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UN says Syria airdrops not ‘imminent’

France called on the United Nations to begin air drops of humanitarian aid to besieged areas in Syria

Published: Updated:

Aid airdrops to besieged areas in Syria are not expected to begin immediately, the United Nations said Thursday, despite urgent calls from France and Britain for deliveries to get started.

"As long as the World Food Programme has not yet finalised its plans, I don't think there's something imminent, but I think the process that will lead to air drops has already started," Ramzi Ezzedine Ramzi, the deputy to UN envoy Staffan de Mistura, told reporters.

France on Wednesday called on the United Nations to begin air drops of humanitarian aid to besieged areas in Syria despite convoy deliveries of assistance to two towns.

The appeal comes ahead of a Security Council meeting on Friday called to discuss access for humanitarian aid to the besieged areas.

French Ambassador Francois Delattre, who holds the council presidency this month, said access to the towns and villages under siege remained blocked and blamed the Syrian regime.

“France is asking the United Nations and in particular the WFP to begin humanitarian air drops for all the areas in need, beginning with Daraya, Moadamiyeh and Madaya, where the civilian population including children risk dying of hunger,” Delattre told a press conference.

An aid convoy earlier Wednesday entered the town of Daraya for the first time since 2012 and a second delivery reached Moadamiyeh for the first time since March. Both towns are besieged by Syrian forces.

The 20-nation International Syria Support Group (ISSG) had set June 1 as a deadline for the Damascus regime and all sides to open up access to areas subjected to starvation sieges.

The ISSG asked the World Food Programme (WFP) to begin preparations for air drops although it remains unclear whether the Syrian government will give its approval for the planes carrying aid.

According to the United Nations, a total of 592,000 people live under siege in Syria – the majority besieged by regime forces – and another four million live in hard-to-reach areas.

Peace talks to end Syria’s five-year war stalled in April after the opposition walked out over escalating fighting on the ground and lack of humanitarian aid.