US urges Syria and all parties to allow earthquake aid immediate access

Washington called on Syrian President Bashar Al Assad to grant immediate access to humanitarian assistance to all those in need, without exception

Syrians evacuate flooded Al Tlul village in Idlib province after the Mayadanki dam was breached and the Asi burst its banks. EPA
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Follow the latest news on the earthquake in Turkey and Syria

The US on Sunday called on Syria and all parties to allow aid to reach people affected by last Monday's earthquake and aftershocks that have killed at least 33,000.

“All humanitarian assistance must be permitted to move through all border crossings, and distribution of aid must be permitted to all affected areas without delay,” the White House National Security Council representative said.

Washington called on Syrian President Bashar Al Assad to grant immediate access to humanitarian assistance to all those in need, without exception, and urged him to follow through on a blanket authorisation for humanitarian assistance deliveries.

A UN representative on Sunday said earthquake aid from government-held parts of Syria into opposition-controlled territory has been held up by “approval issues” with one hardline group. The issue poses an added challenge for aid workers trying to reach the northern regions affected by the earthquake.

Most of the 3,500 deaths reported so far in Syria have been in the north-west, in territory largely controlled by the extremist group Hayat Tahrir Al Sham. Many of the more than 4 million people living there have been displaced from their homes during more than 10 years of civil war.

Why has it taken so long to get aid to north-west Syria?

TOPSHOT - A Syrian man cries as he sits on the rubble of a collapsed building in the rebel-held town of Jindayris on February 7, 2023, following a deadly quake. The Syrian Red Crescent appealed to Western countries to lift sanctions and provide aid after a powerful earthquake has killed more than 1,600 people across the war-torn country. The 7.8-magnitude quake early the previous day, which has also killed thousands in neighbouring Turkey, led to widespread destruction in both regime-controlled and rebel-held parts of Syria. (Photo by AAREF WATAD / AFP)

The US on Sunday also called for the UN Security Council to “vote immediately” to authorise the delivery of aid to north-west Syria through more border crossings from Turkey.

Since 2014, the UN has been able to deliver aid to millions of people in need in the region through Turkey under a Security Council mandate. But it is currently restricted to using just one border crossing.

“Right now, every hour matters,” Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the UN, told Reuters. “People in the affected areas are counting on us.”

Updated: February 13, 2023, 6:25 AM