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Russia: Temporary ceasefire takes effect in Damascus suburb

The Russian Defence Ministry said on Wednesday that a temporary ceasefire, which it called a “regime of calm”, had taken effect from June 1 for 48 hours in the Damascus suburb of Daraya to allow for the distribution of humanitarian aid to civilians.

Syria’s government has been refusing U.N. efforts to send aid into Daraya and several other areas besieged by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, despite what the United Nations calls a “horrendously critical” food situation.

Daraya, close to a large air base and only a few kilometers (miles) from Assad’s palace, has been besieged and regularly bombed since 2012.

In a short statement, the ministry said it had coordinated the “regime of calm” with the Syrian authorities and with the United States “to secure safe delivery of humanitarian aid to the population. It took effect from midnight, it said.

The International Syria Support Group (ISSG) of countries backing the peace process, which includes Russia, had set a June 1 deadline for aid to get in by road. Otherwise the United Nations was ready to organize air drops of aid.

“We’ve been told the regime will allow access to Daraya and possibly Mouadimiya,” said a senior Western diplomat.

“Let’s see if it happens as it’s no coincidence this came out the day before June 1 when air drops were supposed to have started. This tactic is not new.”

Staffan de Mistura, the U.N. mediator of Syria peace talks, has said improved humanitarian access was one of the things he wanted to see before announcing a date for a new round of talks. But with no let-up in the fighting, he said on May 26 that no talks would be feasible over the next two or three weeks.

Diplomats say opposition negotiators also need to be able to point to some improvement in the humanitarian situation or the cessation of hostilities before they can come back to the negotiating table.

Last month a U.N. convoy was turned away at the final checkpoint before reaching Daraya because soldiers refused to let baby milk into the town, de Mistura’s humanitarian adviser Jan Egeland said.

De Mistura’s spokeswoman said the U.N. World Food Programme had been working on an operational plan for air drops and more information would be available after the weekly meeting of the ISSG humanitarian taskforce in Geneva on Thursday.

Source: Reteurs

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