged areas got cautiously underway.
 Twenty-four hours after the truce took effect, the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura declared the situation had improved dramatically, saying UN aid access should be possible soon including to eastern Aleppo - the rebel-held half of the city which is under blockade.
 The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that it had received not a single report of combatants or civilians killed by fighting in any areas covered by the truce.
 The ceasefire, brokered by the United States and Russia, is supported by countries that back Assad and his opponents, and marks the second attempt this year to halt a war that has frustrated all peace efforts since fighting began more than five years ago.
 It also marks the biggest bet yet by Washington that it can work with Moscow to end a war that President Vladimir Putin transformed a year ago when he sent warplanes to join the fight on Assad’s side.
 Outside the scope of the truce, Turkey said yesterday that air strikes by a US-led coalition had killed three fighters from Islamic State.
 Moscow and Washington have agreed to share targeting information for strikes against fighters from the militant group and the former Syrian branch of Al Qaeda, the first time the Cold War foes have fought together since World War Two.
 The agreement has been accepted by Assad and, far more reluctantly, by most of the groups that oppose him.
 The international community’s first goal is to deliver aid to civilians in Aleppo, Syria’s biggest city before the war, which has been divided for years and where the opposition area is under siege.
 In Geneva, de Mistura said there had been allegations of sporadic and geographically isolated incidents.
 But he told reporters: “There is no doubt a significant drop in violence.” While stressing that only 24 hours of relative calm had yet passed, he said: “Sources on the ground, which do matter, including inside Aleppo city, said the situation has dramatically improved with no air strikes.”
 While UN convoys have yet to enter Syria, de Mistura said that if the truce sticks, “(aid) access should be taking place very, very soon”, and that the people of Syria could look forward to “no bombs and more trucks”.
 But he said the UN was still waiting for Damascus to issue letters authorising the deliveries. “We are eagerly hoping and expecting the government to issue them very soon.”



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